If you're planning to hit the beach, lake or a favorite hotspot during the last few weekends of summer, there are some big financial to-dos to address. Here are seven money moves to make before your end-of-season vacation.
1. Book now
Assuming you haven't already, of course. A last-minute trip is a nice surprise for the family, but the longer you wait to book airfare or accommodations, the pricier they'll be. These travel hacks can help you pay less for hastily planned vacation, too.
2. Draft a travel budget
It's easy to go overboard once you're far away from the daily grind, but you don't want to come home to traveler's remorse. Traveling budgeting apps like Trail Wallet or Trabee Pocket can help you set goals and track your spending while on vacation.
3. Create an emergency file
We don't mean to be alarmist. Odds are, nothing will happen to you or your loved ones during your trip. But it doesn't hurt to prepare for the worst, especially since you have to do so eventually. Secure all your financial information — account passwords, 401(k) information, investment numbers and the like — in a safe place and share access to it with at least one trustworthy friend or family member. Here's a full guide to creating an emergency file on the fly.
4. Look into life insurance
Putting together an emergency file often serves as another important reminder for parents or guardians: You need life insurance. On average, it takes four to six weeks for a policy to go into effect, so if your trip is at the tail end of summer, there's still time to cross off this financial to-do before you depart. We can help you easily compare and buy life insurance here.
5. Get your wheels ready
If you're taking a road trip, some easy routine car maintenance can preclude pricey problems caused by all those extra miles. Check your tire pressure, get an oil change if your vehicle is due and make sure all your lights are working. Look under the hood for signs of trouble and make sure all the proper documentation, like vehicle registration and proof of car insurance, is up-to-date and on hand.
6. Scout cheap or free entertainment
Plug your destination into daily deals sites like Groupon or Living Social to see if you can save on excursions, dining or both before setting your itinerary. Search a town's website to see if there's any free entertainment while you're visiting. Free concerts are just one of many popular summer freebies.
7. Pick a card ... but not just any card
Leverage what's in your wallet by reviewing the perks, fees and fine print associated with your credit cards. For instance, if you're traveling abroad, check to see if you have plastic that lets you skip foreign transaction fees. If you're going on a road trip, make sure you take your gas rewards credit card along for the ride. Similarly, a restaurant rewards credit card can come in handy if you've got a swanky meal or two planned.
If you're on an extra-tight budget, consider loading what you plan to spend on a prepaid debit card or keeping only close to that amount in your checking account. Set up alerts so you'll know when your balance dips below certain thresholds. Keep these ideas in mind, too, if you're hoping to save while on vacation.
Safe end-of-summer travels!