Ah, summer. Time to take a vacation and, more importantly, relax. Unfortunately, that last part can easily trip up travelers (no pun intended). There are ways to put your 9-to-5 behind you for a bit and get the rest and family time you need. Here are 15 secrets to a stress-free summer vacation.
1. Hunt for discounts before you head out
Get all the Groupon-searching, restaurant-scouting and comparison-shopping out of the way before you depart. That way, you're not wasting precious rest and relaxation time on research.
2. Hold your mail
The U.S. Postal Service will hold your mail if you ask them. Simply give them your departure and return dates here. That way, you don't have to worry about important letters getting lost in a massive pile — or stolen by an identity thief.
3. Check your travel documents
Like, right now. Lest a surprise expiration date or a how'd-it-go-missing passport keep you from boarding the plane.
4. Start a special savings account
If your vacation is toward the end of the summer, open a new savings account or up the auto-deposit on your current one so you're less worried about pinching every last penny while you're away. If your trip is imminent, do the same thing with an eye toward funding next summer's family vacation.
5. Look into life insurance
For parents, especially, an upcoming trip often serves as an important catalyst for a big financial to-do: Life insurance. On average, it takes four to six weeks to get life insurance, so if your trip is at the end of summer, your policy could come through before you depart. If not, use this reminder to get the process started. (We can help you easily compare and buy life insurance here.)
6. Prepare your emergency contact
Equip a trustworthy friend or family with your flight times, itinerary and hotel contact information. Give them photocopies of your passport and even a key to your home if you're hoping they'll check up on it while you're gone.
7. Have your emergency contacts
Enter the phone number of your airline, hotel, travel insurance company, pet sitter, emergency contact and home security provider in your phone. If you're traveling internationally, know the contact info for the nearest U.S. embassy and what it can do for you. Take photocopies of your passports, too, just in case you lose yours while away. (Shred upon returning.) For more ways to prepare for a safe trip, go here.
8. Set the bills to autopay
If you aren't already using the feature, at least turn it on while you're away. That way, you don't have to think about your monthly bills — or miss one — while you're relaxing on a beach somewhere.
10. Insure your trip
Especially if you're going overseas, because, while travel insurance can cover nonrefundable plane tickets and accommodations in the event of, say, a lost passport, it can also cover health care and medical evacuation abroad — something most health insurance plans won't.
11. Call your credit card company
Issuers have gotten better at telling fraud apart from a family vacation, but it's still a good idea to tell them you'll be away. Otherwise, they might freeze your credit card.
12. Turn on out-of-office email replies
Add a work contact who can handle urgent requests in your stead so you can truly unplug.
13. Keep a loose itinerary
A jam-packed itinerary will stress and tucker you out. Plus, it can be killer on your wallet. You don't have to see and do everything in the area. In fact, you probably won't want to. And you never now when you'll come across a free concert or two.
14. Log these easy ways to save while on vacation
Cook some meals in your room — or at least visit a grocery store to stock up on snacks — so you don't spend a bundle on pool food. And go easy on the souvenirs. Your entire extended family and closest friends aren't expecting you to bring them Dutch cheese, Argentinian leather or rare Larimar gemstones from the Carribbean, we promise. Learn some more easy ways to save while on vacation here.
15. Take a staycation
If the thought of paying for plane tickets and accommodations is stressing you out, skip the trip this year and plan a staycation instead. Head to local tourist attractions you haven't visited in years. Have a family barbecue or book a date night at a swanky restaurant you can afford, given you're not paying for airfare or a place to stay. And tap all the summer freebies your neighborhood has to offer. Trust us, there are plenty of them.