How to Travel Smarter

Getting ready for the Family Trip

It is that time of year when school is out and families pack up and start taking adventures. Before you take on the open road ask yourself, ‘Is there a way that I can travel smarter?’ 

When I was a kid, my parents would tell us to get packing and make sure we have everything we need so we won’t forget anything. We do all of this so that we would be ready to visit our family up north. My dad always said to us “Is anyone forgetting something or anything that needs to be done before we go?” Most of the time we did not have anything to worry about getting done. Then, when you have left and start traveling to your destination…. it hits you. You forgot something. Nothing makes you more anxious than knowing that you forgot something, left something (hopefully not someone), left the oven on, left the door unlock or simply forgetting to pack the plane tickets. Whatever the reason, know that things will get better if you plan to travel smarter.

Steps to Plan & Travel Smarter

When you are planning your next vacation there is more to it than just where to go & stay. You must also make sure you get everything ready at home before you can leave with peace of mind. Here are some of the steps that might help you along the way while you get yourself ready for any trips.

       1. Research your costs

Do you know where you’re going and how long you’ll be there? Your next task is to research the costs in your destination & the style of travel you want. We advise you to create your travel budget. Figure out what is the most important items on your list of things to do or places to see and their costs, along with hotels, airfare, rental cars, gas, dining, and extra expenses like souvenirs.  Some questions you may ask yourself are -do you want to backpack, or would you rather stay in luxury hotels? How much are hotels, restaurants, and attractions? Knowing will allow you to estimate how much money you’ll need for your trip. Here is how to DIY research costs:

  • Buy a guidebook.
  • Check out a travel guide section.
  • Ask on community websites like our forum.
  • Google prices for specific things you want to do, such as scuba diving, bungy jumping, winery tours, etc.

If you prefer a more hands off approach when planning your vacations then you can always utilize an authorized and insured travel agent. Depending on where you go it may be worth it to get the best experience and deals when traveling. Travel agents can book your stay, reserve dining, schedule and create your itinerary with tours and any other sight seeing or adventures. Travel agents are also your point of contact if there are any issues like with reservations. They will stand in for you and take care of any problems. They also offer travel insurance in case something comes up and you are not able to go on your vacation. There are times when a travel agent is worth it and times when you can plan your own vacation so figure out which would be more beneficial and cost effective for you and your family. 

      2. Travel Smarter to Your DestinationTravel Smarter

Depending on where you are traveling you want to make sure you have the proper identification required by law. If you are traveling within your country you do not need a passport. However, if you are traveling out of your country then you will need a passport and honestly, a passport is a great ID to have with you no matter where you travel. If this is the case then plan far ahead in getting those passports. It can take weeks to months in order to receive passports that are delivered on time. There is an option to expedite but there is no guarantee you will receive it on time.

What if you don’t have a photo ID for small children? If you have small children that do not have any type of photo identification that you will need to carry their birth certificate along with you. I would advise that you do not carry the original. Again, you can order a copy from your state but make sure you do so with enough time to receive it prior to your travels. 

    3. Adjust your thermostat to save energy while you’re away.

When you are not staying in your home you don’t need it to be optimally heated, or cooled, within reason. You don’t want things to get extremely hot or cold inside your home, but a moderate temperature adjustment can save you cash by lowering your energy costs. In the winter you would allow the temperature to get cooler in your home, and in the summer time allow it to get warmer. If you already have a programmable thermostat in your home you’ll want to set it to vacation mode, or set it to temporal setting manually.

   4. Timer for your lights.

To help with the appearance of someone being home make sure to put things, like a lamp or porch lights, on timers so they go on and off at appropriate times each day while you are away.

   5. Have someone help you water your plants.Travel Smarter

Depending on how long you are leaving, it is important to make sure your plants stay healthy and blooming. It also depends on the weather of where you live as well. If the weather starts to get hotter than usually, water the plants at least 3 times a week. If the weather starts being in your favor with rain try and leave them out in the rain.

   6. Have someone help to get mail, newspapers and packages collected

The same way you would take care of the plants the same can be said about your mail. Check the mailbox 3 times a week. Then put the mail either inside the house as instructed or anyplace that the residents can see it. Another good thing to do if the residents don’t want to turn off and on the alarm is to keep the mail with you and notify the residents. Also if they are expecting a package know when its getting delivered so you can let the person know when to pick it up for them.

You can also alert trusted neighbors to watch for any suspicious activity. You may want to give them a key, so they can go inside if needed to check on things. Further, give your neighbors an itinerary for your travels, so they know where you are within your travels in case they need to get in contact with you if it’s needed.

    7. Check all windows and doors, and confirm appliances turned off or unplugged.

Before you leave for a trip make sure to check that all windows are secure and locked, as well as all doors. Double check locks and deadbolts to make sure they are staying locked properly and replace or repair as needed. In addition, unplug unnecessary appliances. For example, my dad would have us go and unplugged the computer and anything that’s connecting to it that if a storm would to come and have the power go out it would short out anything plugged in. We would always double check everything before we leave. Also confirm, for your own peace of mind, that things like the oven or stove are not still on (although you don’t necessarily need to unplug these types of items).

*If you are flying here is video that might help you out:*

    8. Review Medical, Life, Auto and Home Insurance Policies Prior to Traveling

To travel smarter is it a good idea to review your insurance policies prior to traveling. Life insurance should be up to date with correct beneficiaries listed in case something unexpected happens. Review your medical health care especially if traveling over seas to ensure that you are able to receive health care or prescriptions easily when needed. If you are planning on renting a car double check with your auto insurance company that you have rental and towing coverage, if not, you’ll need to purchase through the rental car company at a higher rate.

Lastly, review your home insurance and check ways to monitor your home remotely if possible. With that last freeze here in Houston in February it would have been highly beneficial for some to have sensors that tell you if you have water in your living areas. You never know when a flood, fire, break in or other unfortunate event can occur so it helps to make sure you are prepared.

    9. Using your bank or credit cards

Did you know that most banks and credit cards now use the chip on your card? If you have a chip on your card you do not need to inform your financial institution of your travels for fear of declined transactions. Of course, you can still inform them of your travels so they are aware of any transactions that aren’t normal. If you do not have those chips on your cards definitely call your bank or credit card companies informing them of your travels dates and locations to ensure that you can pay for your travel expenses. 

   9. Business Trips

Are you traveling on business? Don’t forget to document your travel, keep receipts, and any items and purchases you will need to submit for reimbursement. With the technology we have at our fingertips we can easily use apps on our phone to documents all of these things along with taking video or photos for further documentation. 

You Are All SET! 

With all of this in mind I hope that these steps give you some time to think and plan ahead for what works best for you. If you aren’t sure that you are set financially or have any tax related questions give us a call. At Molen and Associates we can help you budget and plan for your financial success so you can enjoy your lives with peace of mind.

Alex Rawson
Client Advocate

Here are some extra tips that might help you along the way:

Here is a link to help you with how to use Google Maps:



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