Ways to save as you get ready to take off
For some, summer travel means going no farther than the backyard with a blanket and a book. For others, it's a whole lot more complicated...
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For some, summer travel means going no farther than the backyard with a blanket and a book.
For others, it's a whole lot more complicated, involving planes, trains and automobiles — and a lot more gear.
Whether you're heading on a road trip or flying to your desired destination this summer, here are some trusty travel tips to save you time and money:
Protect your stuff: Before you travel, find out what your insurance covers. Under most homeowner/renter policies, your possessions — luggage, clothes etc. — will be covered if lost or stolen, whether you're in California or Calcutta. Minus your deductible, of course. Some credit-card companies also provide theft coverage.
When packing, take a picture of your suitcase and its contents. "
If you have expensive extras you might want a "personal articles" policy.
However, some "personal articles" policies don't cover tablets and smartphones.
Prepare for loss, theft: It can happen to anyone. To avoid being a victim:
• Make a copy of all your travel documents — passports, itinerary, plane tickets, hotel reservations. Leave one set behind with a friend or family member; keep an extra set in your luggage. Include toll-free numbers for your credit cards, so you can immediately cancel the card if lost or stolen.
• If staying in a hotel, take a cellphone photo of the exterior, in case you get lost or can't communicate with a cabdriver. Or carry the hotel's postcard, stationery sheet or business card.
• Always use a hotel safe to lock up valuables when leaving your room, says veteran travel columnist Ed Perkins of SmarterTravel.com.
Avoid identity theft: Weed out the wallet, said Ken Lin, CEO of consumer website CreditKarma.com in San Francisco. You don't need your Macy's card while hiking in the Sierra Nevada. Same for your Social Security card, library card, gym membership or anything with personal information that can "encourage identity theft or access to your life."
• Don't use an ATM on a random corner or in out-of-the-way locations. "Use a bank ATM in a well-lit public place," said Credit Karma's Lin, noting that thieves can install PIN "sniffers" that read your card.
• When using a public Wi-Fi connection for your laptop, find a trusted source, such as your hotel. " It's OK to send emails or look up maps and restaurants at an Internet cafe, but don't access bank accounts or financial information on a public computer, he said. Always remember to log off.
• Call your credit-card issuers to let them know your travel dates. Otherwise, if they spot a purchase in Ireland or Orlando, Fla., banks may flag an out-of-country purchase as identity theft and freeze your card.
• If traveling overseas, beware of "foreign transaction" fees that can add 2 to 3 percent to every purchase. • Bring two credit cards: a main card and one kept separate as a backup, in case the primary one is lost or stolen.
Booking hotel rooms: When booking a room, call the hotel directly — instead of the 800 number — for a better chance at negotiating price, said Jeanette Pavini, a San Francisco Bay Area-based consumer savings writer with Coupons.com. Pavini's other tips: Look for recently opened hotels, which often offer "rock-bottom rates and perks to get people in the door." Request a corner room to get more space for the same price.
Cellphone savvy: If you're going overseas with a cellphone, be wary: Travelers can unwittingly rack up hundreds of dollars in roaming fees.
Call your cellphone carrier and ask about international calling plans. It can make the difference between paying $3.50 a minute in China for outgoing calls, for instance, vs. 49 cents.