(Family Features) With Americans traveling more than ever today, both domestically and internationally, it’s important to develop smart traveling habits. Whether you are venturing around the world or road-tripping across your home state, traveling smart is a must if you want to get the most out of your vacation without spending more.
According to a Bank of America survey, nine of out ten Americans think they are smart travelers, but only 54 percent are planning their vacation itineraries in advance and only 38 percent use credit card rewards to help offset costs of their travel expenses.
Travel Channel host and expert, Samantha Brown, has partnered with Bank of America to provide useful travel advice and help Americans raise their travel and budget IQ.
Brown’s first rule of smart travel is to do your homework and be prepared for any adventure. No matter how local or exotic the trip, the trick is to have all the details worked out before you leave home.
Smart travelers will plan their itinerary in advance, alert their credit card company (especially if you’re traveling overseas), send loved ones their travel itinerary and contact information, and apply for TSA pre-check to get through airport security faster.
If you are heading overseas, check to see if your credit card waives foreign transaction fees. Simple steps like these can save you time and money, while protecting you from the unexpected.
Once your itinerary is booked, Brown advises travelers to use social media and start following your airline and hotel, the city you’re traveling to and sites you plan to see.
“When you connect with businesses they’ll send you deals directly, and give you great advice on what to do in the area — they can prove to be a helpful customer service resource.”
One of Brown’s favorite tips for travelers is to jump on flight deals when you see them, for instance, “If you see an airfare that’s within your budget, book it. Don’t wait. You could spend a lot of time and energy looking for a cheaper fare that in the end saves you 20 bucks.”
When it comes to booking your lodging, Brown recommends selecting a hotel that offers extra value in the form of free hot breakfasts, a wine and snack or a small kitchenette in the room. These perks will enhance your stay and make the trip more affordable.
Brown also recommends using credit card rewards to offset the costs of hotel and transit, as it’s one of the easiest ways to keep travel costs manageable. It’s important to make sure that your credit card rewards you for everyday purchases, the rewards don’t expire, and it has the flexibility to allow you to use the points you earned to cover all or part of your hotel and transit. For example, the BankAmericard Travel Rewards credit card lets you use your points on airfares and hotels, plus many other travel-related activities.
Creamy Italian gelato? Spicy red curry? Vacation is the perfect time for your taste buds to experience some of the world’s most exotic cuisines and local delicacies. Besides lodging, food and beverage is the biggest travel expense, particularly for millennial adventurers, but smart travelers know how to find good eats without breaking their vacation budget.
For those traveling to exotic locations, explore a local marketplace and treat your taste buds to an assortment of traditional dishes. Don’t forget, depending on the country you can sometimes haggle the market price so don’t be afraid to try to get a bargain. If you really want to learn about local cuisine, take a cooking class and discover a new recipe to take home with you.
If you’re traveling with a large group, especially if you have kids, plan ahead of time and request a prix fixe menu at a restaurant. That way you can avoid confusion over splitting the bill and sticker shock when the waiter comes by with the check. Smart travelers reap the benefits of using a travel rewards credit card when paying for large vacation meals. With the BankAmericard Travel Rewards credit card you get unlimited 1.5 points for every dollar spent on all purchases including meals.
In order to keep your travel budget low, it’s important to take advantage of every resource available to help offset costs. The Bank of America survey shows that Americans are already saving money on travel by pre-planning vacations months in advance (53 percent), traveling in the off-peak season (44 percent) and utilizing websites to find travel discounts (41 percent). Another way to budget is to pick a destination based on where your family or friends are located so you have a place to stay and cut out lodging costs, a method popular among millennials.
Don’t forget to take advantage of credit card rewards programs. Nearly two out of five Americans (37 percent) own travel reward credit cards but 27 percent don’t know how many points or miles they’ve accumulated. Keep on top of your travel rewards points and don’t forget they are a valuable asset to vacation budgeting and can be more flexible than you might expect. The BankAmericard Travel Rewards card lets you use points to offset the costs of activities as unique as visiting a theme park or swimming with dolphins.
For more information, visit www.bankofamerica.com/creditcard.
Photo (of family) courtesy of Getty Images
Bank of America