Friday, March 28, 2014

50 Plus Travelers Going on Vacation: Planning Ahead for Cash Purchases

Traveling can be stressful. There are a lot of plans that have to be made, reservations, itineraries, not to mention saving up and setting a budget. If you’re going outside the country all those things can get even more complex, and at the same time you have to add on concerns about passports and customs and so forth. Whether it’s a family vacation or a business visit, anything you can do to simplify your life when that trip comes up is a good idea. One of the things that make the biggest difference is planning ahead for your money. Here are a few ways to be prepared when it comes to your wallet.

Make exchanges before you go whenever possible

Foreign exchange is tricky. Every market plays a role in how much one currency is worth as compared to another. Those rates are constantly changing, and it can be pretty difficult to keep track and make sure you’re making smart moves even without the added stress of traveling. If possible, you should plan ahead and exchange some currency before it’s time to leave. In most cases you’ll be able to use your credit card, at least at an ATM, or find someplace with decent rates for currency exchange. Some places, especially if they’re popular tourist areas, may just accept your US dollars. But why bother with the hassle if a little planning ahead can save you?

This plan gets a lot more complicated if your trip is taking you through multiple countries who don’t share a common currency. You don’t want to be carrying too much cash around, even if it is from a variety of countries. While you may want to plan on exchanging most of your cash as you go, it’s still a good idea to have a little of each, just in case you find yourself in a tight spot somewhere, say you can’t find an ATM that will accept your card.

With that being said though, try to budget as close as possible. If you have a lot of cash left over after your trip, you’re going to pay to exchange it back into US dollars. Pull out as close to what you will need as possible, and if you are going on another trip any time soon, save the extra instead of exchanging back and forth.

Learn to recognize the currency you’ll be using

Another advantage of exchanging some cash beforehand is that you can get to know it. When you’re already in an unfamiliar place, likely with an unfamiliar language, adding to that trying to count unfamiliar money is just a nightmare. Most of us completely take for granted how well we know our currency. We can tell how much a bill or a coin is worth with a quick glance. You could probably tell me a value just by seeing the president.

If you don’t have a feel for the currency, you run a few risks. First, you might just be embarrassed taking so long to count it out. Second, it makes it a lot easier for someone with less than honest leanings to take advantage of you. Third, you don’t want to accept counterfeit bills, and tourists are the perfect target for that type of scheme.

Try to get a feel for how much things cost

While you’re busy keeping track of how much your cash represents, there’s another easy way for you to be scammed. You have a pretty good idea how much something is worth in US Dollars. You wouldn’t pay $20 for an ice cream cone, even in Disneyland. That is a real risk if you don’t have some intuition about the currency you’re working with though. You’ll be so busy making sure you counted right, you may not notice that you were charged a fortune. At the same time, don’t let them charge you in US Dollars either. In that case, they can use any exchange rate they want. Even if it seems reasonable, it may be anything but.

As of this writing, $1 US is equal to:
  • 101.55 Yen
  • 13.16 Mexican Pesos
  • 0.72 Euro
  • 0.60 British Pounds

Keep in mind these numbers fluctuate constantly, so look up the current exchange rate before your trip. Getting an idea of what to expect can keep you safer, and likely save you quite a bit.

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