5 Careless, Costly Summer Travel Mistakes

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Lose your head on summer's sun-soaked days and you will live to regret it come autumn. Avoid these careless -- and costly -- errors.

Summertime, and the living is easy. But lose your head on those sun-soaked days and you will live to regret it come autumn.

We all tend to relax a little more and have fun during summer months. And that’s OK. But when planning this year’s summer vacation, don’t make foolish moves that could potentially wash your budget away with the tide.

Following are five costly summer travel mistakes — and how to avoid them.

1. Forgetting to keep track of your mail

Summer is the season of vacations. But before you leave for a week at a beach or 10 days at Yellowstone, don’t forget to take care of your mail. Letting letters, magazines and miscellaneous ads pile up — even for just a few days — tells thieves you are not at home.

A home invasion — and all the valuables that disappear in the process — is a sure budget-buster. Crooks also can steal your mail, and then use the personal information within it to steal your identity.

So, if you plan to be gone for long periods of time, don’t forget to ask a trusted neighbor empty the mailbox. Or, place a hold on your mail.

And if you are going to be gone for an especially long time, make sure someone pays your bills for you. Or better yet, go paperless and pay bills via the internet.

2. Getting careless with valuables at the beach

Few things say “summer” like a day at the beach. But before you frolic in the waves, don’t forget to secure your valuables, including keys, wallets and phones.

There are many approaches here. The simplest is a waterproof bag that can house all of your belongings. It will keep them together in a single location, safe and dry. Or, you can get more elaborate, such as buying a waterproof case for your phone.

These things can protect your valuables from water, or keep them from being lost. But keeping them away from thieves is trickier. You could try a lock-safe bag, but determined thieves are tough to stop.

A waterproof fanny pack is another possible option because it allows you to keep valuables with you at all times. But you may wind up with a funky tan line.

It’s probably better just to use your smarts. The Krazy Coupon Lady has some good suggestions:

Try to sit close to lifeguard stands, security guard booths, beach attendant stands, etc.

She also recommends a buddy system, where everyone in your party takes turns watching over items while the rest enjoy the water.

3. Traveling at peak times

Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day are the big three summer holidays. Most people have these days off, and it’s tempting to combine that day with a few workplace vacation days and schedule a trip.

But it might make more sense to travel at another time. Not only are your favorite attractions likely to be more crowded during those holidays, but costs may be higher. According to IndependentTraveler.com:

The crest of summer travel is from Memorial Day to Labor Day, during which fares to most U.S., Canadian and European destinations are at their peak. Three-day weekends around summer holidays like Memorial Day or the Fourth of July are particularly expensive times to fly.

U.S. News & World Report also notes that travel costs of all types are likely to be higher during the most popular times of the summer:

If you can wait until the end of August, you’ll find steeper discounts. But take your vacation around the Fourth of July, and expect to pay a lot more.

During summer, the kiddos have nothing but time on their hands. So, schedule a trip during a run-of-the-mill summer week or weekend when everything will be less crowded — and, with any luck, cheaper.

4. Skipping your car’s pre-roadtrip checkup

The family summer roadtrip is an American tradition with a long and rich history. But before you hit the highway, it’s crucial to have a good mechanic give your wheels the once-over.

Having your car road-ready can save you time and money. Properly inflating your tires and installing clean air filters will increase your gas mileage. And a mechanic who spots a problem that is just developing can save you from a costly — and potentially dangerous — highway breakdown.

Want to save even more money? The Car Care Council offers these tips for a DIY recharge of your air conditioning system — a move that can potentially save you hundreds of dollars.

5. Paying for insurance you don’t need 

Worried that a summer storm could flood an area and ruin your vacation plans? If so, you might consider buying travel insurance to reimburse you for the costs in the event that you have to cancel vacation plans.

But before you buy this coverage, make sure you don’t already have it. According to CreditCards.com:

Some credit card issuers offer supplemental travel insurance that pays for such things as trip cancellation and lost luggage, so check with your card issuer to see whether you’re covered by useful credit card insurance perks.

CreditCards.com also points out that many credit cards offer car rental insurance. Also, in many cases, your own personal car insurance will cover you when driving a rental. So, check with your credit card’s issuer and your car insurance company before plonking down money for extra car insurance at the rental counter.

Have you made summer travel mistakes that have dinged you in the wallet? Share your story in our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.

Stacy Johnson

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