The planning for our big vacation to Italy took months, and the savings took years. The expectations were to make it the vacation of a lifetime for four guys seeking adventure. The goal was exploring as much of the country as possible from Rome to Florence to Milan to Venice to Naples, all by way of a compact rental Citroen C3. At least, it was the Citroen until the window was shattered by thieves in a Milanese parking lot. The thieves got two several-hundred-dollar cameras, and the cost to change our injured car for another European beauty, a Fiat Punto, was the price of the repair and administration fees from Europcar, about $350.
Of course that wasn’t the first surprise we encountered on our dream vacation. Upon arrival in Rome, we found out that the amount of cash we had exchanged wasn’t sufficient for the expenses ahead. ATM international withdrawal fees were unavoidable. Also unavoidable were the large tolls to use the highways, totaling 184 Euros for a loop around the entire country.
The icing on the cake of our list of surprise expenses was the 76 Euros (over $100) for a mere 18 hours of parking near the heart of Venice. Make sure to double check the rates when you enter a parking garage that’s just too convenient to be true and your Fiat is parked next to Audis and Mercedes!
The most careful vacation planner may be forced to go over budget on a trip. Our group of four had to pay an extra $276 per person! Hopefully you won’t have to pay that much, but you will want to be prepared for those expenses and fees with the right credit card.
If you’re planing a dream vacation, take these tips along with you to avoid as much stress as possible. There are many ways a vacation can turn sour, but don’t let a disaster ruin your long-awaited trip.
Prepare for Some Wrong Turns
Sometimes a vacation schedule becomes more like a list of the best possible sequential scenarios than an attainable reality. You don’t want the vacation to reach panic mode if something goes wrong. A missed train, wrong turn, late hotel check-in, or rental car exchange becomes even more of a nightmare if you are missing other plans or forfeiting reserved expenses in other places because of the delay. Give yourself some down time to deal with issues. Also be sure to book your hotels with a credit card rather than debit so that you have the credit card company as a middle man in case of a mistake or delay.
If you need some extra time to account for some wrong turns, then you will also need a buffer to keep your vacation budget safe from those wrong turns. Many people can be so optimistic about their schedule and expenses that they come back with an inflated credit card balance. The problem gets even worse if they bring along a debit card that incurs overdraft charges because of some extra spending.
Protect Your Valuables
The general concept is obvious enough, but the specifics of keeping your stuff safe can be a bit more tricky. We parked our car on an open street with a parking lot attendant present (at least to take our payment if not to watch out for thieves). We thought that it would be a safe place to leave our car. In our rush to go see a soccer game, we left cameras and a map out on the seat which let thieves single out our car as a tourist treasure chest. Be sure to keep a passport, credit cards, and cameras with you at all times. If you must leave it in a car or hotel room, hide it well.
Also keep a back-up pictures of your passport, airline information, and credit card information in case you need to cancel a stolen card. Being able to call the credit card company and receive their assistance will be a relief if you do have a credit card lost or stolen.
Even with the added expenses, the members of our group each had enough saved for our trip to not be in financial trouble. We can look back on the trip as the experience of a lifetime because we were prepared with several cards from different issuers. We planned in advance and were able to use our credit cards and ATM withdrawals to handle all the expenses that Italy could conjure!
How about you? Do you have a vacation disaster story? If so, were you financially prepared for it?
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