Whether you're heading on a road trip or flying to your desired destination this year, here are some trusty travel tips to save you time and money.
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. Minus your deductible, of course. Some credit-card companies also provide theft coverage.
When packing, take a picture of your suitcase and its contents.
"Spread everything out on the bed, so if you have to make a claim, you'll know what you have," said Michele Adams, a US insurance agent.
If you have expensive extras - cameras, jewellery, sports equipment or tech gear - you might want a "personal articles" policy. Typically, there's no deductible and policies can cost as little as $40 a year, depending on what's covered. However, some "personal articles" policies don't cover tablets and smartphones.
Prepare for loss and theft. It can happen to anyone.
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 it is lost or stolen.
• If staying in a hotel, take a mobile phone 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.
• If something happens, file a police report, if possible, which can help with insurance claims.
Avoiding identity theft
• Weed out the wallet, says Ken Lin, CEO of a US consumer website CreditKarma.com. You don't need a credit card while hiking in the Sierra. Same for your Medicare 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 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. Always remember to log off.
As for your credit card, consider these caveats
• Call your credit-card issuers to let them know your travel dates. Otherwise, if they spot a purchase in Dublin or Orlando, they may try contacting you to confirm it's legitimate. If you can't be reached, banks may flag an out-of-country purchase as identity theft and freeze your card.
• If travelling overseas, beware of "foreign transaction" fees that can add 2 to 3 per cent 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. If travelling as a couple, "each of you can carry a different card," Perkins said.
Booking hotel rooms
• When booking a room, call the hotel directly instead of the 1300 number for a better chance at negotiating price.
Mobile phone savvy
• If you're going overseas with a mobile phone, be wary. Travellers can unwittingly rack up hundreds of dollars in roaming fees.
• Call your mobile phone 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.
• If you're taking your own phone, "make sure you turn off anything in your phone that (connects) to any Wi-Fi network. Shut down all of the automatic programs that keep updating and connecting your phone. If you're outside the country, it can kill you (in fees)," said Perkins.
• Arrange to have family or business callers dial you: incoming calls are often cheap, or free, compared with outgoing calls.