If this is your first family vacation abroad or perhaps your family is planning to travel to a new foreign destination, the idea of spending money is always paramount in parent's minds. Lack of travel experience can make you feel a bit vunerable. Foreign currency exchange and spending money overseas is not as complicated at it may seem. With a few simply pointers, your family can quickly become savvy global citizens on your next family vacation...
Step 1 - Know Your Numbers - Just like the kids need to do their math homework, parents taking kids out of the country need to do a little math homework too. If you're unfamiliar, do a quick google search about the currency in your particular destination of choice. Many families use this intel as a deciding factor of where they want to visit. Know the value of your dollar. It's cheaper for Americans to travel to Mexico than it is to travel to Europe. That $6 drive thru value meal at home in Chicago, will actually cost you less than one dollar USD in Mexican Pesos will technically cost you over $9.00 USD if you bought the same exact meal in Europe. If you need a bit of help figuring all this out, use
the help of a currency converter to help you figure out the actual cost of your family vacation spending.
Step 2 -VAT What's That - VAT means "Value Added Tax". You'll see this when visiting European countries. Every country has their own rules along with different rates of value added taxes which can range from around 7 to as high as 25 percent. You'll see VAT added to hotel and restaurant bills. Tourists cannot reclaim the value added tax on these items but you <i>CAN</i> get a refund on VAT that you pay for many souvenirs and clothing items. In tourist areas and airport shopping malls, you'll see shop signs that say VAT FREE shopping so look for these establishments if you're only buying a few small souvenirs. If you have your have your heart set on that Irish fisherman's sweater or an Italian leather coat then getting a refund for the VAT is to your benefit. So do a bit more research before you go and keep track of the documentation given to you by shop keepers so that you'll keep more of your hard earned dollars in your pocket as you return home from your next family vacation
Step 3 -Currency Exchange - Many novice travelers might argue that they are safer and better off with traveler's cheques. In reality, traveler's cheques will cost you at least 5%. They are a hassle to use and they may not be accepted in the places you want to spend your vacation money. The absolute worst deal is to use one of those foreign currency exchange booths at the airport. They normally charge 5-10% to exchange money. Not only are they the most expensive way to exchange currency but it's not a good idea to carry large sums of cash in your pocket. Normally folks no longer do this at home so why do it on vacation?
The best advice we offer to our clients is also the most simple... use ATM cards to get local cash in your pocket and use credit cards for all other purchases. By using your credit and debit cards for foreign spending, banks and credit card companies will charge you on average 3% for using their services. You can use your ATM card at any machine that accepts your particular card. Just put in your PIN number and voila, you have a handful of cash in the local currency. It's best to know what fees you'll encounter in advance so that you can spend your money wisely. This can easily be done by calling the customer service number on the back of your credit and debit cards. Visa and Master Card are usually the most widely accepted. If you use a couple of different credit card companies shop around. Call the customer service operators and ASK what their service charges are so that you can use the card that gives you the best foreign exchange rates. If your family uses debit cards, KNOW the maximum amount of money you can withdrawal on a daily basis because it may be different overseas.<br>
***THREE IMPORTANT STEPS BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME***
1. BE SURE to notify your credit card company and bank, letting them know you will be traveling with your family overseas!!!!! It's best to call from a land line and not a cell phone for the best security. If you forget or neglect this step and your credit card company sees unusual foreign charges or money withdrawals on your account, they may put a hold on your account which may leave you stranded without money far from home.
And when you're on the phone with your credit card company...
2. GET THEIR DIRECT DIAL CUSTOMER SERVICE NUMBER. Most credit card companies and banks offer their customers free 800 phone numbers. These numbers won't work if you call them from outside of the country. It's a good idea to have this phone number just in case you need it.
3. MAKE FRONT AND BACK COPIES of any credit or debit cards that you'll be bringing on your trip. Keep one set of these card copies and photo copies of your passports with a trusted person at home. Many folks carry an extra set of these photo copies with them in their carry on bag and keep them locked in their hotel safe. Should your cards get lost or stolen, it will be far easier to get your family's cash flow re-established if you have your card numbers and the direct phone numbers of your credit card company and bank.