Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Travel tips for a safe and stress-free vacation

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If you are heading out onto the road this summer or jumping on an airplane, take some precautions to protect your money, property and identity.

Most importantly, take care of you and your family when driving. Slow down. Pull over and stop when you get tired. The effects of falling asleep at the wheel are not pretty, especially on a two-lane road. There have been way too many fatalities already this summer.

Next week's Dollars and Sense column will give you some very specific tips about increasing gas mileage.

Credit cards and cash

Where do you keep the 1-800 number that's needed to get your credit card replaced? The credit card companies put it on the card -- not a lot of help when you discover your card is missing. Copy those numbers and store them in a separate place so you can report any problems or lost cards immediately.

Where do you keep the 1-800 number that's needed to get your credit card replaced? The credit card companies put it on the card -- not a lot of help when you discover your card is missing

To avoid carrying a lot of cash, you can use a debit card all over the world, and the exchange rate is usually not bad. A money belt is an effective safety measure for valuables and cash.

If you're going overseas, having a second credit card is a very good idea, as the automatic monitoring of card companies can sometimes put your card out of commission for a few hours. This is done in the middle of the night our time, but that could be the middle of your day in Europe or Asia. To avoid that, call your credit card company ahead of time and let them know you'll be out of the country and your regular spending pattern changed.

Obviously, all of your cards have to be physically protected, and it's a good idea to keep different cards in separate places. For instance, don't keep everything in one wallet, as it can get lost or stolen. Have a separate ID to prove who you are, and protect your passport.

Make a separate copy of the contact information of your financial institutions and leave it with a trusted person at home who you can contact in an emergency. Also ask them to look after your house, as your insurance policy may be nullified if your house is unattended for a certain period of time.

If you're flying, never pack valuables, medication or critical documents in your checked baggage. They could end up in Iceland, as ours did once. By the way, it's a spectacular place to visit and I strongly recommend it.

Car insurance and rentals

Manitoba is a "no-fault" insurance province with public car insurance. But if you drive outside of Manitoba, increase your Autopac third-party liability coverage to the maximum $5 million. It's cheap and might be critical if you cause an accident in the U.S. or any other litigious jurisdiction.

If you're renting a car somewhere else, you will be faced with the dilemma of paying $20 a day for insurance coverage, or waiving coverage amid the warnings of the rental car company and depending on the coverage promised by your gold credit card. Here's the deal, in a nutshell -- credit cards provide coverage, but it varies from card to card and country to country depending on where you're renting. Even with full coverage, you may have to pay upfront and chase your credit card company for reimbursement.

A good alternative is to approach Manitoba Public Insurance for their rental car insurance coverage, available for three to 90 days. The cost is a $15 policy fee, plus $2 per day renting in Manitoba, $5 per day elsewhere in Canada and $7 in the U.S. This reduces the deductible to $100, gives $5 million of liability coverage, up to $100,000 of damage to the vehicle and a daily allowance to rent a replacement vehicle in the event of an accident.

This is a very short summary, so please get the details from your Autopac agent or at mpi.mb.ca.

Research and prepare

You know by now I'm a big fan of avoiding surprises (other than the delightful ones) by research and preparation. There are lots of ways to prepare for your trip: travel books, online resources and friends who have gone before.

There will still be plenty of opportunities for those delightful surprises,and to break your schedule and head off the beaten track. Having the basics in full and contact and emergency information at your fingertips can allow you to indulge your inner explorer.

Bon voyage!

David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, CIM is a financial planner and adviser with Christianson Wealth Advisors, a vice-president with National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 25, 2014 B9

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