It’s the most wonderful time of the year – but that logic may not apply to those wishing to travel for the holidays. The costs and stresses of holiday travel can melt your joy as quickly as Frosty on a typical Alabama winter day.
Check out our tips for saving your cash and sanity during winter holiday travel:
Traveling by air? If possible, avoid checking bags altogether. We know this can be difficult if you are going into a completely different climate, but avoiding the potential headaches of lost luggage may be worth it.
If you are flying, carry at least one change of clothing with you in your carry-on luggage. The busy holiday season can cause luggage delays and baggage mix-ups. You don't want to arrive at your winter wonderland destination without any clothing to wear.
Roll your clothing and use rubber bands to hold the rolls in place, if needed. Rolling your clothing helps reduce wrinkles and keeps them small so they don't take up much space. Be sure to place your clothing at the very bottom of your carry-on so they are not in the way of items you may want or need during the flight.
Pay Your Bills
Your holiday celebrations should relaxing and rejuvenating, not stressful and worrisome. Pay your bills in advance so you know you don’t have to worry about missing due dates and incurring late fees. Use MAX Bill Pay, a service of MAX Online Banking & MAX Mobile Banking, to pay your bills on-the-go if you must.
Put Mail on Hold
You will want to eliminate other signs that you are on vacation for the holidays. Avoid having online purchase orders delivered while you are away. This will ensure that any items you purchased online do not sit at your front door for days on end. This may require you to contact the delivery vendor if the purchase has already been made, but not delivered before you take off on vacation. Also, contact your post office and request to have your mail held until you return. This ensures that your sensitive information remains secure. Remember that the holiday shopping season brings additional mail advertisements and other junk mail. It can pile up fast, and you don’t want an overflowing mailbox. You can also ask a trusted neighbor, family member, or friend to pick up your mail.
Ready Your Cards
Check the expiration dates on your MAX debit and credit cards. Also, make sure you have an EMV chip card if you’re traveling internationally. Some countries require that your card have the chip. If your card expires while on vacation, it can be difficult to get a new one to you in time. Make sure your cards are valid throughout the length of your vacation.
Also, if you are traveling overseas, it’s a good idea to prepare your PIN before you leave. Some international ATMs only support 4-digit PINS and the pin must be numeric. Some international card readers even require you to use a PIN with your credit cards. Make sure your pins meet the specifications and that you have them memorized.
And don't forget to take advantage of MAX's digital wallet services. You can use Apple Pay, Android Pay, or Samsung Pay with your MAX debit and credit cards.
Notify MAX That You’re Away
We do our best to ensure you are not a victim of fraud. That’s why we closely monitor card activity that could be considered suspicious. As expected, the holiday shopping season comes with an increase in attempted fraudulent activity by criminals. The use of your MAX debit and/or credit card in a new location is a red flag, and it could result in your card being closed as a precautionary measure to protect you and your money against theft.
Let us know of your travel plans ahead of time, and we’ll know that the “unusual activity” is legitimate. You can give us a call at 334.260.2600 or 800.776.6776 to quickly complete a travel notice.
Tune-up Before Take-off
Make sure your car has received a proper maintenance check before you hit the road. Ensuring that your vehicle is ready for travel can save you time and money. No one wants to start or end their holiday vacation being stranded on the highway with car troubles.
Before you hit the road, make sure you have done the following:
- Check your battery – Is the charge is strong and are your terminals clean? If you’re headed into much colder weather, you want to make sure your battery is strong and charged.
- Check your breaks – Are your brake pads worn or need replacing?
- Check your tires – Do you see any bulges or tears in the side wall? Do you have a good amount of tread left? Are all tires properly inflated to the specified tire pressure figures (printed on the placard on the driver’s door jam)? This is especially important if you plan to drive through potential snow and ice.
- Check oil – Does your car need an oil change?
- Check fluid levels – Are all of your necessary fluids topped off?
- Check wipers – Do you need new wipers?
Making sure your car is prepared for the trip will help you avoid unexpected stresses during your holiday travels. Also, make sure your auto insurance is up to date.
Know Your Way
Don't depend on your GPS software alone. Map out your trip before hitting the road. When you take the time to plan your route, you save yourself money. While GPS directions are great, they can be confusing or come too late to take action while you’re driving. One missed exit or wrong turn can cost you plenty of cash in wasted gas. If you’re traveling north, inclement weather can also result in an unexpected detour or route change.
Pack Emergency First Aid
Always keep an emergency first aid kit on hand. Make sure it is packed with bandages, ointments, alcohol wipes, and painkillers. If you or your family requires certain medications, be sure to pack it in your emergency bag. Keep all emergency allergy medications or inhalers in mind.
Cover Your Health
No one plans on needing medical care while on vacation, but we all know the unexpected happens. Know what your health insurance will and will not cover during your travels. Are you leaving the country? Well, your insurance may not cover you while you are overseas. There are private companies that offer insurance plans specifically for international travel.
Don’t Post Pics
While it's tempting to show the world have much fun you are having during the holidays, avoid posting pictures while you are out of town. You may unknowingly make your home a target for burglars and thieves.
Did you know that the majority of break-ins are committed by burglars who live nearby? The typical burglar resides within two miles of the targeted home. And most criminals can burglarize a home in less than ten minutes. Posting photos and your whereabouts to social media let’s everyone know that you are far away from home, and gives those with bad intentions plenty of time to take advantage of the situation.
Mail Gifts or Give Gift Cards Instead
Traveling with gifts is stressful. Whether you’re traveling on the road or taking to the air, there’s a lot that can go wrong. You can accidently drop a gift while loading or unloading your vehicle. Gift wrapping can be torn or ripped while shifting in your trunk or cargo space. If you’re traveling by air, TSA recommends that you do not wrap your gifts. There may be a need for security agents to unwrap a present to inspect it. And gift-wrapping is not in your TSA officers’ job description, so don’t expect to receive the gift back the same way you gave it to the officer.
Send your gifts through the mail ahead of time, or opt for gifts that travel well – like gift cards.
Travel on Off-Peak Days, and Travel Early in the Day
Hitting the road? Do it early while everyone else is still asleep. The roads are clearer and you get a great jump start on the holiday traffic. If you’re traveling in a snowy region of the country, the roads are typically in better condition during the early morning because city and county road crews have just cleared the way.
Flying? Try to target early flights on off-peak days. Flight statistics show that planes traveling earlier in the day have a better on-time performance. If the flight is cancelled or delayed, you have the benefit of having several other flight options and possibly catching another flight the same day.
Remember the Reason for the Season
While there may be plenty of reasons and opportunities to have a Frosty-styled meltdown when traveling during this time of the year, remember to keep the holiday cheer. Show love to your fellow travelers, and you’ll likely receive love right back - and that warmth will go a long way in making your trip a merry one.