Tips to help make your 2024 travel trouble-free
Stay safe, healthy and connected as you explore our world.
In this article:
- Travel is one of the most rewarding ways to spend your wealth, and more people are traveling further and longer than ever before.
- If you’re planning some serious travel in 2024, these tips can help you ensure smooth sailing (or flying or driving).
Few activities fell by the pandemic wayside as much as travel. But it bounced back with a vengeance.
In 2022, Americans spent $1.2 trillion on travel – a return to 2019 levels – and it continued to increase in 2023. Several things drove the explosion in travel:
- Households were able to save up money during the year or more that they spent at home.
- There’s been a cultural shift prioritizing experiences and living life more intentionally.
- Remote workers, free from office shackles, are increasing – and increasingly taking advantage of the ability to work wherever they are.
Recently, there are signs that the frantic desperation to go somewhere – anywhere – is starting to fade, to be replaced by “bliss travel” (chill, meaningful trips), “bleisure,” (trips that blend work and fun), and wellness tourism (travel that enhances personal well-being).
All in all, two-thirds of leisure travelers agree that taking time off to travel is more important than ever. If you’re one of them, and you’re planning big trips this year, here are some tips to make your travel relaxing and fulfilling.
Travelers always need to keep safety in mind – they’re often a target of petty criminals who take advantage of their unfamiliarity with the environment. So, make sure to follow the common advice to:
- Put maps away as much as possible, project an air of confidence and pay attention to your surroundings. Your cellphone’s map app can be a great way to navigate – but make sure you keep it secure.
- Research the areas you’re going to, including visiting the State Department website for advisories. Traveling internationally? Store the phone numbers for the local U.S. embassy and emergency services in your phone.
- Don’t leave drinks unattended, as criminals can potentially “spike” them with alcohol or drugs to take advantage of the victim’s altered state.
If you’ll be traveling internationally, register with the U.S. embassy in your destination through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. In case you need to be contacted in an emergency, they’ll have your information.
But it’s not just your personal safety you need to keep in mind! You’ll also want to secure your home while you’re gone.
- Turn off geotags on your electronic devices and don’t post on social media ahead of or during your trip – you don’t want anyone to know your house is vacant.
- Set up automatic or wirelessly controlled lights and potentially video cameras as well. Smart home assistants make it simple to control everything via an app.
- If you have a home security company, let them know you’ll be away.
- Consider leaving your contact information with a trusted neighbor.
- Have someone pick up your mail and – if you’ll be away a while – mow the lawn or shovel snow so your house looks occupied.
Finally, you want to protect your money. Thinking about financial stuff might not be how you want to spend your vacation time – so plan ahead for peace of mind.
- Let your financial planner know you’ll be away.
- If you’re traveling internationally, tell your credit card companies where you’re going – if they suspect fraud, they might lock down your access. Take a second backup card with you just to be safe.
- Consider changing some money into local currency before you leave, as it can get you a better exchange rate and let you avoid using ATMs. If you do have to use an ATM, check it for tampering and be careful who’s around.
- Be subtle with cash and don’t carry a lot of it (or other valuables). Consider using a money belt and the hotel safe to store money and valuables. And don’t pack all your cash in one bag – it could get lost or stolen.
- Go beyond physical access to your money – read our tips for protecting digital access to your money as well.
One of the most important things to know if you have Medicare coverage is that original Medicare (parts A, B, and D) generally won’t cover medical and prescription costs when you’re traveling outside the U.S.
Medigap plans and Medicare Advantage (Part C) may provide international coverage. Carefully check your coverage and consider buying travel insurance that covers medical costs if you need it. (Even if you’re covered medically, travel insurance is always a great idea to protect against other scenarios, like delays, lost luggage and trip cancellations.)
Some credit cards provide a measure of travel insurance if you pay for your trip using them – read your benefits information carefully to see what might be covered.
A few months before an international trip, check the CDC website to see if there are vaccines or preventative medications that are recommended for your destination. For example, malaria, typhoid, yellow fever or other diseases may be endemic in the places you’re planning to visit.
If you’ll be in a less-developed area, you should also research whether the water is safe to drink – if not, consider packing a filtered water bottle.
Planning to visit Europe? Note that the new visa waiver required to enter the EU has been postponed until sometime in 2025. For 2024, all that U.S. citizens will need is a valid passport to enter.
If you’re visiting a city, Wi-Fi access and cellular data probably won’t be an issue. However, using cell data may be expensive if you’re outside the U.S. Before you leave, check with your provider about your options for international data usage. You may want to temporarily upgrade to a plan that includes international data rather than pay per use.
Another option if you have an “unlocked” phone is to buy a SIM card when you reach your destination and swap it out for the card in your phone. That will allow you to connect to the local networks instead of paying for international access.
And be careful with free Wi-Fi – it’s not always secure. You can use a VPN to help ensure your connection remains private.
If you’re going someplace less developed, including off-grid locations in the U.S., like backcountry areas of national parks, research whether you’ll have cell coverage at all. If coverage is a concern, you can consider renting a satellite phone.
Enjoy your travels
If you’re wondering whether you can afford some bucket-list trips this year, we’re here to help. Contact your planner to talk about ways you can make it happen.