Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

Get advice on money matters from The Bee's Claudia Buck and a panel of local experts

July 2, 2012
Road trippin': Save time, money with these summer travel tips

My Sunday column on summer travel tips is designed to save you time and money. Here are some extra tips that weren't in the column:

Road trippin'
If you'll be driving long distances, consider roadside assistance coverage. It's there if you need a tow truck, a dead battery jumpstart or you lock your keys in the car. There's the tried-and-true AAA, as well as plans through some insurance companies, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and others. Fees vary. Basic AAA and AARP plans, for instance, run about $60 a year.

Local eats
If you want to avoid fast-food freeway meals, stop at produce stands or farmers' markets for fresh fruits, nuts and snacks. For restaurants, ask the locals or check websites like www.Roadfood.com, which lists readers' favorites nationwide. In the Sacramento region, its picks for "authentic regional eats" run from Ford's Real Hamburgers in Land Park to Al's Place in Locke to Putah Creek Cafe in Winters.

Foreign travel extras
Here are a couple extra notes about overseas travel from Ed Perkins, a SmarterTravel.com correspondent:

• Never change money at an airport kiosk or currency exchange office. "The markup (on exchange rates) is way higher and you'll lose money. The best bet is to use a local bank."

• Never use your credit card for a cash advance - whether here in the U.S. or overseas - because you'll pay hefty interest charges that are higher than your regular charge card rate.

Best way to improve long flights overseas?
Get out of economy class. Seriously. "The idea of a comfortable economy seat is an oxymoron," says Perkins.

The veteran traveler says he's always willing to stay in cheap, 2-star hotels, but when it comes to flying, Perkins happily uses up his accumulated airline miles to get an upgrade for more leg room, roomier seats and better meals. For those of us who don't have that luxury, he says paying for upgrades is pricey. A number of foreign airlines, like Air France for instance, now offer "premium economy" seats, but they're "40 percent more room and 100 percent more money."

For his money, Perkins says JetBlue has the most comfortable economy-class seats.

Airline fees?
For a list of airline fees and the best credit cards for travellers, visit sites like www.NerdWallet.com, which has a new comparison tool for airline fees.

Trip insurance?
It's a good idea any time you've paid a large, nonrefundable deposit or there's a hefty cancellation penalty. "You never know what's going to happen. If you have an expensive cruise, vacation rental or tour package, it's recommended, " said Perkins. Don't buy travel insurance from airlines or cruise companies, he says, because coverage can be limited. Go to travel insurance sites, such as InsureMyTrip.com, SquareMouth.com and QuoteWright.com. Look for "cancel-for-any-reason" policies.

Last travel tip: Leave your preconceptions at home. Whether it's the food, the people or the customs in other locales, don't expect anything to be quite like it is at home. After all, that's why we travel, isn't it?

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Meet Our Financial Experts

Claudia Buck

Claudia Buck is The Sacramento Bee's personal finance columnist. Read all her columns here. Contact her at cbuck@sacbee.com

Terri Carpenter

Terri Carpenter offers advice on job hunting, retraining and career counseling. Carpenter works at Sacramento Works Inc., the career and job training arm of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA). With 15 years in the field, she has hands-on experience with everyone from first-time job seekers to career professionals seeking advice after a layoff or looking for a mid-career change. Ask her a question.

Carlena Tapella

Carlena Tapella is a partner in the law firm of Webb & Tapella Law Corp. in Sacramento. The firm specializes in estate planning and probate, such as estates, trusts, conservatorships and litigation. She is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association's Estate Planning & Probate Section. Ask her a question.

Kimberly Foss

Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner, is the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville. With nearly 30 years in the financial industry, her clients include women in transition, small business owners, retirees and "pre-retirees." Ask her a question.

Jesse Weller

Gregory Burke, a CPA and tax expert with John Waddell & Co. in Sacramento since 1984, worked as an IRS tax auditor for six years. He’s a past chairman of the California Society of CPAs. Ask him a question.

Daniel Tahara

Daniel Tahara takes your questions about California taxes. Tahara, a spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board, has 10 years of experience as a tax auditor. Ask him a question.



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