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Traveling Without Credit

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This time of year, America is officially springing forward with most U.S. citizens trading an hour's worth of sleep for more evening sunshine to enjoy after work. Yet, Daylight’s Savings Time 2010 means more than additional playtime for you in the daylight hours; it also means it’s primetime for planning a much-needed Spring Break and/or, in many cases, a much-deserved Summer vacation.

If you’ve recently filed for bankruptcy or simply made a New Year’s resolution to overcome your personal credit crunch, you may be wondering how you can possibly enjoy a little rest and relaxation on a vacation without the crutch of credit cards.

While it may sound hard to believe, it’s actually relatively easy to travel without credit with many hotels, motels, airlines and car rental agencies offering “creditless options,” for consumers on a budget.

Planning Ahead to Get Away Credit-Free
While most hotels or rentals will accept debit cards, the true key to traveling credit-free is to plan ahead…and now’s the perfect time.  Make reservations 10-30 days before you plan to travel in order to guarantee you won’t need your credit card to get started with your getaway. This extra time will allow you to research the correct vendors for your credit-less adventure.

Reserving Your Room Without Credit
As you’re probably aware, these days hotels and motels expect you to guarantee your reservations with a credit or debit car. However, what is less well-known is that most hotels have policies regarding credit-less travel that allow consumers like you to circumvent the normal credit-dependent details. In general, these policies can range from prepaying the entire stay (ensuring you aren’t living beyond your vacation means) to simply prepaying your deposit (normally one-night’s stay).  In addition to the benefits of not using high-interest cards to reserve your stay, your pre-pay allows you to travel without carrying a ton of cash. Cash stand-ins like Travelers Checks can also reduce the possibility of losing your hat while enjoying your vacation. To find out the policies of your favorite hotels or those in your intended destination, start by dialing the hotel’s toll-free 800 number and inquiring about their “credit-less policy.” While some hotels have company-wide policies, others decide on a hotel-by-hotel basis.

Renting A Car Without Your Card
In some cases, rental car agencies don’t accept debit cards. However, like hotels and motels, almost all rental companies have policies for credit-less reservations. According to author and financial consultant Paula Langguth Ryan, Alamo Rental Car is an especially consumer-friendly choice when attempting to rent a car without a credit card.  In her book, Bounce Back From Bankruptcy, Paula explains that Alamo built there business on creditless travel and continues this trend by avoiding applications or making arrangements ahead of time, while also allowing you to pay directly with cash. In return for making creditless travel so hassle-free, you must make arrangements a minimum of 24-hours ahead of time, pay a deposit, and provide copies of bills and pay stubs to verify your ability to pay—a small price to pay to avoid the interest of credit and the hassles of contracts.

Catching a Flight without Breaking the Bank
Today, it’s normally routine to purchase tickets using debit cards. Some companies, like US Airways, will also accept payment over the phone using an electronic check transfer, requiring you to not only have the funds beforehand, but also having your checkbook handy when purchasing your flight. Another no or low hassle way to pay your way with the cash you have (either using green backs or debit cards), is to use a local travel agent.

In short, planning your vacation need not be financially painful; you merely need to pick your hotel and car rental and ask for options with “creditless travel;” book your plane tickets through debit, electronic check transfers, or both through the airline or a travel agent; and pack any cash you do take in the form of traveler’s checks—assuring a safe, hassle-free and financial freeing vacation!

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