Handling your money well is difficult enough at home, but when we travel we run into a whole new series of roadblocks and pitfalls that can either cost us money or leave us unable to access our funds. Here are a few ways to protect yourself from a few common problems.

Talk to your Bank

Before you leave the country go to your local bank branch and let them know where you are planning to go and when you will be where. Your bank will trace where your account is being accessed from, and if you don’t tell them that you’ll be there they will find it suspicious that your credit card is being used in Romania one day when you were in London last week and New York three days before that. Usually the bank will freeze your bank account and not unfreeze it until they can verify your identity, which can take quite a while if you didn’t bring the appropriate information along on your trip. Additionally many international ATMs will block debit cards that are currently being targeted by criminal enterprises for fraud without letting you know, so while you are already there you should ask your bank whether you will be able to access your funds at your destination at all. Even if you’re traveling to a first world urban center like London you should read bank alerts, government warnings and your favorite London travel blog to try to catch wind of any problems beforehand.

Diversify your payment options

Be sure to have options available if you find that your debit card is ineffective at your destination. Bring enough cash to get you through your first day and to a bank where you can get them to talk directly to your bank at home. Also make sure you bring a credit card and traveler’s checks to be safe. Credit cards are very prolific in most places now, and a Visa or MasterCard can get you through most places.

Keep your money safe

Keep your cash and valuables out of sight. This goes especially for your hotel room, and public. Don’t pull out your entire gigantic wad of cash when paying for an ice cream cone on the street. Keep a few bills in your pocket and store the rest in a protected zippered pocket, preferably hidden inside your coat.

Don’t buy things you can’t take home

Read up on how to clear US customs. Buying a box of Cuban cigars for later use is not a good investment, the same goes for any improperly packaged foods, or anything else that the TSA might not like to see in your bag, specifically flammable or incendiary objects, alcohol, or large quantities of anything because you might be suspected of smuggling.

Know how to tip

Always research the tipping practices of your destination country. In some countries you shouldn’t tip at all and in others it is incredibly important to tip and to tip the exactly correct amount in order to avoid giving the impression that you’re bribing someone or that you’re cheap or rude.

Handling your money efficiently and being prepared for all of the different things that can come between you and your money or the things that you paid good money for is essential for any successful trip. Protecting yourself by preparing appropriately will save you vast amounts of time and money while ensuring that your vacation goes according to plan.