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Planning for an extended vacation

While backpacking in South America for a few months or sailing to Europe might seem carefree, planning an extended vacation takes just that -- planning.

Douglas Gray, Vancouver-based author of "Canadian Snowbird Guide" and founder of Snowbird.ca, a website dedicated to providing Canadians with the information they need to successfully take up the snowbird lifestyle, says heading away for an extended period of time is becoming more and more common. That, he says, comes with benefits.

"Companies realize that people do this on a regular basis," says Gray, adding that customer service departments try to keep make it simple to suspend or transfer services while you're away -- for your sake and for their own.

Whether you're planning on frequent extended travel or are taking the trip of a lifetime, read on for some tips on how to reduce your monthly expenses while you're on the road.

Cable, phone, and Internet
When it comes to services like cable, home phone and Internet, your best bet is to request a seasonal suspension. Large companies like Bell and Rogers will allow customers to temporarily suspend their services in exchange for a reduced monthly fee (usually between five and fifteen dollars depending on taxes and which company you're with).

According to a customer service representative from Rogers, this is common: "It seems like when the first snowflake falls, we're flooded with requests," she says.

Most companies allow one suspension per year for up to six months, though the fine print varies depending on the company.

While cancelling your services entirely is also an option, a temporary suspension saves hassle upon your return and is easier than cancelling and reactivating your services. For those planning trips longer than the maximum allotment in a temporary suspension, you may wish to use the suspension before downgrading your services to minimum levels.

If you can't imagine living without your smartphone or mobile device, you're not alone. According to Chris Gerritsen, a Calgary-based spokesperson for Telus, it's normal for people to want their devices while travelling.

"Our devices are extensions of us," he says. "They contain our lives."

Gerritsen says while each provider is different, customers should do their research before a trip to come up with an action plan.

"Make preparations for your device part of your research when you're making your travel plans," he suggests. "Figure out if you want to use your device like you would at home, use it sparingly, or maybe not at all, and walk through things so you understand exactly how much it will cost depending on where you're going."

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-- Posted August 6, 2012
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