06/27/2012 11:16 am ET

You Might Be Taking a Vacation This Year But Your Credit Score Isn't!

Ahh, the summer. It's a time when the kids are out of school and families often get away from the hectic grind of daily work schedules. During the summer, it can be easy (and even tempting) to ignore credit scores. After all, who wants to think about credit reports when there is the wonderfully warm sun and the crash of waves on the sand and the sound of kids playing and the smell of something delicious sizzling on the barbecue? But while you are relaxing on the beach, FICO is still calculating your score!

Imagine your shock if you return from vacation only to discover that while you sipped lemonade on the hot sand, your credit score steadily ticked downward. It happens more often than you think.

Here's how to make sure your vacations don't lower your credit scores:

1. Before leaving on vacation, review your finances. Make sure to pay the bills you have received. If you'll be gone more than a week or two, consider pre-paying some of the bills that could land in your mailbox while you are away. You don't want to hurt your credit score with a series of late payments simply because you weren't there to open your mail. (It happens to many of my clients!). If you're not sure how much a bill will be, sign up for the option to automatically withdrawal the minimum amount due from your bank account to ensure they are always paid on time.

2. If you have automatic withdrawals for your bills, make sure that you have enough money to cover those amounts. One client saw her credit score decline slightly when two bi-weekly mortgage payments were missed while she was away, simply because she accidentally hadn't left enough money in her bank account.

3. While on your vacation, keep a close eye on how much you spend and what payment methods you use. It's easy to overspend on vacations (especially if you're eating out and shopping every day; and what would a vacation be without some unexpected expenses?!). If you use your credit cards, remember that you'll want to pay each card down to less than 20 percent of their credit limit, so make sure that what you spend can be paid down easily when you get home.

Vacations are a great time to unwind and get away from our busy lives... and maybe to live a little carefree for a while. That's okay to do but remember: Vacations don't last forever and when you return to reality, you'll need to rely on a credit score that wasn't as relaxed and carefree as you were!