Travel Tips

Resources to help you make the most of your travel experience.

Money

Notify your bank & credit card company
Credit Card (CC) companies have a number of checks in place to help protect you from fraud. Unfortunately, these safeguards can be a real nightmare if you forget to notify your bank/CC company that you’ll be leaving the country: be sure to call and notify them that you’ll be traveling before you leave. If they start to see a lot of charges from a foreign location, they may put a hold on your card thinking it has been stolen. Make sure to provide the dates you’ll be gone as well as the countries you expect to visit. There is nothing worse than trying to get a replacement credit card while on the road. Informing them is easy, just dial the number on the back of your card and speak to a representative. It will take less than 5 minutes.Know your Credit Card Pin – If you’re an America, you probably don’t know that your Credit Card has a PIN # just like your ATM/Checking card. Why? Because you’ve never had to use it in the US. Be forewarned, that’s not the case in Europe. Most European Credit Card transactions require that you enter your PIN # when making every day credit card purchases, just as you would when making a checking/debit purchase in the US. So, before you leave make sure you double check/set your Credit Card PIN.

Currency Exchanges
Exchange booths are expensive and take a fee. They also tend to give outdated currency values. I avoid these if at all possible. By using ATMs and following the advice I’ve outlined for reducing ATM fees I’m able to get the best currency exchange rate possible. When you use an ATM to withdraw funds, you will typically receive a better, more up to date, and fairer exchange rate.

Small Purchases
For many of us, we’ve begun to use our Credit Cards for all of our purchases. These include small ones – sometimes even those under $1. It is important to note that many countries still add a fee, or prohibit the use of Credit Cards for smaller transactions. This will vary from country to country, but make sure you have some extra spending cash on hand just in case.

Contact Information

Xeroxing important information
Few things are more inconvenient than losing or having your passport, important documents and/or credit cards stolen. Take the 5 minutes to copy the photo page of your passport, and both sides of your credit cards. Make two copies. One to stash in some obscure part of your backpack and one to leave with your stateside contacts. Remember to keep a close eye on the copies – they’re a great asset if you lose the originals, but can also be used to steal your identity if they get into the wrong hands.Email yourself – If you have a web based e-mail platform, e-mailing yourself scans/copies of credit cards, important documents and passport info is a great alternative to the photocopies outlined above. It’s easier to access, less likely to be compromised/stolen, and guaranteed to always be on hand.

Phones

Traveling abroad with your phone can be both a blessing and a curse. While not strictly necessary, the availability of new travel apps can be a huge asset while on the road. There are a few things to keep in mind when considering if you should take your phone with you or not.GSM/LTE/Other – Different cell phone companies operate on different types of technology. Verizon in the US operates on an LTE system, while AT&T and others use GSM. This is important when trying to use your phone abroad, as you may face compatibility issues. This is an essential concern if you’re intending to purchase SIM cards once arrived in your destination country. It is also a good idea to call your phone carrier. Many companies offer an international plan for little to no cost. This will allow you to use your phone for reduced fees or even free in some areas. Make sure you check to see if data and texting is included in your plan.SIM Locked Phones – A popular trend among carries is to lock a phone to their network. What this means is that you won’t be able to use a SIM card in the phone from another provider without them issuing you an unlock code. While absolutely infuriating, this can cause huge headaches when using your phone abroad. In some cases you can contact your provider, tell them you’ll be traveling and that you need the phone unlocked. In other instances, you may have to go through a third party provider to get your phone unlocked.

Data Roaming
Be extremely careful about your phone’s ability to connect to a data plan, or accidentally butt dial while abroad. Even a 2 minute data connection while roaming in a foreign country can result in significant fees.

Pre-Paid SIMs
Many countries allow the purchase of pre-paid SIM cards. These allow you to cheaply (and easily) drop the pre-paid SIM card into your SIM friendly phone. Once done, you’ll be able to make and receive calls on a new local number.

Throwaway Phones
Like pre-paid SIM cards, it’s also often possible to purchase a very cheap mobile phone in the country you’re visiting. This may be a much simpler, and more affordable option for people concerned with the cost of using their mobile plan abroad.