Travel Tips

I’d like to think that in my years of travel, I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Here are some travel tips and tricks, as well as links to related posts, in each of the following categories:

Lilypad in Croatia

lilypad at the Zagreb Botanical Garden

 Budgeting

Here’s a post to help you save your pennies for a big trip:

Finances

  • Credit Card

If you have a credit card that charges you foreign transaction fees, get a new (or additional) one. Also, if your card does not have a “chip” on the front, get a new (or additional) one. Both are musts these days for international travel. (U.S. banks and credit companies began issuing chip cards in Fall 2015, and most big retailers have updated their credit card processing systems to accept them.)

I’ve had a United Mileage Plus Master Card for years, since I primarily fly United internationally. However, before leaving for Southeast Asia in Fall 2014, I opened a second credit card, Chase Sapphire Preferred (Visa), because at that time, the United card didn’t have a chip (It does now). I chose the Chase Sapphire Preferred card because it also with Chase (one less online account to worry about), it receives high ratings, it has a flexible point system (vs. only one airline), and it offers double points on travel and dining. No complaints!

  • ATM Card

Check with your primary bank(s) to see if there are any branches (or partner branches) where you’ll be heading, and what their policies are for charging ATM fees. The two problems with ATM fees while traveling are that 1) they can rack up quickly, and 2) they make budgeting difficult, since to avoid multiple fees, many people withdraw large sums of cash upon arriving in a new country, which can easily be miscounted or misplaced (not to mention, the safety considerations of carrying around so much cash).

If your bank charges fees for ATM withdraws, and you travel long/frequently enough to make it worth it, consider opening a checking account with Charles Schwab, since they offer unlimited ATM fee reimbursement from any ATM worldwide.

 Insurance

Before you purchase any type of travel insurance, check with your credit card company to see what is covered. You might be surprised to learn that you might qualify for compensation for lost baggage, delayed/cancelled flights and more. Also, check with your insurance company to see what is covered and where, and what the reimbursement process is (Keep in mind that in some parts of the world, an approved doctor might be quite far away, and also receipts might be handwritten or not provided at all).

If nothing else, emergency medical insurance, including evacuation, is a must when traveling internationally (OK, I admit, I never bought a policy until last year.) InsureMyTrip.com is a great place to start. It’s easy to compare policies, and they have excellent customer service. Both of the policies I recently purchased through the site were about $50.

 Mail

I forwarded my mail to my parents during travels, which really didn’t work at all. They received about three pieces of mail, while the rest piled up at my condo and annoyed my neighbors. Another seasoned traveler recommended the services of both Earth Class Mail and TravelingMailbox, which I will definitely consider for my next long-term trip.

 Packing

Here are some posts that can help you take the guesswork out of packing:

 Planning

Here are posts to help you get organized before hitting the road:

 Technology

  • iPhone

Being connected while you’re on the road is a necessity these days, for better or worse. Over the past few years I have traveled with my iPhone, and I simply connect to wifi wherever available at my destination (making sure to turn off cellular data, so I don’t accidentally incur any charges). Most of my friends and family members have iPhones too, so we use iMessage to text. If I need to make a phone call, I typically use FaceTime or Skype (I purchase Skype credits in case I need to call land lines.) Fortunately, wifi is typically free and much more widely available outside of the U.S.

If you want to make local calls and use data at your destination, you can purchase a local SIM card, which are relatively cheap. However, SIM cards can only be used with an unlocked phone. When I had an iPhone 4, I called my carrier  Verizon  before traveling and asked to have it unlocked; now I have an iPhone 6, which came unlocked (ask your carrier if you don’t know). If you travel frequently, consider signing up for service through T-Mobile, which offers free data worldwide, or purchasing a global SIM card.

  • iPad & Laptop

I also take an iPad with me on the road to access books, movies and do some basic word processing. Recently, I invested in a laptop (this Lenovo Flex), which allows me to work.

Here are some posts that might help make your travels easier: