BEFORE YOU GO

Traveling abroad introduces new challenges that you don't always have to consider when you're in home country. 

We've put together a list of helpful tips to help you get-- and stay-- on your way.


Banking:

  • Debit Cards:  have two debit cards-- linked to separate accounts.  If one of your cards is compromised, you can get cash from your other card.
  • Credit Cards: 
    • make sure you have a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees.
    • make sure you understand what kind of travel insurance, purchase protection and rental car coverage is offered by your credit card.  
    • we recommend having two credit cards for the same reason we recommend two debit cards.
  • Avoid hefty ATM fees:  find a bank that does not charge ATM fees for withdrawals at other banks' ATM's.  Better yet, find one that also refunds the fees other banks charge you.  We recommend a Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account because they reimburse you for the fees other banks charge you on a monthly basis (only 1 fee per day is reimbursed).  
  • Make your money work for you:  if you are going to be traveling for a long time and have a chunk of travel money, put it in a high-yield savings account.  This helps you earn more in interest while keeping it liquid for when you need it.  We have found that Ally Bank has the best rates, last we checked.     
  • Notify your banks and credit card companies that you will be traveling.  This will prevent your cards from being declined due to suspicious activities.
  • Ask your bank to raise the daily ATM withdrawal limit if you feel that it is too low. 
  • Link your savings and checking / ATM accounts so you can quickly move money between accounts.
  • Avoid currency conversion counters that you'll find at the airports.  They typically do not offer very competitive currency conversion rates.  We found that ATM's offer much better rates so we recommend getting cash once you've arrived at your destination.  Be careful not to pull too much as you'll take a hit when you sell the local currency back.
  • Avoid ATM's in bus terminals, train stations.  Stick with ATM's attached to proper banks.  Stand-alone ATM's are more often the victims of skimming devices attached to the machine.  They'll read your information and steal your card number.  Also, in busy bus terminals and train stations you may also find people will skim your card number remotely, which brings me to my next point.... 
  • Put your cards in an RFID wallet or sleeve.  The technology is out there for people to remotely skim your card numbers.  Having them in an RFID wallet, sleep or backpack pouch keeps them safe.  

Travel Insurance:

  • Travel Insurance.  I never believed in it but if you have an accident while hiking in the Alps and have to get helivac'd off the mountain, you'll wish you had it.  It's just smart to protect yourself, and you'll enjoy the peace of mind.  We recommend World Nomads.  

Staying connected:

  • Mobile carriers:  you want to unplug but also need your phone to find that hard-to-find restaurant or book a train ticket.  Check with your mobile carrier to understand what your voice and data options are abroad.  We found that T-Mobile offered the most competitive worldwide data option.  We enjoyed unlimited data (albeit at lower speeds) and voice calls at 20 cents per minute.  

  • Local country SIM cards:  you may go to countries where your mobile phone coverage is non-existent.  In the event you travel to a country where your plan doesn't provide coverage, you should be able to buy a local SIM card, oftentimes at an airport kiosk.

  • Portable power-pack:  we highly recommend you take along a portable power pack to charge your phone and other devices.  Or better yet, do yourself a favor and get an AWAY suitcase that includes a removable power pack (for more on why we love AWAY, see our FAVES list coming soon.)

Do your online shopping well in advance:

  • If you are traveling for a long period of time, there may be some things you need to buy in advance.  Think about vitamins, medicine, luggage & compression bags, carry-on bags / backpacks, electronics organizer, power converter, splitter, travel pillow, jacket-in-a-bag, rain gear, airplane essentials (eye mask, travel pillow, ear plugs, socks or slippers, scarf) or camera equipment.

Before you leave:

  • make sure your ongoing bills are on auto-pay
  • cancel any unnecessary expenses
  • put newspaper and mail delivery on hold
  • arrange to have your plants and animals cared for
  • Set up email auto-response
  • Download movies and books you may want.