Travel Time and Money Savers
Mobile phones overseas: If you only intend to use wifi connections, bring an extra old phone no longer connected to a server. If lost or stolen, you will not be as miserable. Alternatively purchase a cheap pay-as-you-go phone overseas. Orange and Vodaphone are large chains in Europe which sell this type of phone/ and no fee plan. There is no monthly fee but you add money as you use it up. Be sure you are in an area that has these stores so you can top up the phone up as needed. To top up on the internet, you usually need a European credit card.
Join all frequent flyer/car rental and hotel programs! The last two usually have a quick check in and check out program. Some have automatic upgrades when available. If you forget to do this, you can sometimes sign up at initial check in and fill out the forms there. Always ask up front at each vendor if they have a frequent guest program. Some people use a second email for all these programs to keep them organized and away from personal correspondence.
Good travel insurance- ask us for a referral- travel insurance will cover even frequent flyer co-charges if you need to change or cancel your free tickets. Changes on ff tickets economy class run from $150-250, airline dependent, so this insurance is worth it.
Always inquire at check in with an airline if there is a special last minute upgrade at a discount. At least one major airline now sells these but only at check in. The discounts can be substantial and will vary depending on which currency you are paying in. For instance paying in UK Pounds against which the Dollar is low, will cost more than paying at check in Buenos Aires where the dollar is very high. Again you need to ask, staff does not offer this information.
Photograph all your documents and keep in your phone. Or add a scanner application to your devices and scan in important document. A useful free application is Evernote, which is a nifty filing system for documents, photos etc. Photograph your credit card numbers but cover up the security code and last 4 digits with your finger.
Pack using cloth packing bags to easily separate your wardrobe. Assembling each type of clothing into ‘drawers’ in your suitcase will save time. These are sold in luggage and camping stores and usually are made of mesh so you can see what is inside. Zip lock bags work in the same way for cosmetics, currency and small items. Put pricey small items like your favorite Hermes scarf under and insider something else. Camping stores are a useful source of travel gadgets at lower prices. Locks, compasses, small flashlights etc.
Use TSA locks of a different color from your suitcase so you can identify bags more easily. Carry an extra TSA lock in case your bag is opened by TSA and they forget to re-insert the lock in your bag. In some airports you will see baggage wrap machines, if everyone is using them, follow the crowds. But you will need a scissors to open/tear the plastic wrap over your luggage once at destination!
Changing money overseas: try to avoid Fridays and weekends when banks charge higher exchange rates to protect themselves against lower dollars. Always ask for the rates charged which are not part of the exchange rate as the fee will generally be written in tiny letters and the exchange in big ones. A type of false advertising that is done everywhere.
Try your ATM card on the first day of your trip. In case there is a problem you will have time to resolve it. While taking money from the machine, beware of who is around you physically. If concerned, before punching ‘yes’ walk away.
Here are alternative ways to get cash while traveling:
- Have a friend direct deposit into your account so you can withdraw overseas.
- Western Union Not cheap but in many countries.
- Credit Card cash advance: Again not cheap but a way to get instant cash for a % of total. Some cards limit the cash to several $100.
- FedEx and other overnight courier companies do not like to carry cash, but if you need a small amount and do not tell them… Fedex is very reliable overseas.
- OCS Trust Account at a US Embassy. Did not know this existed but apparently in certain extreme cases, you can have money delivered via the nearest Consulate or Embassy.
The internet is full of travel tips but read them with a grain of salt. Many are impractical for women or involve purchasing gear like special hotel door locks and alarms. Common sense will make your trip safer and more fun than most of these expensive travel gimmicks.