Just last month, I took a ten-day business trip to Australia. I was eager to see the sights and spend time doing business in a beautiful landscape, but I also wanted to be smart about my money while abroad. To make sure that I wouldn’t overpay for my business and personal expenses on this trip, I did my homework ahead of time. I discovered some common costly mistakes travelers make that are easily avoidable with a little preparation. So if you’re planning to take a business – or personal – trip out of the country anytime soon, I highly recommend doing some of your own research as well as following the tips below.
- Do understand the details of your cards. Even if you use your credit card every day, you probably don’t know what the fine print says on that initial offer you signed. Go to a website like CardHub to find out if your card has a foreign transaction fee. If it does, figure out a different card you can use that doesn’t pack this associated charge. Also, be aware that certain countries overseas require a smart chip, so look into this whether you were planning to get a new card or not. If you have to get a new card for any variety of reasons, apply for one that has no foreign transaction fee and has a smart chip in it.
- Don’t fall prey to poor currency exchanges. If you find yourself out of the country with nothing but U.S. dollars, it’s tempting to go anywhere you can to exchange your cash into the proper local currency. But please – don’t trust just anyone with this task. Before you depart, shop banks near you to find which one has the best conversion rates and get your money swapped there. Avoid airport money exchanges, and once you’re in your final destination, don’t allow merchants to convert your money for you. Neither is the safest or most cost-effective to handle switching currencies.
- Do communicate with your bank. Most banks track your spending so they can alert you if something seemingly fraudulent has taken place. They will see a trip abroad as a red flag, and may tie up your account as a result. Nix the potential of encountering this hassle by being proactive. Call your bank ahead of time, and let them know where you’re planning to travel and for how long. Ask them if they have any suggestions for you for the particular region you’re going to, or with travel in general. Since they’re an extra set of eyes for your finances, it’s best they know where you’re headed.
- Don’t be lackadaisical with how you pay. Once you make it to your country of choice, don’t let your diligence slide. When anywhere outside of the U.S., avoid making purchases with your debit card. Another good rule of thumb is to only use ATMs at foreign banks during open hours. If you fail to remember these two tips, you’re opening yourself up to financial vulnerability on foreign soil.
Take the time to plan for your overseas trip from a financial standpoint, and you’ll save some money and free yourself up to enjoy the excursion without worry. It won’t take long, and your financial security will thank you for it.
Traveling for New Year’s? Here are a few things you need to know about traveling from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Sky Harbor is ready for the holidays with extra staff and volunteers to serve customers. Every day from now through January 3 will be busy. Busy days continue as travelers visit the Valley for the New Year, Insight Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. On an average day Sky Harbor serves 90,000-100,000 passengers, but this holiday period will average 130,000.
If you are planning to park at the Airport now through January 4, Sky Harbor is offering a coupon for 40 percent off the terminal garage rate. Download the coupon from skyharbor.com and park in the terminal garage for just $15 per day, compared with the usual rate of $25. This means no waiting for buses ― just drive to your terminal, park, and walk directly to your gate.
Upon exiting the parking garage, use one of the lanes with a parking attendant so they may credit you the coupon amount. You may still pay with a credit card, but the Credit Card Only lanes have no attendant to process the coupon. For parking availability, visit skyharbor.com/FindASpot or call the 24-hour parking information hotline at (602) 273-4545.
Travel tips for the holidays:
- Get to the airport two hours before your flight departs, especially if you are parking in economy areas or checking bags.
- Liquids and gels must be in 3 oz containers or less for carry-on bags and placed in a zip top bag. Larger quantities of medically necessary liquids are allowed at the discretion of TSA screeners.
- Bring a snack or meal for the plane. Food may be carried through security and beverages may be purchased past security and brought onto the aircraft.
- Visit skyharbor.com on your smart-phone to access our mobile website where you can find out what food and shops are near your gate as well as other Airport information.
- If you park in the Economy Parking lots, look for a sign to scan a QR Code. Use your phone to scan it and you will be sent a note reminding you where you parked.
- Remove large electronics from your carry-on bags and place them in their own TSA bin.
- Mark your bags and electronics clearly so you recognize them immediately. Have your claim check or ID ready at baggage claim when you return to Phoenix so that if you are approached by staff, you won’t be delayed looking for this information.
- Use the free cell phone lots to wait for arriving passengers and avoid circling the terminals.
“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” — St. Augustine
Ahh traveling. Who doesn’t love getting away and visiting new places? I know I do! I’ve done a bit of traveling, (though have many more plans in the future). Even with my novice travel experience I’ve picked up some pointers along the way. Hope these help when planning your next trip. Happy travels!
Get a passport!
Even if you don’t have any immediate travel plans, you never know when you’ll need it.
While I’m a huge fan of spontaneity, some things are better not left to decide on a whim. Lodging and transportation are two things that I always try to have pinned down. You don’t want to be in a foreign country, with no money and nowhere to sleep. There are many travel options nowadays and planning ahead assures that you’ll get the best bang for your buck. I opted to travel throughout Europe using trains but if I had to do it again I’d like to plan my route further ahead of time and try to use some of the many low-cost airlines that fly to cities throughout Europe.
This goes hand in hand with planning ahead. If you do your research and know where to go and what to do, your travel time will be spent actually doing and enjoying these things, instead of wasting time figuring out what to do.
That said however, be open to change. Maybe you’ll meet some interesting people on the train and hang with them for a day? Or you stumble upon a cool art exhibit. This is the beauty of travel, soak it in.
Look into cheap lodging options such as hostels or couch surfing (couchsurfing.org). Another great option is a site called airbnb.com. It works like a hotel (you pick your city and your price range) the only difference is you’ll be staying in someone’s home. You can opt for a private room or splurge on the whole place. Of course, if cost isn’t an issue then go for what your heart desires.
Be aware of current exchange rates and avoid places like airports and train stations to do the exchange (their rates are almost always not as good as exchange places that are a bit further away.) Sometimes the difference is minimal but at times it can save you a pretty penny. You can do some online research ahead of time to see where a good exchange place is located.
Open a checking account at a bank with international locations (For example HSBC, which has locations worldwide.) This will save you from all the extra fees you incur when using your credit or debit card abroad. These rules vary from bank to bank though so you can also ask your local bank if they have an international partnership with a bank overseas. Either way, it’s definitely worth looking into especially for longer trips.
This is an obvious one, but if you’re like me it’s easier said than done. For my trip this summer I opted for a large camping-style backpack over traditional luggage because I know from experience that lugging one of those huge bags around can be torture. Elevators are not always an option, and it’s much easier to hoof it up a flight of stairs with a large backpack than dragging your luggage.
Live It Up
Last but not least, be adventurous and of course take lots and lots of photos! I usually take a few memory cards to store all my photos and worry about uploading them all when I get home. Be open to new experiences, try new foods, and most importantly have fun!
“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time” —Jack London