2. Take inventory and make copies
Bringing multiple forms of payment on a trip
abroad is wise. That way, if one card is lost or stolen,
you have other options. But make sure to take
inventory of exactly what you are carrying in your
wallet or purse in case something goes missing.
And don't forget to make copies of important information, like passports or travel documents. While
paper copies in your suitcase may suffice, you may
also want to consider storing them in a secure document cloud that they can be accessed anywhere
from your phone or tablet.
3. Use travel-friendly cards
When it comes to international travel, not all credit
and debit cards are created equal. Shop around for a
credit card that fits your travel habits. Maybe you;re
loyal to a specific airline or hotel chain, or perhaps
you want an all-purpose travel card with ;e;ible
rewards. Either way, you should choose an option
with no foreign transaction fees. Otherwise, you
could be doling out an additional 2 to 4 percent on
international purchases, money that could otherwise be spent on your next scoop of Italian gelato.
You may want to see if at least one of your credit
cards has ;;N ;;ersonal ;dentification Number;
technology, which is sometimes required in places
with unattended terminals, like train stations in
smaller European towns. While most travelers
should be fine with a chip-and-signature card, if
you come across PIN technology, you may need to
So what costs will you incur when using your debit
card to withdraw cash in foreign ;TMs; Depending
on your bank, you may be hit with a variety of fees,
including foreign transaction fees, conversion fees,
and non-bank usage fees. While you should avoid
frequent debit card activity, being able to withdraw
foreign currency as needed, without worrying
about pesky fees being tacked on, can be quite a
relief. Explore banks that waive these fees.
4. Get the best exchange rate
To ensure you're getting the most for your money,
understand the exchange rate before you arrive
and make sure you shop around. You can track
rates with the Wall Street Journal or use an app
like XE Currency for simple conversion calculations.
While exchanging money when you land at the
local airport is convenient, it will almost always be
more expensive than exchanging at banks or even
To be prepared, you should exchange some currency
before you leave home so that you can at least
cover your basic needs upon arrival—a taxi to the
hotel, convenience store purchases, and perhaps a
latte or a glass of wine after a long ;ight. Then withdraw cash from an ;TM or bank ;being mindful of
costs; or use your travel-friendly credit card, the
latter likely being your best bet. Companies that
are most widely accepted worldwide, like Visa and
MasterCard, are able to secure competitive rates.
And when you're asked if you'd like to pay in the
local currency or US dollars, choose local!
But don't forget, in some countries, cash is king.
While you may be able to get away with using a
credit card in most places, have a couple hundred
dollars in local currency on hand "just in case," with
plenty of small bills for tipping.
5. Explore cell service options
Whether you want to completely unplug or make
sure you don't miss a single email, it is critical to
understand how your devices will work at your
destination. If not, you may come home to a cell
phone bill rampant with international roaming
charges, or even worse, you may not be able to
contact someone in an emergency.
If you're traveling to a major city, it is likely that you
will be able to connect to Wi;i ;wireless internet; at
restaurants, museums, and hotels — often for free.
This will allow you to do almost everything except
make regular phone calls and send regular texts.
Pre-travel, download an app like WhatsApp or Skype
to communicate with friends and family over WiFi. If
you do plan to rely solely on WiFi, be sure to turn off
your cellular service in your phone's settings.
However, if you are heading to a small town off
the beaten path, or if you want to make sure you
have service in between WiFi hubs, contact your
service provider to learn about your options. If
your device works abroad, most providers will
allow you to purchase international day passes or
you may be able to buy a local ;;M card to stay
connected at all times.
6. Protect yourself
Even a perfectly planned trip can still have a hiccup or two. Manage your risk by reviewing your
insurance coverage before leaving home. If you'll
be renting a car, see what type of international
protection you’ll be afforded and if you need an international driver’s license. Don;t forget to check in
with your health insurer to better understand your
health and emergency coverage overseas.
;nd finally, there;s travel insurance, which can
cover a wide range of events from theft to lost baggage to a cancelled trip. ;o, do you need it; The
answer is maybe. Perhaps you can self-insure or
maybe your travel credit card provides adequate
coverage as a perk. But if a snag in plans could
spoil a big trip, like a retirement cruise or a major
anniversary, having that coverage in place might
give you the peace of mind you need.
Now that you've spent some time completing your
financial checklist, you should feel relieved and
ready to experience smooth sailing ahead. Bon
Rebecca Meares is an avid traveler and has visited over 20 countries and counting. From having her debit card swallowed up by a
Laotian ATM to attempting to navigate a remote Greek island with
no street names or addresses, she has seen it all and loves sharing her passion for exploring new places. As a Certified Financial
Planner™ professional in the Caudle Meares Group at McAdam,
Rebecca helps her clients retire and stay retired, so that they may
pursue their passions and next big adventure. Come by and share
a travel story if you attend the DC Ideal Living Show.