Here are some tips make your overseas journey easier. (courtesy of Travel & Leisure)
Hotel business cards. Take a business card from the front desk when you check in, that way, if you ever get lost, you have the name and address of the hotel in the local language. Having something in a local language that can be shown to locals and taxi drivers is an extra bit of insurance.
The six-month passport rule. The U.S. lets you use your passport up to the date inside the cover. However, several countries will deny travelers entry if the passport expires in less than six months. Why? If for some unexpected reason you get stuck overseas longer than planned, that country wants to ensure that you have a valid passport to eventually travel back to the United States. To avoid any problems, renew your passport during a downtime in travel, about nine months prior to the expiration date.
Getting cash. The best way to get cash is usually an ATM, but many U.S. banks charge steep fees for using an ATM that is out of network. You can take out a large amount of cash at the airport ATM so you pay that fee only once, but it’s never advisable to carry large sums of cash. Plus, you risk having too much local currency left over at the end of your trip. Charles Schwab and Fidelity both offer checking accounts that have no minimum balance requirements and reimburse you for all ATM fees, including those from overseas.
Credit cards. The best exchange rates are often found using your credit card. However, many credit cards will tack on a foreign transaction fee, sometimes as high as 3 percent. It’s a pointless fee that no traveler should ever pay. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card and Platinum American Express are two of the cards that don’t levy this fee. Also, never have a hotel or restaurant convert a charge into dollars first. It’s a bad deal.
Fraud alerts. Notify your credit card company’s fraud department of what countries you will be visiting and on what dates. This way, they won’t think your card is stolen and shut it off just when you need it the most. Be mindful of any countries you might be changing planes in; you might need to make a charge during your layover, especially if there’s a delay.
Credit card chips. In Europe, all cards have a chip embedded in them which—when paired with a PIN—are used for purchases. It’s a much more secure way of charging goods, It’s been adopted in the States, but some people may still have the swipe type card. Most vendors overseas can still swipe your card. But train ticket machines, gas stations, and other machines where we pay without interacting with a person often reject cards that are swiped. Use a credit card with chip and signature technology.
Medicine. It’s a good idea to carry an eye mask and earplugs in your medicine bag because you never know what your hotel room is going to be like. Allso carry Advil, NyQuil, Imodium A-D, Tums, and a handful of other key medications. Do you want to be running around Germany late at night, trying to translate “diarrhea”?
Travel alerts. It’s a good idea to check the State Department’s travel warnings and alerts. It’s also smart to print out the address and contact information of the local embassy.
Data roaming. Set up your cell phone to avoid international data roaming. The biggest costs can come from transmitting data overseas. Turn off data roaming as soon as you leave the US to avoid these astronomical charges.
Unwanted local currency. Figure out on your last night how much cash you will need and then set aside the leftover money. At checkout the next morning, take that cash and ask the hotel to apply it to your bill and then pay the remaining balance with my no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card !!
All the best