Mark Twain wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Confessions of a Travel Junkie.
I believe it’s essential to personal development.
That’s why I’ve developed a bunch of strategies to make those big trips easier, safer, and more affordable.
Here’s my Checklist of Money (and Life) Saving Travel Secrets
- If you’re a United States citizen, get a Global Entry card. For $150 you’ll skip to the TSA pre-check line on domestic flights, and you skip the customs lines when you get back home from trips abroad. I believe that $150 buys you 5 years of speed and convenience.
- Make sure you have enough time on your passport for the country you’re visiting. I wasn’t allowed on the plane to Bali one year, because I had less than 6 months on remaining on my passport!
- Pack 2 credit cards that do not charge transaction fees, and check the bank charges on your ATM card before you go. This’ll save you a ton of cash! Also, make colored copies of your cards and your passport, and hide them in multiple locations, just in case. If your ATM card doesn’t work in a country, you can usually withdraw cash from a Mastercard or Visa. (Carry both.)
- Warn your banks that you’ll be leaving the country. Have them pre-authorize dates and locations to use your credit cards and ATMs.
- Intercontinental flights are freezing cold. Pack lots of layers for the flight. And slippers for trips to the bathroom. I dress for winter when I’m on the plane, and then I strip to summer clothes before I step outside (in Bali).
- Get frequent flyer miles with your credit card. Choose cards that give you 1 mile for each dollar you spend. Cards that give you points general give you 1 penny for every dollar you spend. Ick! And get a card that gives you lots of bonus miles. My favorites are Chase Ink and Chase Sapphire. No foreign transaction fees, 1 dollar = 1 mile, and a 40,000 mile bonus (will take you round trip almost anywhere in the world) when you join. I travel round trip to Bali in Business Class–for FREE–on my frequent flyer credit card miles…
- Pack peppermint oil and sniff it to clear your sinuses in that dry airplane air.
- Book an airport pick up with your hotel. Most hotels have a fixed price for pick up, and your driver will know where to take you. Much safer than choosing a stranger at the airport.
- Pack flip flops for your feet! Especially if you’re going somewhere hot or somewhere hot and rainy.
- Get a universal adapter (or 2, or 3) to charge your appliances.
- Bug spray, sun screen, a hat and sunglasses. With climate change, you never know what to expect at your destination. By the way, that nice smelling herbal stuff does NOT work as well as toxic DEET. Given a choice between malaria and DEET, I choose DEET.
- Pack cash. Some countries are almost entirely cash based. If your cards aren’t working, and the banks are closed, you’ll be glad you have that cash ready! And make sure your cash is BLEMISH-FREE. Many banks won’t accept American bills that are torn, marked, or wrinkled. I kid you not.
- Try strange foods and customs. That’s the whole point of travel. Expand your experience. Be polite. Be respectful. Be adventurous.
- Melatonin and/or CBD oil to help you sleep at night. When you first arrive at a drastically new time zone, resist the urge to nap. Stay up until bed time in your new location, then use these natural, non-habit forming aids to help you reset your body clock.
- Noisy neighbors? A free “white noise” app on your smart phone is a life saver. Put in your earbuds and sleep through anything.
- Pack “Airborne” brand fizzy tablets to stay healthy while traveling. Drop one in a glass of water one on the plane, and take another one at the first sign of not feeling so well.
- Don’t be afraid to seek medical help in foreign countries, especially if you’re from the United States. Odds are you’ll get first rate care for a fraction of what you’d pay at home. Devin and I have always had good experiences when health issues came up in other countries.
- Double and triple check: did you pack your chargers and power cords for your computers/phones/tablets? (And back up your computer on an external drive before you leave, obviously.)
- Put a vacation hold on your newspaper and mail. Get a house sitter or a neighbor to keep an eye on things while you’re gone.
- The 2 most important words to learn are “Thank you” and “Hello” in any language.
- Put some money on your SKYPE account. You can call home for free or cheap with SKYPE. (Zoom gets all the glory these days, but SKYPE lets me call phone numbers directly without the recipient needing an app.) It’s the greatest thing! And set up whatsapp on your phone for free calls to everyone who has a whatsapp account.
- A Google Translator app makes travel and communication easier than it’s ever been.
- Be super flexible. Weird, unexpected things are going to happen, guaranteed. It’ll make a great story
- Check your destination country’s rules and keep checking their rules for entry. The rules are changing all the time. Many countries require proof of vaccination and issue their own health pass which is required to get on the plane. Some countries will let you in but require a significant quarantine period without a health pass.
- Pack some Covid home tests. All sorts of weird health things can happen on a trip to a foreign country as you adjust to food, altitude, time zones, jetlag. It’s handy to have some tests just for peace of mind and to keep everyone around you safe. If you can’t bring your own, you can usually purchase a rapid test locally for around $40. A publicly administered negative test, 24 hours or less before boarding your plane, is required for entry to the United States.
- Buy a mask strap extender to protect your ears on long flights. And pack lots of disposable masks, obviously. They’re required on international travel.
The Good News
Share your own experiences and travel hacks below!
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