My first trip traveling abroad was four years ago.
After arriving in Roma, I took in 12 cities in 8 European countries and can tell you only this: I wish knew then what I have mastered now on making travel easier for the Wanderlustig individual. Below are the tips on the opportunities that will make making your life easier when traveling overseas.
Say Hello to a New Phone Provider
T-Mobile, to be specific. Why? Unlimited texting to a local and international phone number from anywhere you travel around the globe. Their international plan also includes 10GB of internet usage at high speed before slowing down. Perhaps best is that even after expending your 10GB’s, you still have access to the internet just at a slower pace until it sets again for the new billing cycle. You can always hop on to Wi-Fi for internet that doesn’t count towards your data. As far as phone calls, the plan allows free calls to the U.S. when you are on Wi-Fi and have enabled Wi-Fi calling.
One minor disclaimer: make sure you have a phone that allows Wi-Fi calling because making a call when on Wi-Fi is DIFFERENT from Wi-Fi calling. Only certain phones offer the call over Wi-Fi feature and calls in general when not on Wi-Fi calling or calling an international number are 20 cents per minute.
Another T-Mobile perk is that they will buy out your contract with another carrier in order to switch you over with the least amount of stress. They don’t give you cash for the amount you have to pay but they do send you a gift card (either a VISA or MasterCard gift card) for the amount of the cancellation that can be used wherever the card is taken.
Traveling throughout Europe, you are generally fine for service. (Expect cute texts reminding you that your service remains consistent on the border of each new country.)
There are 2 steps to making the best of money.
Step One, Capital One.
Open a Capital One 360 account.
Why? It’s FREE and when you are traveling internationally there are zero fees associated with using your debit card.
Why is this important? Some banks not only have fees associated with using the card just to swipe, but will often times add fees for the exchange of currency.
In other words, the exchange could look like this:
You are traveling to Germany and you wish to pay for a bill that is 30 euro at a restaurant.
Depending on your bank there could be a fee of 2% added just to swipe your card.
Additionally since you are switching currency there could be another fee of 2% just to change the currently from U.S. dollar to the Euro.
Ridiculous? I believe so.
Capital One 360 also offers an app. There you can deposit checks electronically, so if you have a client or friend or family member in the U.S. sending you a check, they can send it to you wherever you are around the world and you can deposit it electronically.
Why is this important? If you are living in Australia for 3 months but are working with a client in the U.S. that you need to invoice to as a freelancer, your client can cut you a check and send it where you are temporarily residing. You can then deposit the check far more easily than trying to deal with an international bank.
To take it even further, most banks charge fees to use ATM’s around the world. With Capital One 360 you only occasionally incur charges from using an ATM. Additionally, they partner with All Point, a company that has ATM machines in the UK, U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico & Australia. There are no fees when these machines are used for currency withdrawals.
Another way to get around some of the above situations is by opening a VENMO account as mentioned below.
Step Two, VENMO.
Create a VENMO account.
Why? It’s free and easy to use.
What’s so great about it? Many people use the app, therefore when and if you are in a bind, it’s the simplest way to get money into your account while waiting the least amount of time.
How does this apply to Step One? Hold tight.
You can connect your VENMO account to your bank account, your Capital One 360 account. This means that if you run out of money in your debit account, your friends can VENMO you money that will take just 24 hours to arrive in your account with no charge incurred to them or to you. It’s also the easiest way to work with clients back in the U.S. while traveling.
Delta has always been my personal preferred airline for travel for domestic and international travel.
The perks when taking a Delta international flight?
Complimentary cocktails the whole way. End of story.
Other options if you are looking to save some money:
You can view rates of travel easily by accessing their low-fare calendar.
If flying from the U.S., Norwegian airlines has hubs in NYC, San Francisco, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando and ….. they fly to several cities in countries around the world and the great part about navigating their website is that you can choose to view their Low Fare calendar rather than choosing a certain date. Select the month you are interested in traveling and the rates for each day will appear right on the screen. Brilliant, right?
Even better, you can view previous months or months following and the website remembers to and from where you are traveling and shows you rates for days during those months, too. (I love a website that intuits my needs.)
Rates are lower than most and you can travel for as little as $140 each way from the U.S. to certain cities in Europe and the rates include tax. Hidden costs are the charges for all of the upgrades i.e. checked bags, food, seats etc. If you are travel lightly, more than likely you will save all the money by flying Norwegian. Even if not, more than likely you will find a better deal with flying Norwegian than almost all other airlines even with the upgrades.
Another airline that I hear has wonderful deals is WOW. I have not flown them myself but in researching flight options, they also provide a low fare calendar and I have seen 1 way flights from the U.S. to some European cities for as little as $99 each way.
Exchanging currency can be very expensive.
Unless you bank with a company that offers specific currency exchange rates that are amazing the easiest and cheapest way to exchange currency is an ATM. I have yet to visit a city that I have flown into that does not have an ATM present in the airport.
You may find that ATMs at airports are not necessarily bank ATM machines, they may be privately owned machines that are charging $5-$7 to use them.
Be careful of these if you are trying to be cautious of spending. Perhaps you have to use that ATM for just that first transaction to get some cash in your hand for the day but to save the most, try and find ATMs that are through banks.
Take the extra time to contact your bank to ask them if they do, in fact, partner with specific banks in the locations you are traveling. If so, they can supply you with a link where the machines will take the least amount of money from you. This may sound like an irrelevant piece of information but the fees add up very quickly, especially if you are traveling into a city where the use of cash is preferred.
Airbnb is always a great option. I have used their services and have yet to have an issue. You can view reviews of locations, converse with the owner / managers of the apartments or houses you are interested in and you won't have to worry about a shady money transaction like you would if you found something on another social site.
For the Gay community, check out Misterb&b
There is the option of Couch Surfing
A newer company that recently launched is ROAM. They offer a way to live for weeks or months at a time in a few key cities where they have transformed buildings into community living. Not community as in shared rooms. Think more along the lines of renting an apartment short term with no lease. You pay weekly starting at $500 and they have locations in Bali, Miami & Madrid with locations opening soon in Tokyo, San Francisco, London & Buenos Aires.
Another option is joining a housing group page for the city you are traveling to. Often times locals are traveling on Holiday and are looking to rent their flat while away. Those are searchable on Facebook.
GENDR, a community based app for Queer and/or Gender Non-Comforming individuals. With global members on the app, you can join, talk to and connect with people all over the world.
Tripr, a social app for travelers created so you can meet up with people across the world. Find a travel buddy, get some local advice and don't miss out.
Culture Cloud, an app where you can meet like-minded travelers like yourself.
Those are some tips for now. Care to read more? Join the newsletter!