Prepare Your Phone for Your Next International Trip

January 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Preparing for an international trip with your mobile phone requires research and planning. Get off the plane and just start using it, and you’ll be hit with a variety of fees and roaming charges, easily racking up several hundred dollars in a single week.

Whether you need the ability to call or just the ability to access data and text, the following tips will help you utilize your device to its fullest while keeping overall costs down.

Know your phone and your plan

All phones use either GSM (Global System for Mobiles) or CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) as their radio systems to communicate with cell towers. GSM phones are unlocked and can be used with any carrier, while CDMA phones are locked to a specific carrier.

Business travelers have a few hacks they could use to help save money on their next international trip.

Read through your plan to make sure you know what the charges will be for international use, or if you’ll even be able to use your phone while abroad. If you have a GSM phone, you can switch out your SIM card with one in the country you’re visiting (more on that later). Otherwise, you may be able to purchase a temporary plan through your carrier.

If you have a CDMA phone, you may want to buy a pay-as-you-go phone once you arrive in your destination country.
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One Money Saving Tip for International Travelers

November 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

If you haven’t traveled outside the country before, or if it’s been a few years, you’ll be happy to know it’s possible to avoid ATM fees for cash withdrawals or transaction fees while conducting business abroad.

A May 2016 article on Smarter Travel pointed out that most American credit card issuers have cards specifically for frequent international travelers. But don’t assume that you’ve got the right kind of card just because you have a company credit card.

Make sure your bank card isn't charging you to use their ATMs overseas

Make sure your bank card isn’t charging you to use their ATMs overseas.

American Express, Capital One, Chase, BankAmericard, MasterCard, and Barclay all offer programs that waive international transaction fees on certain types of cards. But if you use your standard issue card, here’s what percentage of fees NerdWallet says you should expect to pay.

  • American Express: 2.7%
  • Bank of America: 3%
  • Barclaycard: 3%
  • Capital One: 0% Read more

Making the Case for Travel Insurance

November 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Most people think travel insurance is a way to recoup the cost of an airline ticket in the event of a personal emergency or health situation that makes it impossible for them to complete their travels.

But travel insurance is more than just personal insurance. Consider the impact this year’s terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris, to mention just a few, have had on the travel industry and travelers’ plans.

While travel insurance rates haven’t spiked, or changed at all, since these events, the commodity with the terrorism clause has been standard since September 11, 2001. In fact, according to an article in The New York Times, companies like squaremouth.com have a special section of their travel insurance site dedicated to policies that prospective travelers can search to find terrorism coverage.

Travel insurance vending machines in Japan

Travel insurance vending machines in Japan

Travelers should understand that insurance with this clause doesn’t provide blanket coverage. In fact, it’s very narrow. For example, it will not cover a trip already in progress, but might allow you to get a refund if an act of terrorism has occurred within 30 days of your scheduled departure. The policy may also exclude coverage in the event of a terrorist attack if you choose to travel to an area known for terrorist activity or where an attack has already happened.

According to Christina Tunnah, regional manager for the travel insurance company World Nomads, two factors determine whether or not you’ll be able to submit a claim: 1) When you purchased the insurance, and 2) How your plans were impacted by the terrorism. In some instances, for a claim to be paid, the event may have to be officially declared a terrorist attack. She always advises travelers to call.

“Traditionally, insurance doesn’t cover fear,” Tunnah told the New York Times. “Yet there are some practicalities that might cause a travel insurance company to make an exception. It’s always very case by case.”

While the odds of being impacted by an act of terrorism while traveling are exceedingly slim, knowing your options will help you make an informed, objective decision.

Do you usually purchase travel insurance? Are you considering it more now than before? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Mark Yang (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

Smart Ways to Carry Money When Traveling

October 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Traveling with money is always a challenge, because there are twice as many ways to lose money as there are forms of payment. Not only can you just misplace it or leave it behind, but you’re also at risk of pickpockets and thieves, especially if you travel outside the United States.

So here are a few tips for managing your money while traveling on business, especially if you travel overseas.

A credit card is an effective way to carry money when you travel, because you can always get a replacement if you lose it.

Get a compatible credit card. The card you already carry may be used internationally with a simple call to the company to alert them of your travels, but a growing number of European and Asian countries now require a card with a built-in chip. If you are traveling on business and your company doesn’t supply you with a credit card for expenses, make sure your personal line of credit can be accessed without penalty. Then, get a personal card to be used only for business expenses, one that lets you rack up airline or hotel points. Additionally, use this card whenever possible, rather than making cash withdrawals overseas. Not only are the fees higher, the exchange rate is less favorable when you exchange it yourself.

Consider on-body storage. You may have been told that money belts are a safe way to carry money, but an experienced thief can recognize them immediately (hint: nobody wears a belt that thick). Instead, money belts and fanny packs broadcast to thieves that you’re not a local, which could increase your odds of being a victim. Consider a money pouch that hangs on your belt inside your pants, or a wallet that hangs around your neck inside your shirt. Just don’t go digging through it when you have to pay for an item; the whole point of on-body storage is for it to be a secret!
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Airlines Working to Eliminate Jet Lag

August 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Elon Musk’s Hyperloop train existed right now, and could travel from New York to LA in 45 minutes? We would never experience any of the ill effects of time zone travel. While jet lag still exists because the Hyperloop doesn’t, airlines and science are looking for some natural ways to help your body prepare for the adjustment to your new locale and reduce jet lag symptoms.

This prompted Fast Company to ask whether we’re on the verge of eliminating jet lag. Short answer, no. But we may be getting closer.

For one thing, airlines that offer long haul and international flights have begun experimenting with LED lighting in the cabin to mimic the time zone destination of the flight.

Sleeping on a plane can help with jet lag, but only if done at the right time.“It turns out you can pretty heavily manipulate levels of melatonin in the body by exposing people to different wavelengths of light,” David Cosenza told Fast Company. He’s a project manager for Lumileds, a company that manufacturers the LED lights that are now used in the new Airbus A380 XWB and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

While you may have no control over the light you’re exposed to as you fly, you can prepare your body using one essential oil and a supplement. Rosemary oil, either applied to the skin or added by the drop to a bottle of water, relieves cramping and nausea, promotes digestion, aids circulation, boosts the immune system, and eases respiratory systems working with recycled plane air.

Also, consuming turmeric — in tea, as a supplement, or as an ingredient in your meals — will help you avoid headaches when flying. Its powerful anti-inflammatory agents require some planning, though, so begin incorporating it into your diet up to three days in advance of your travel.

Speaking of your diet, consider choosing lean protein if you want to remain awake once you reach your destination. Turkey, chicken, and fish satiate and provide extended release energy, which will help you transition to your new time zone. Avoiding fatty foods, which induce sleep, is key. Alcohol and caffeine actually inhibit restorative sleep, so choose water or an herbal tea throughout the course of your travel so that there’s nothing to block your body’s natural circadian rhythm.

These natural methods of curbing jet lag will have you alert and ready to go when you reach your destination.

How do you beat jet lag? Do you have any tips or tricks? Share them with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Ian MacKenzie (Flickr, Creative Commons)

6 Sensational Ways to See the World for Free

July 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

There are almost as many ways to see the world as there are people living in it. Those who travel on someone else’s dime have learned how to take advantage of at least one of the following six opportunities: sell, write and promote, exchange, work, points, and luck.

Selling may seem like the most unlikely way to travel free, but if you’re an organizer who is good at bringing people together and you convince 15 of your friends or family to vacation together somewhere, you just might be able to negotiate free airfare or lodging for yourself.

Another option is to get a job in the world of international sales, and spend a lot of your time on the road.

Backpacking in Europe is a great way to see the worldTravel writing/promoting is a growing business and a unique way to get a great vacation in exchange for a review on social media of your experience. Even if the cruise or tour doesn’t live up to expectations, it’s still really a win-win: you get to travel free and you get to share the pros and cons of your trip with your audience. TravelPro has a luggage reviewers program and is a travel partner with Two Monkeys Travel. We’re meeting all kinds of travelers and influencers who fund vacations through their own promotion and writing work.

Have you ever wanted to visit a country and live like the locals? Through Couchsurfing and HomeExchange.com, you can share authentic travel experiences while staying in someone’s home in one of 65,000 homes in 165 countries or invite a traveler to stay with you while visiting your town.

If you travel for work, one of the greatest perks is tacking on a few days or taking an extended vacation after you’ve completed your responsibilities. After all, the company has already footed the bill for your airfare, so you can delay your departure by a few days, and you just have to pay for that time yourself.

Perhaps the most common way to travel free is to use points with one of the many loyalty programs available through airlines or destinations like Disney. Do your research and glean from those who have learned the ins and outs of the system, and you’ll find amazing vacations can be earned by using a credit card or hoarding your points from work travel.

Have you ever journeyed to see the world? Paid, free, or nearly so? How did you do it? Share your stories in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: kokorowashinjin (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

How to Look Like a Local When Traveling Overseas

June 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Many travelers are surprised when they’re greeted in English while traveling abroad. One of our colleagues used to get frustrated whenever he would travel to Germany and the Netherlands, and then be greeted in English. His goal was to pass as a local, so it would bothered him that people could tell immediately.

Haarlem, Netherlands - Kleine Houtstraat

Kleine Houtstraat in Haarlem, Netherlands

If you’ve ever wondered, “How did they know?” and wanted to blend in a bit, here are a few tips from veteran travelers. Taking the time to educate yourself before leaving home will allow you to navigate your new city or country with the finesse of a local.

First, learn a few key phrases, such as “please” and “excuse me.” Even if you don’t manage the correct pronunciation, natives are impressed by the effort and courage. One of those small social exchanges may lead to a beautiful connection.
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Traveling Like the Experts

May 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Recently, Matt Long, creator of Landlopers and self-described normal person who just wants to get the most out of his traveling, shared his best tips with Yahoo Travel, on engaging and embracing your destination when you take a vacation. We thought you’d benefit from his sage advice.

Except his first tip worried me a bit. He suggests getting lost. As in, on purpose. Long believes there’s much lost from visiting a place if you seek to remain comfortable, only “exploring” the well-known tourist areas of any given city. So, in order to force himself to experience wherever he is like the locals, he intentionally shuts off Google maps and takes off on foot from his hotel for a walkabout.

“Along the way,” Long says, “I always discover little things I would never have found otherwise and, more importantly, I start to get a feel for the real city away from the tourist bubble.”

Items in a Dutch grocery store.

Items in a Dutch grocery store.

This leads to his second tip: shop a local grocery store. Besides being economical, Long believes you will learn more about the culture you’re trying to experience if you peruse one of its easiest-to-engage gateways, food.

“Food and travel go hand in hand,” Long wrote, “and it really is the best way to become a part of a new culture, rather than just a voyeur.” You’ll be able to purchase snacks and drinks cheaper at a grocery store than at your hotel, and you could even put together a light meal there to take al fresco.

Long also recommends talking to people. “Whether we vacation as a family or a couple, we all tend to stay fixated on our own packs,” Long said, “rarely engaging other travelers or locals. For me, travel is about personal enrichment and growth, and to do that I need to talk to people.”

If you don’t feel comfortable striking up a conversation, Long suggests joining a local walking tour. You’ll meet other travelers, and you’ll have access to someone with a breadth of knowledge who also likes to talk to people from other countries!

Becoming immersed in a different world is part of the appeal of traveling. What are your suggestions for making the most of your time away from home? How do you engage and embrace your destination? Leave us some ideas in the comments section below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Passport Expiring? Better Get it Renewed, Fast!

April 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Procrastinators, beware! The State Department wants you to check your passport expiration and submit it now to avoid the expected flood of renewals of the 10-year document. They’re anticipating a surge in demand because 2006 was the first year the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect, requiring Americans flying to and from Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean to produce a passport for re-entry into the country.

A biometric US passport

A biometric US passport

There has also been an increase in renewal activity due to the implementation of the Real ID Act, which creates a more stringent set of standards for travelers using driver’s licenses and other identity cards to board a plane.

To clarify, the Department of Homeland Security has set a January 22, 2018 deadline for states to comply with the changes instituted by the Real ID Act. A passport will serve as a viable alternative to either forms of identification for those traveling after the deadline from non-compliant states.

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Myths about the State Department Travel Warnings

April 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent worldwide travel alert issued by the State Department has recently expired, but that doesn’t mean you should stop paying attention to these as you prepare to travel. On the other hand, you need to read the alert carefully before you decide to cancel a trip that you have planned for months.

Folding MapUSA Today recently discussed five different myths about travel warnings from the U.S. State Department, and we picked a few we thought were worth pointing out.

Myth #1: “Travel warnings and alerts are the same thing.” They’re not. Travel warnings are just that, a warning. The State Department declares some countries and places that US citizens ought to think twice about traveling to because of the chronic state of affairs there, like Iraq or Afghanistan. Travel alerts are time specific and are generally issued when there are events happening in a specific country that US travelers should be advised of when planning their travel.
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