General Travel Advice
Planning a Trip Overseas? Use This Pre-Departure Checklist
If you are traveling abroad for the first time or you are a traveling sage, there are things to do and know before going outside of the USA. Before you leave, read this overseas pre-departure checklist to help understand my tricks and tips. Learn how traveling abroad is different than traveling in the USA. By being prepared, you I feel you will improve your safety, make traveling more comfortable and avoid expensive additional fees. Undoubtedly, Travel Planning fees can add up and could leave a sour taste towards future travel abroad. Proper planning makes a better trip!
Planning for Overseas Travel
Before Leaving Home – Travel Planning
It is essential to be informed and prepared for overseas travel before you leave home. These tips are ideal for the solo woman traveler and their friends. As an American citizen, you will need to check if you need a Visa and if there are any travel restrictions at Step that may affect your planned overseas travel. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor about the shots and medicine you need for the trip. Watch the exchange rate online and jump on the rates when they are low. Exchange rates tend to be the worst during the summer season. Anything below 1.2 Euros is typically a deal these days and rates tend to drop around January.
Overseas Pre-Departure Checklist – Step by Step List
Never post your passport and boarding pass on social media because vandalism of your home may happen. Additionally, your identity may impersonate and even worse. Humbleness is the way to go, and there are other things to post besides where you are going and when you will be gone. If you want to secure your home, buy a Ring.com doorbell security system, hardwire it to your electrical system and add it to your Wifi. You will see everyone who rings your door over your cell phone. Better yet, one of Rings partners can monitor your home and call the authorities if trouble happens. You will have peace of mind, and your home will be secure.
The Money Part of the Overseas Pre-Departure Checklist
ATM Usage Overseas
- Money is different in Europe, and especially Italy. Primarily it’s a cash culture. Americans hardly ever carry cash. Bills higher than a $20 are suspect and require change which the shops don’t always have. They will count out small coins just to prove that they don’t have change.
- ATMs mostly dispense large denominations. Learn to cherish 5’s, 10’s, and 20’s and try to purge your $50’s, unless you are in Vietnam where you get a premium exchange rate for them.
- These days, all you will need is an ATM and debit card with an electronic chip. Make sure you are not wasting any of that hard-earned cash on transaction fees and international charges, so check with your bank for which ATM’s to use while traveling.
- If you are a Bank of America (BOA) user, use the BOA’s affiliate banks. Customers can take money out for free – no service or ATM charge. BOA’s member banks if you use a BOA is the same as being at home. Be careful only to use approved ATMs.
- If you use, Chase banking use Chase affiliates when traveling abroad.
- Charges on foreign ATMs can range from $5 -10 dollars, depending on the banks involved and that can add up after an extended overseas.
- Some banks have packages available for foreign travel, which include a certain number of international withdrawals, but you’re likely to exceed them.
- Do your homework. If you plan to use your ATM exclusively and are planning on doing a lot of traveling, make sure you do your research the fees and associated costs.
- Always have at least one credit card on hand, as part of your Overseas Pre-Departure Checklist. I recommend reading the terms of the card. Be a wise credit card consumer. I always use American Express and only stay in places that take Amex. I find hotels that accept American Express are higher quality establishments, and if there is a dispute, I like the way American Express advocates for the customer.
- Credit cards in Europe can be a bit expensive. Check with your bank, but international charges can range from around 3%-6% per purchase.
- Unfortunately, American Express isn’t valued by shopkeepers in a lot of places in Europe and Asia.
Cost of Using Credit Cards and Charging
- If you bring a credit card, keep in mind that VISA is your safest bet as far as acceptance. There are also some great credit cards available now that have NO international fees. Be aware that they can have a much higher APR and a substantial annual fee.
- Consider Chase Sapphire card, just to name one for low fees and APR. Plus you can use the points you gain to help get your parents a flight out to visit you or a ticket to another dream destination. Just remember to pay your bill!
- American Express offers points for travel too – consider using a Delta American Express card if you like Delta Airlines.
- There is no guarantee a restaurant or store takes credit cards. Therefore, always think cash and plan when going out to dinner.
Typical Issues while Traveling Overseas
- The maximum ATM withdrawal amount is something to be considered. Typically, a bank only allows a 250 Euro a day to withdraw. Usually, they will put a one or two week limit on withdrawals for your safety. Just plan think about what you are buying and make sure you have funds/ cash or credit card.
- When using international ATMs, only use those associated with banks and not those connected to stores or freestanding units.
ATM CARD Fraud
- ATM card fraud happens and is a total pain to deal with when traveling; keep an eye on your bank statements.
- To avoid any possible issue with your debit card be sure you call your bank and let them know you will be traveling!
- Give your bank and credit card companies your exact travel dates and the countries. Some countries are such high-risk countries like Israel; banks won’t authorize ATM or Credit use of the card in some countries. Check with the credit card company, and bank for you leave home for more details on your specific cards.
- Plan to decrease the chance of hacks while traveling. Sometimes banks may freeze your account which happened to me at the Prada discount outlet in Italy. It’s easily fixed with a phone call (the store may make the call for you), but can still result in up to 24 hours without access to your account.
If you want to get your hair done you ought to go to the ATM first – most hair salons, unless in a major hotel, only take cash. So stop at the ATM first before you begin to experience local businesses and services.
Overseas Pre-Departure Checklist
Packing list – Do’s
- Packing Ask these questions and pack accordingly
- Did you check the weather?
- Do you know how much your luggage weighs and how much you will carry your bags?
- Are you going for Fall, Spring, or Summer?
- Do you tend to change clothes once a day or once a week?
- Are you planning any special trips, events or special occasions?
- Are you going to tropical or subarctic locations? Packing should be based on place and time of the year that you are traveling. See my packing list suggestions on this site.
Packing list- Don’t bring
- Take No clothes that require dry cleaning. In general, dry cleaning and laundry services are far from perfect. For example, laundry services washing machines can be hard on clothes, so consider washing your clothes in the bathtub or sink by hand. If you need to send things out, you do so at your risk. Leave the high-maintenance shirt or dress at home. When in doubt, keep it simple.
- Hoodies, sweatpants or sports team clothing is not wise to wear outside of the USA. These quickly identify you as an American, and you don’t want to do that. Italians for example and most Europeans have very high standards of appearance and “sloppy” is not cool. One pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt for the colder months, in your hotel room, is ok, but that’s it. Going out, even just to get a coffee, means getting dressed and making an effort. It’s not a requirement, but people will stare. You will bring unwanted attention to yourself.
- Uncomfortable shoes. Get great walking shoes; I recommend The Walking Store. Buy a pair of Italian leather shoes if you know what fits your foot. Go to Nordstrom or the Walking Store and buy your favorite pair of flats. You may find some cute, souvenir worthy shoes built for walking streets but shoes can hurt. Just know buying shoes on vacation may mean you are lugging around one more thing. Bu shoes at home, try them at home and only bring what works for your feet.
- Purses without zippers. If you have a bag without a zipper, you are ten times more likely to be targeted by pickpockets. Leave the open tote at home and bring the safe zippered suitcase instead.
- Appliances. Buy appliances like hair dryers, flattening/ straightening irons, women’s shavers, and other pluggable bathroom products that work in the EU – Leave your American appliances at home unless they are universal or accept EU current and voltage.
- Cell phone cameras are great because they are portable and take high-quality pictures.
- I bring a point and shoot camera a Canon typically and my Nikon D300 because of its indestructible with my 18:200 lens.
- Bring your unlocked smartphone from the states.
- Local sim cards work in unlocked phones. Some Blue cellphones and Microsoft Lumia phones have room for two sim cards one for the US card and one for local sim cards and calls.
- Unless your phone is “unlocked” by the carrier meaning the cell phone can use the sim card from any other airline, you will not be able to use this the phone as a local cell phone.
- Be careful with JailBroken phones. The JailBroken cell phones may not function in Europe as promised by foreign carriers.
All Carries are Not Equal
- An American phone with an accompanying plan will receive and make calls at an exorbitant rate. Is your Cell Phone CDMA or GMS? It makes a difference, so ask your carrier if the phone will work where you are traveling.
- Even if you don’t answer a call or merely receive texts, charges may accrue. This is very, very costly unless you have an international plan.
- Without an international plan from the US, cell phone carrier is sure to go to your settings and turn of the calling features and put your phone in airplane mode. You can still use your phone when on a WiFi network.
Most people use their cell phones for photos. Don’t carry a big camera if you don’t have to – it makes you stand out in a crowd.
Overseas Pre-Departure Checklist
- Walk. Use your legs. Your legs are your friends! You will be amazed by how much you can walk. Later that night, when you’re eating mountains of high-calorie cheese and great food, you’ll be happy you walked upwards to eleven miles a day. You deserve to indulge in an extra dessert!
- Local Transport. Taxis, buses, bikes, and taxis are standard across Europe. They’re not super cheap, but they are reliable.
- Private Transportation – Consider a private car especially if you have physical needs
- If you’re in a hotel, have the hotel call a taxi for you. If you have a cell phone, program one or two taxi phone numbers, so you have a way to call a cab when you need one.
- If you forget to add a cab number to your contacts, just ask anyone local, and you will find people are amiable and should know at least one taxi number to call. Make sure you know the address where you are. Some taxis will allow you to reserve for a very early pickup and others won’t. If you do pre-order, there may be an extra charge.
Overseas Pre-Departure Checklist
- Eat local and where ever there is a crowd. Use the web, search for the latest ‘foodie’ sites and follow the recommendations.
- You won’t always be able to buy local food with a credit card at a grocery store, street vendor or small café so still make sure you have cash.
Overseas Pre-Departure Checklist
Where to Stay – Hotels, Airbnb, and More
- Use Booking.com or another site like Trivago.com but always pre-book at least a few nights. Your loyalty plans can also help with hotel stays and can save money, so do use whichever you prefer. Probably it’s unlike to be able to use both but ask, why not ask it can’t hurt.
- If staying for a while, negotiate directly with the hotel and pay directly to them without the use of a travel site. The hotel earns a fair profit from your stay, and you get the best deal. If they have loyalty points, take advantage of it. Negotiate the best rate, this way, and the hotel knows you are serious, and if you are coming and going, you will have a place to call home and a place to store your things. Even better will find them there when you return.
- If you plan on staying for more extended periods of time, I feel AirBnB or an apartment are a good value.
Overseas Pre-Departure Checklist
Now that you have read the Overseas Pre-departure Checklist you are prepared for a safe, fun, well-planned trip. You are ready to build the relationships and memories of a lifetime when you are relaxed and present – you are prepared for your next adventure, keep on traveling. Let your journey begin.
Want some more information – check these articles out to add to your Overseas Pre-Departure Checklist.
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