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Everyone looks forward to a little time away from work. Sometimes when work sends you to a meeting or conference, it can be fun to expand it out a bit and do a little exploring. If you travel for vacation, this is especially exciting because you set the agenda But whether you travel for business or pleasure, there are also a lot of things that could go wrong. The good news is that most of those risks could be mitigated. All you need is a good international travel checklist to help you plan ahead so that your life and your wealth don’t get put into jeopardy. Below are a few tips that I like to use whenever I travel anywhere.
Your International Travel Checklist:
Screen for warnings.
Before you travel anywhere, especially internationally, make sure you first check the International Travel Information website sponsored by the government. While you are there you can select which country you’re going to and then filter to see what specific alerts are warning are out there. I consider this to be the most important thing you can do because it benefits your safety rather than simply saving money.
Think about the chain of events leading from the moment you start your vacation from the moment you end it and plan it out. For example:
- Did you book a reputable taxi service to drive you between the airport and the hotel?
- Do you need to rent a car? Don’t always assume the airport will have one ready to go. I made this mistake once on a business trip to England. I should have used Leasing4Business ahead of time to make sure one would be available and ready for me to get.
- How about parking at the airport? Is there a lot nearby that is perhaps half the cost?
- How reputable is your hotel or resort? Is it in a good location?
- Once you’re at the hotel, do they have places to eat or do you need to research nearby restaurants?
Things to do.
Along the lines of “plan ahead”, a lot of tropical vacations love to rope you into big “excursions” that sound like a ton of fun but can cost an arm and a leg. What I’ve learned to do is call the hotel ahead of time and ask for the website to the onsite excursion service. That way I can research the activities ahead of time on Trip Adviser and see which ones were fun and which ones were just so-so. This can also help keep you out of danger from using a non-reputable excursion service.
Know the currency exchange.
If you’re traveling somewhere that uses a different kind of money, then it will be crucial on your international travel checklist to know the rates and not get ripped off. A lot of times it’s been my experience that the local, smaller shops post prices in both domestic and foreign currency. However a quick conversion on your calculator will show that they do not always equal each other. The same is true of the hotels and airports. Because most people go straight from their airport to the hotel and are afraid to leave to go anywhere else (and for good reasons), the hotel can charge a hefty premium for currency conversion. Your best bet is to shop around ahead of your travels and find a bank near you that can give you the best rate without too high of fees.
Will my credit card work?
A lot can go wrong with your credit card when you travel. First of all: You should call them and let them know that you are traveling. If a swipe pops up in Mexico but you live in Michigan, the credit card company is going to red-flag that as identify theft and freeze your account. You could bypass all this by simply telling them of your plans ahead of time. Secondly: It would be very unfortunate to get all the way over to your destination only to find out they do not accept American Express, debit cards, or whatever you use to make most of your payments. On top of that some credit cards like to charge hefty fees for transactions conducted in other currency or internationally. While letting them know of your plans, be sure to ask what these fees are.
Take care of business back home.
Make sure you tell someone you trust that you will be leaving town for a while, and ask them to please watch your house. If you really know them, it may even be beneficial to give them a key so that they can come inside and make sure your sump pump hasn’t stopped running or a leak hasn’t sprung. While my parents were on vacation, their refrigerator stopped working and it caused four-figures of water damage to their kitchen area. You never really know when danger is going to strike, so having someone make a helpful watch will be a nice insurance policy.
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