Save Money on Overseas Trips By Being Prepared
Order your passport in advance
When heading outside of the United States the first thing you’ll need is a passport. In most cases this will cost you about $110. However, if you procrastinate and wait until the last minute, you could spend significantly more in order to get your documents in time for your trip. According to the State Department the current rate for expedited service (via the mail or in person) is an extra $60. On top of that they recommend paying for overnight shipping, which is another $20.66.
Even if you’re passport is good for another few months you may want to double check the policies of the country you’ll be visiting. Some may require U.S. passport holders to have at least three months of validity left on their passport in order to enter — some even more. Don’t end up overspending for a renewal or, worse yet, getting denied entry into the country because you didn’t do your homework.
Cash or credit?
There are many variables that will dictate whether you’re better off purchasing foreign currency before your trip, waiting until you get there, or just using your card for everything. The first factor will be what country it is that you’ll be visiting and if credit cards are as ubiquitous in their society as they are here. This may not be the case in certain parts of the world. If you do need cash it’s often better to purchase some through your bank or at another local establishment rather than to try to exchange currency at the airport. That being said you may be able to just bring a small amount with you to get you started and then use ATMs in your destination country that typically offer more favorable exchange rates.
Assuming credit cards are accepted at most places in the area you’re headed to, then you’ll want to look into getting a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees. If that’s not an option for you then you should at least know the rules of your cards so that you can do your best to avoid fees. For example a debit card might charge a flat fee of $5 per withdrawal at a foreign ATM, while a credit card may tack on a 3% fee to everything you buy. Depending on what you plan on purchasing it may make more sense to simply make a large ATM withdrawal instead of paying individual transaction fees.
Look into cell phone roaming plans
Today many smartphones will work just fine overseas but they will cost you an arm and a leg if you’re not proactive. Additionally it’s not just phone calls that are expensive but SMS messages and cellular data can quickly add up as well. Some providers like T-Mobile offer customers free international roaming as a perk in their plan but be sure to read the terms and conditions to see if you qualify. Other services may allow you to add a one-time package that will include an allotment of international data, texts, and discounted voice minutes. Alternatively you may be able to purchase a prepaid SIM card once you’re at your destination but be advised that can be complicated and might not work with every phone.
No matter how many times you’ve traveled abroad there’s always more to see and new things to learn. That’s why it’s important to go beyond researching the sights you want to see and look into the logistics and details associated with visiting a particular country. By being informed and planning ahead you’ll not only be able to facilitate a smoother trip but also save some money in the process.