Kris and I will make our first trip overseas later this year; her parents are taking us to England and Ireland. We’re excited, but also a little apprehensive. For one thing, the exchange rate isn’t exactly in our favor right now. And how much do we pay our housesitter? Will we be able to prepay all of our bills?

Yesterday I was browsing Ask the Advisor and discovered a list of 27 personal finance tips for traveling overseas.

[People] who travel abroad are caught in situations that can cost them financially. For instance, many overseas travelers do not know to contact their credit card companies or banks about travel plans, nor do they comprehend currency issues that exist at their destinations. Always check the currency exchange rates for your destination country before you travel.

Financial problems are exacerbated if you don’t speak the country’s language and if you don’t understand how to access or use its currency. Most of the following tips will help you to avoid or at least mitigate these issues before you ever leave home, but others will help you maneuver through your trip with ease once you arrive at your destination.

The list is divided into three broad categories, and includes suggestions such as:

  • 1. Make two photocopies of any important papers.
  • 2. Travel light (clothing-wise) and forget the bling.
  • 8. Get phone numbers. You may not realize that 800 numbers work only in the U.S. and Canada. Before you leave, call your bank and credit card companies to get local (non-800) numbers so that you can call them in an emergency.
  • 20. Consider a money belt.
  • 25. Use cash whenever possible. You’d be hard pressed to find a merchant anywhere (even in the U.S.) who would prefer a credit card over cash. Merchants pay fees to use credit cards, whereas cash-in-hand is fee-free for that merchant. Therefore, you might discover that many overseas merchants won’t accept credit cards. Additionally, you can often find your best bargains at street markets or with merchants who are willing to haggle. You can’t haggle with a credit card, so don’t even try.

I’ve bookmarked this page for reference as we prepare for our trip.

We’ve been watching Rick Steves videos in preparation for the trip. One of his tips is to do currency exchange through ATMs. According to his web site:

Throughout Europe, cash machines (ATMs) are the standard way for travelers to get local currency. European ATMs work like your hometown machine and always have English-language instructions. Using your debit card with an ATM takes dollars directly from your bank account at home and gives you that country’s cash. You’ll pay fees, but you’ll still get a better rate than you would for exchanging traveler’s checks. Ideally, use your debit card to take money out of ATMs. You can use a credit card, but you’ll pay more. Before you go, confirm with your bank that your card will work in Europe and alert them that you’ll be making withdrawals while traveling — otherwise, the bank might freeze your card if it detects unusual spending patterns.

I never knew that planning for vacation would require so much financial preparation!

[Ask the Advisor: 27 personal finance tips for traveling overseas]

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