As we speak, I am on a plane heading back from London after spending an amazing week with my best friend from college. It was the trip of a lifetime, but in order to make it happen, it took a lot of planning. Traveling abroad is complicated: from simply nailing down your itinerary to figuring out the monetary conversion rate, it’s a loftier trip than just tossing some towels and bathing suits in the back of your car and heading down to the shore for an impromptu weekend.
In my international travel prep, I made three calls that, in hindsight, proved to be a big deal. So, I wanted to share them with you!
1. Call Your Wireless Carrier
Your U.S.-based wireless service won’t work overseas unless you make this call first. If you have a smart phone, you’ll need to call your provider in advance to let them know. My provider gave me a set of instructions to complete before traveling abroad in order for my phone to work. If you have a regular cell phone, it won’t work at all – your wireless carrier may give you the option of “renting” an international-ready phone for your trip for a rather nominal fee (in my carrier’s case, it was just shipping and handling for the temporary phone).
But if you have a smart phone, listen up: watch your data usage. I was in the Verizon store a few weeks ago with a frantic mother who couldn’t understand how her son had racked up thousands of dollars in data charges during a 10-day trip to Spain for spring break. Most carriers will let you buy a set amount of data to use overseas at a flat rate; if you skip on that plan, though, you’ll pay a premium for each megabyte!
2. Call Your Credit Card Companies
Nobody uses traveler’s cheques anymore, which is why contacting your credit card companies before traveling overseas is critical. First, you’ll want to ask them about their international transaction fees. For example, Discover doesn’t charge any transaction fees, although they aren’t as widely used by European merchants as American ones. Visa charges a 3% transaction fee, meaning if you spend $50 on dinner, you’ll end up with a charge for $51.50 on your next credit card statement.
Another thing you’ll want to ask your credit card company is if they have any international partners or work with any international banks to give you access to their ATMs without monstrous fees. Also, get the companies’ international customer service numbers just in case you run into trouble overseas and need to contact someone right away.
But the biggest reason you want to make this call in advance of your international travel? Fraud protection. Depending on your credit card company, they might automatically shut off your card if they start to notice that your card is being used far from home. Giving the issuing company a head’s up can prevent an interruption to your service.
3. Call Your Health Insurance Provider
I’ll admit I didn’t think about making this call until the last minute, and although I ended up not needing medical services abroad, I’m so glad I made the call just in case. As with your credit card company, letting your health insurance provider know you’re traveling overseas before you go can make it smoother for you to access the care you need in the event of an emergency. In my provider’s case, there wasn’t really any pertinent information they were able to give me, but I was told that my prior notification of international travel would streamline any medical issues I encountered on my trip from my insurance provider’s end.
Would you add anything to my “in advance” list? If so, please share!