I’m excited to share some of my favorite practical travel tips. Since traveling can eat through your piggy bank (unless, of course, you credit card hack 😉 ), I strive to be a financially savvy traveler so that I can spend less and travel more! Although some of these tips extend beyond the scope of traveling, I’ve found that they’ve been particularly helpful during my travels. Without further ado, read on for some useful tips.
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1. Open a Charles Schwab checking account.
The best feature that Schwab offers, as it relates to traveling, is unlimited ATM fee reimbursement. Think about all the times you scrambled for extra cash and needed to trek to find your bank or had to pull out more money than you wanted to make it worth the fee. Don’t you ever worry about that no mo’ – Schwab is here.
I love their service, the easy online account management system, and a no hassle model. It was one of my better moves switching from Wells Fargo over a year ago. I even opened up an investment account with them because they’re one of the cheapest brokerages in terms of management fees.
2. Get Global Entry / TSA PreCheck.
In addition to allowing you to look like a badass marching in a separate queue past your fellow travelers, it substantially speeds up the security process.
TSA PreCheck for domestic saved my life countless of times. 30 minutes until take-off and you JUST got to the airport? All good, you will breeze through security in five minutes (sometimes depending on what airport and time of day) and can still speed walk instead of run. 😉
Especially coming back from an international trip, the last thing I want to do is stand in a long line to get onto U.S. soil. Global Entry provides a super quick check by scanning your passport, and you can maneuver through a shorter customs route.
I’d personally recommend signing up for Global Entry, which is $100 for a five-year membership and includes PreCheck (PreCheck, itself, is already $85). One thing you need to do is book an interview appointment, where they ask you a few basic questions, before you get approved. The process takes like 10 minutes. Worth it.
Credit cards (all with annual fees) that offer reimbursement of the $100 Global Entry fee:
3. Sign-up for a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
Credit card with no foreign transaction fees coupled with your Schwab checking account? You’re a financially golden traveler. Highly recommend doing this because it will be the biggest convenience to you. Put everything on your card where ever credit cards are allowed since you’ll also earn reward points on your spend!
Credit card recommendations with no foreign transaction fees:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred (annual fee)
- Citi ThankYou Premier (annual fee)
- Capital One Venture One Rewards (no annual fee)
4. Have constant data coverage for your phone (mostly applies to international travels).
I once was that stubborn and cheap traveler who jumped onto wifi networks where ever it was offered, whether it was to pass time or out of necessity. I quickly realized what a pain it was to be internet-less and had to search for wifi, especially in desperate times.
I’m honestly saying it is worth it for the times when you need Google Maps assistance, want to call an Uber, or need to contact someone.
This past year, I switched to T-Mobile, which offers unlimited texting and 2G data coverage internationally. Albeit at a slower speed, it’s still useful to have data available. T-Mobile has improved its data network overall, and I definitely enjoy the T-Mobile Tuesday perks as well as the free Netflix membership that come with being a customer!
Besides T-Mobile, I know other networks offer international data packages. Depending on how “connected” of a person you are, you should sign-up for whatever suits your mobile mood. 🙂 $20-$40 is totally worth it to have the connection when you need it instead of taking detours to find the nearest wifi hotspot.
If you’re visiting a country for a short time, there are also options to rent a hotspot at a local electronics/telecommunications shop or to buy a prepaid SIM card with data. These typically cost about $5-$10 a day.
5. Gather and organize your important documents and trip information in one place.
This sounds like a no brainer, but sometimes, we need this reminder!
Download all your mobile boarding passes onto your phone the day before, so you don’t have to fish for it while in line.
I have a handy dandy passport holder where I store my loose papers, random tickets, boarding passes, and my Priority Pass card. Highly recommend getting a compact one.
You can take pictures of your ID and passport too in the off chance that you lose one or the other, so you can at least have access to the information.
6. Bonus Tip: Get a credit card with lounge access.
Obviously, credit cards play a large part in my travel hacking agenda since they have so much to offer.
A good number of credit cards that charge an annual fee include the Priority Pass lounge access as a perk. It gets you into a network of Priority Pass lounges in a ton of airports. Amex Platinum also offers access to its awesome Centurion Lounge in addition to Priority Pass.
I wouldn’t get a credit card just for its lounge access, so here are the cards that include lounge access on top of other benefits that make it worth it:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve (unlimited free guests)
- Citi Prestige (two free guests)
- American Express Platinum (Personal (two free guests) and Business ($27 per guest) cards)
Lounge access is a big plus. I never thought I would enjoy it so much, but once you have access to a nice waiting room, comfy chairs, snacks, drinks (regular & alcoholic), and good wifi, you will never want to sit at the boring and crowded waiting area again! When you have hours to pass during a layover, go ahead and hit up a lounge to stay comfy.
Note that lounge access is subject to capacity controls, but it’s rare that you will be turned away.
Another plus is that it actually makes you arrive to the airport early. No stress before a flight is underrated.
There you have it – some of my top traveling tips! Hope you found it useful. If anyone has other practical travel tips to share, I would love to know!