Girl texting on cell phone

Practical Trip Planning (Part 4): Pre-Trip Travel Tips

You’ve decided where to go, formed your itinerary and booked your accommodations. Now the trip you have been looking forward to is rapidly approaching. You know you have to pack, find someone to feed the cat and tell everyone goodbye but there are a few more things that should be done before you take off.

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The following are a few miscellaneous pre-trip tips to help everything run smoothly, save you money and share your adventure with everyone back home.

Girl Texting on Cell Phone

#1: Turn Off the Cell Phone

Until my last trip I never knew this was possible but I am very happy to have made the call to end my calls. If you’re like me, you own a cell phone and are paying well over $50US a month for it regardless of its use. While you’re overseas there is no real need for the device. International roaming charges are ridiculous and a watch works much more conveniently as an alarm clock. So, why pay the monthly charge?

If you’re going to be away for more than two weeks consider calling your cell phone company and asking them to suspend your plan. The company will generally ask which day you want this to happen and at what time. From that point forward, until you make another call with your phone, your plan will be suspended and no charges will be made to your account.

If you’re under contract with the provider the contract will be extended for the duration of suspension but honestly, what’s another month with the company you already have? You’re probably going to stay with them anyways, right? When you get back, just make a phone call and voila … you’re back to paying horrendous prices to be able to skip calls from people you don’t want to talk to while walking the dog. Some company policies may vary but it’s worth a shot to at least inquire before you leave.

#2: Call Your Bank and Credit Card Companies (… Before You Turn Off the Cell Phone)

Banks and credit card companies generally promise to reimburse you for fraudulent charges made to your accounts. So, when they start to notice very odd charges from odd places they tend to try to contact you and or just go ahead and stop all use of the account. This protects you from having to pay for the thief’s purchases and the bank from having to pay you back.

Now if you’re overseas with your cell phone turned off (see #1) they are not going to be able to get a hold of you and are likely to just put a hold or “freeze” on your card. This leaves you in a pretty horrible position if the only access to money you have is with that ATM card or Visa.

Letting your bank know you will be traveling overseas before you go can save you from the above headaches. Usually they will just ask which dates you will be traveling and note this on your account; this makes what would otherwise look like a thief just ran off to Paris with your credit card expected. Of course if you’re in Paris and a thief runs off with your credit card, call the bank immediately. (The truth is though that when you get home and read your statement for the time you were in Paris, you are probably going to think you were robbed anyways.)

While you’re at it, ask your bank how to contact them while overseas. Most banks will have a number to call from international locations that will accept collect calls. When your wallet’s gone and you need to report your card stolen quickly this will come in very handy.

#3: Print Your Confirmations

Remember those e-mail confirmations you received when you booked your hotel? Well, if you show up to a hotel that “has no record” of your arrival, you can be sure they won’t remember them. Do yourself a favor and print all those confirmations out before you head off. Fold ’em up and tuck them into your bag. Having them on hand to prove your reservation will make things easier in case the need arises.

Often these types of confirmation e-mails include contact numbers for the ho(s)tel as well as directions on how to find the place. The numbers will come in handy if you decide to stray from your itinerary and need to cancel a reservation and the directions will save a lot of time and headache when you arrive in a new city.

If the print-outs don’t include this info, be sure to write it on there; maybe even draw yourself a little map on how to get there. Alternatively, if you’re bringing along a guidebook mark the location on the maps you will use while traveling (including the phone numbers). Since you’ll have the book with you most of the time you will be able to locate your ho(s)tel again after wandering the city all day and tossing back a little too much wine at dinner.

Two cameras closeup
© jurvetson

#4: Set Up a Video-share Account

While Grandma still enjoys the occasional trip update via postcard this method of keeping your family in the loop has seen its day. More and more websites are popping up that allow users to post video content for others to see. YouTube for example allows you to create your own profile that relatives, friends or anyone interested can check to see what the budding filmmaker in you has posted.

Besides this juggernaut of internet video however is a collection of other video based websites that are designed with sharing travel videos in mind. A great rundown of the most popular such as was published recently by Budget Travel.

Before you head out of town consider setting up a profile on one of these sites to share the videos you make along the way. The whole process is painless and can be as extravagant or minimalistic as you want. One great benefit to having done this is the ability to download those memory card filling videos to a safe place while on the road allowing more space for pictures of tourists who walk in front of your shot. Then of course there is the bonus of saving money on phone calls home to update family and friends on what you’ve been up to not to mention a great little record of your trip to look back on.

  1. Great tips! Funny thing. I warned my bank that I was leaving the country, and they started freezing my account before I even left. I’m doing pre-trip shopping and had to call my bank twice to ensure them that I was not making fraudulent transactions. Talk about too-much security.

  2. All good tips! Definitely make sure you know your cell phone rates abroad. I remember using my web/text message features from my US phone in Italy….and being surprised how cheap texts were, but web access was ridiculous. If you’re going to be in a place for a long time, consider investing in a local phone SIM card. If you’ve got an unlocked phone, you can pop it in and be able to make and receive local calls. In Italy you’ll be able to receive calls for free and use it with one of those prepaid calling cards to call home without incurring additional charges.

  3. Thanks for all the nice comments! Kelly, I’ve talked to the people at AT&T and they told me that even if your phone is locked they can unlock it for around 20 bucks…with your suggestion of getting a local prepaid sim card one can save tons of money if they have to use their phone.

  4. With a little work you can find a way to unlock almost any phone yourself…I’ve purchased a “kit” off of ebay before with software and a cable that allowed me to unlock a phone. There’s also some great online retailers of unlocked phones, such as My World Phone. You’ll pay more for your phone, but if you travel frequently it’s worth it and it can work both at home and abroad. Unless you’re on a provider that doesn’t use SIM cards, like Verizon.

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