1 Hot Tips for Your Summer Travels | The Billfold

Hot Tips for Your Summer Travels

Summer trip season is upon us! Having visited all seven continents before college and then living abroad in Kyoto and Rome, I have built up an arsenal of travel tips, many of which involve money.

ATM fees are sneaky, they can slowly (or sometimes rather quickly) deplete your travel funds, so be mindful of ATM fees, both internationally (~$5) and domestically (~$2.50). These fees apply to ATMs outside your bank’s network. One way to skip ATM fees is to find out what your bank’s partner banks are, Global ATM Alliance for example. Sometimes, if you have a good relationship with your banker, you can ask them to waive these fees. This works especially well if the place you’re planning to visit has no ATMs or branches of your bank or their partners’.

Let your bank and credit card companies know you’ll be traveling. They’ll want to know where you’ll be and when you’ll be there. Having a note of this in your file stops them from thinking your card has been stolen and then freezing your accounts. It is a huge pain to try and gain access to your accounts again after this has already happened (and you’re most likely still away). A few moments on the phone before your trip can prevent a headache inducing mess later.

Traveling with friends is fun, the awkwardness of splitting shared bills is not. Shared Expenses Fund to the rescue! At the start of the trip, everyone puts the same amount into “The Fund.” Then as common expenses occur, such as taxi rides, those are paid out of The Fund. If it runs out, everyone pays the same amount in again, and repeat. If there is any money left over at the end of the trip, split it evenly.

Here are some tips which apply better to international travel. Tipping abroad always takes some getting used to, primarily because it isn’t as common as in the U.S. Mint.com has a great guide to international tipping expectations. Check out your credit card company’s policy on foreign transaction fees because, like ATM fees, they can add up quickly.

Also, many countries have cash focused transactions rather than credit so be prepared with cash. Of course, in order to get that cash, you’ll probably need to hit up an ATM every so often and it really helps to know what “ATM” is in the local language, in case you need to ask for directions to one (in Italy its a bancomat). Lastly, if you plan to be abroad for an extended period of time, suspending your phone service can save you quite a bit of money. When I studied in Rome for four months, I paid a small fee to suspend my plan. This allowed me to save money on something I wouldn’t be using, but retain my phone number. I had it set to reactivate at midnight the day I returned, so I was able to use it right after stepping off the plane.

These are a few of the ways I handle money when traveling, hopefully these tidbits can be helpful to you on your adventures.


Heather Yamada-Hosley shares her travel tips and adventures on her blog. Photo: Kate Ter Haar


25 Comments / Post A Comment

beet hummus (#946)

I’m going to Kyoto (and Tokyo) in September, please tell me all your favorite things!

Again, another plug for Schwab bank: as far as I can tell, they will reimburse any foreign ATM fees.

HeatherYH (#4,342)

@beet hummus Exciting!:D Sadly, I have never been to Tokyo (in the top five on my list though) but I lived in Kyoto for a month. Warning, it will be extremely humid! In Kyoto, you should check out the Golden Pavilion (there’s a silver one too) and go to an onsen (hot springs) if you can. The onsen does require you to be naked with others (of the same gender), so can be awkward for Westerners. Also, try the ramen places at the top of the Kyoto train station, yum!! Not sure how long you’ll be there, but a day trip to Hiroshima to see the peace park is somber yet leaves you with a feeling of respect that a place could survive such horrific damage. If you’ve got the time, I’d also suggest catching a baseball game. Similar enough to the U.S. version that you’d know what’s going on, but different enough to be quite entertaining and a little silly. Enjoy your trip!

hellonheels (#1,407)

I don’t know if this still applies, but the first time I went to Europe as an ATM-card holding adult, I was advised to ensure that my PIN was four digits, not six, as some foreign ATMs would not accept a six-digit PIN. Worth doing just in case?

HeatherYH (#4,342)

@hellonheels I haven’t had this issue as I use a four digit PIN anyways. I have never not been able to use an ATM in Europe and I’ve been to the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal.

hellonheels (#1,407)

@HeatherYH No, I haven’t either, but then I’ve never actually tried a six digit PIN in Europe. It’s something that’s pretty widely mentioned in older travel guidebooks, but this was back in like, 2008, so.

HeatherYH (#4,342)

@hellonheels Maybe it is less of an issue now that older terminals are being replaced. Some of it also depends on which bank you’re using.

Blondsak (#2,299)

Hot tip for east coast travels: WaWa gas stations have no-fee ATMs! And also the best sub sandwiches.

HeatherYH (#4,342)

@Blondsak Thanks for the tip! :)

snackcarts (#3,300)


probs (#296)

@Blondsak ditto for Sheetz! And both tend to have cheap gas (so they can lure you in for delicious subs or fries)

lizard (#2,615)

@Blondsak lol no one who frequents a wawa calls them a sub sandwich. thems hoagies round here!

gem (#4,341)

Not sure how it is in the States (Canadian here) but if you buy something from a large store using your debit card you can get cash out at the same time for no fee. I do this all the time as my bank is about 20kms away but my grocery store is just down the street. If I need cash, I tag on the extra amount to my payment and receive it from the cashier.

HeatherYH (#4,342)

@gem Yes, it works the same in the States! But with that, you have to buy something extra to get the cash back.

Dancercise (#94)

If you’re paying an extra $2.50 to get the cash, you might as well get a pack of gum out of the deal instead of just throwing random money at the bank!

HeatherYH (#4,342)

@Dancercise Very true! That’s what I used to do before I was able to get my ATM fees waived. :)

Dancercise (#94)

Oh my word, Shared Expenses Fund. That’s brilliant.

HeatherYH (#4,342)

@Dancercise Thank you! So many situations where it comes in handy!

RocketSurgeon (#747)

Slightly off topic, but related to foreign ATMs- beware skimmers.

The first ATM my husband and I used on a trip to South Africa several years ago had a skimmer installed in it. We asked the hotel concierge to book us a cab so we could go to a restaurant for dinner, and then asked about stopping at an ATM along the way. I’m pretty sure we the concierge and the cab driver set us up for a “hot” ATM, because the cab driver picked an ATM on the way to the destination, and followed my husband into the kiosk “to help” or something. There were a few dudes just hanging around on the street outside who followed them in as well. I was sitting in the cab nervously watching with a sick feeling that he was about to get mugged or worse. Thank goodness that didn’t happen. My husband didn’t even enter his full PIN and canceled the transaction because he rightly felt the situation was suspicious, but he had dipped the card already. They came back to the car, and we went on to our destination, only to find out that there was an ATM with a guard standing near it at the conference center where the restaurant was located. This is what made me think “set up” later after we realized what happened.

The thieves cleaned out our German bank account (~2,000 euros) between Christmas and New Years. The German banks were closed, so we didn’t get any alerts, and husband didn’t check the bank account balance since we were traveling (now we check regularly even if nothing suspicious has happened). Luckily, we were able to get it all back, but it was a lesson learned the hard way.

HeatherYH (#4,342)

@RocketSurgeon Yes, this is something to always be careful about! I’m careful of this even when I’m at home. The Real Hustle TV show (British version) has a really great episode on this kind of theft. They show how it happens and give great tips on what to look for to avoid getting scammed.

nocs (#3,734)

Re: traveling with friends

My friends and I go on 2-3 trips per year. Our system seems to work well, but it does require a few people to be pretty flush at the moment.

1) We send a few people out for groceries and booze for the whole group. One person puts it on her/his card.
2) The person who paid writes her/his name on the receipt, and drops it into a designated receipt box. (On our last trip, it was an empty six-pack box. Classy!) We are very strict about this – if it’s not in the box, you do not get reimbursed.
3) use that process for every group expense – groceries, booze, a new board game, gas for the boat, whatever.
4) at the end of the trip, add up all the expenses and note who spent how much.
5) Divide the total spent by the number of people on the trip.
6) When everyone has paid in, refund anyone who spent more than the average amount.

It sounds complicated now that I type all of that out, but it makes everyone immediately accountable, and we don’t have to worry about it until a 10-minute process at the end of the trip. It’s just, “Oh, I’ll pay for this haul,” and I know I’ll get paid back later. It works!

Lily Rowan (#70)

@nocs Yep, we do it for the house, too.

HeatherYH (#4,342)

@nocs Its great you have a solid system worked out! The one I mentioned seems a little easier for times you need to pay with cash (as happens a lot on trips outside the US/Canada). Of course, one person does need to be the carrier of The Fund in that case. It also helps when trying to keep track of spending while traveling, which I do because I’m a budget-er. :)

selenana (#673)

You’ve been to Antarctica?! Tell us about that!! I am guessing there are no ATMs.

HeatherYH (#4,342)

@selenana Ha ha, no there weren’t any ATMs when I went there. It has become a lot more popular as a destination since then, though! I flew to Tierra del Fuego off the coast of Argentina, then took a refurbished Russian fishing vessel (aka not a luxury cruise) to Antarctica. It was in the summer there so it was cold, but not you-need-a-facemask cold. We took these little boats in to the shore from the ship and saw a penguin colony (they smell terrible) with tiny, cute chicks! But there was also leopard seals, which were scary because they were so big. One kept circling under our small boat and we were worried it might jump up and push us over! We also saw one slap a penguin against the water to kill it. :( Also, there were tours of the Argentinian research base (complete with cemetery for those who worked there and wanted to be buried there)and a wooden hut left by Shackleton’s men (preserved by the cold). A very memorable and worthwhile experience! I’ll go back someday for sure.

selenana (#673)

@HeatherYH Sounds awesome! Thanks!

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