To celebrate the arrival of summer we're sharing our key travel advice to keep both you and your wallet safe:
You are not invincible. Approach travel with extreme caution. Even reluctant-to-leave travelers, once launched, develop super-women complexes. Not to get all metaphysical, but something about suspending who they are in normal time and space seems to translate into sublimely stupid decision making. Whether it's buying Louboutins because you're in Paris, jewelry you'd never buy at home, looking the wrong way when crossing the street in London, or obliviously wandering into bad neighborhoods, a gal needs to keep her wits about her.
Just because you're on vacation, most people living and working where you're visiting are not on vacation. They're leading their normal lives. One great reason to travel is to learn that the world over, people are people. They may wear different clothes, eat different food, speak different languages, and look different from you, but they run the gamut from good to bad, kind to mean, honest to thieving.
- Traveler beware: you are a target. The out-of-state license plate parked in Austin, the fanny pack, the look of dumbstruck awe on your face at Notre Dame ... be smart. No wandering behind giant maps. No slack jaws. Put your bags in the trunk and assume the urban b*tch's "I live here" look.
- Get travel insurance. You'll find two varieties: the got-the-flu-can't-go-want-my-money-back variety; and the need-to-be-airlifted-off-Mount-McKinley-but-don't-want-to-end-up-either-dead-or-bankrupt variety. Check out www.squaremouth.com.
- Familiarize yourself with the State Department's Travel Advisories. To learn where there's a high terror threat, what inoculations you need, and where Dengue Fever and Ebola have been active, go to www.travel.state.gov/travel, www.who.int/en, and wwwn.cdc.gov/travel.
- Call your cell phone provider and set up a plan that makes sense for the region you'll be traveling in. DO NOT use your phone, email, or text if you haven't done this. Your phone charges will be greater than the cost of your trip!
- Inform your credit card company where you're going. Otherwise, SOBs that they are, they'll end up cutting you off. Beyond a nominal amount, they're responsible for all charges and don't like to see big bucks banged up in an odd of pattern use in Morocco. You could end up seriously challenged when you attempt to charge purchases, and that won't be fun.
- Make copies of all your documents. Leave one set at home with a reachable, responsible adult. Keep copies of documents with you in a separate place from your wallet.
- Travel lean. Take one credit card and ATM (as a means to get cash and as a back-up credit card), your driver's license, insurance card, and passport. Remove everything else from your wallet.
- Keep a reasonable sum of local cash money stuffed into the front pocket of your jeans at all times.
In the event of disaster and you lose everything, have no funds, no means of getting to funds, and can't find the American Embassy because you don't speak the language and are too disheveled to use your feminine charm to garner help from a gallant stranger (which you should never do anyway), here's your plan: find the biggest and most expensive hotel in the center of the town or area you are staying. Even though you're not a guest, chances are the manager will get in touch with the embassy and even help you contact your credit card company.
Adapted from the travel section of our book B*tches on a Budget.
Bitches on a Budget is an NAL/Penguin release.