Here at Extra Pack of Peanuts, we know how exciting travel can be. It lets you break out of your comfort zone, see places and people you never imagined, and return home with an appreciation of the vastness of our planet.
Yet while traveling can be fun, it’s also important to leave home prepared. One of the key things to do before you leave for any trip (especially international travel) is to get travel insurance.
If you’ve never heard of travel insurance, don’t worry. Not too long ago, we hadn’t heard of it either. But now, we never leave home without it.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at what travel insurance is, why it’s so important, and our favorite companies for buying travel insurance. (more…)
Typically, we prefer travel that involves shorts, swimsuits, and flip-flops. But occasionally we’ll venture to colder climates, and when that happens, a down packable puffer jacket is a lifesaver.
Uniqlo is known for having good quality products at affordable prices and this jacket is no exception. It’s super warm, stylish, and packs up really well, making it an essential piece of travel gear for men and women!
Remember back in the day when you had to carry around a DSLR camera AND a tablet? #firstworldtravelproblems.
Now, all you need is Apple’s newest smartphone and you’ll be able to take amazing pictures and surf the internet on a screen you won’t need reading glasses for – all on something that fits in your pocket!
This was, hands down, one of the best gifts we received in the past few years – and something we now recommend as essential to any traveler!
Travelers use their smartphones for everything – taking pictures, GPS, finding the best places to eat, posting on social media – which leads to the dreaded “dead battery syndrome” halfway through the day.
Enter the Mophie charger, which can fully recharge a phone two times!
And you can choose when to charge the battery by switching it on and off, saving the battery boost for when you need it most…like when you’re trying to find your hotel at midnight!
We love reading physical books as much as the next person (and probably even more), but carrying around multiple books at a time isn’t feasible when you’re trying to travel light – and you’re trying to travel light, right?
So grab the absolute best e-reader on the market and have the entire world’s library at your fingertips.
Make sure to splurge for the Paperwhite version, as the built-in backlight will pay for itself many times over.
If you work on your laptop on the go, this is a must have. Creating an ergonomic setup for your laptop can stop that permanent hunch you’ve got going at the coffee shop!
At only 5.8 ounces and 1 inch thick, you’ll save your back and still have plenty room in your bag for other essentials, like that extra pair of underwear or the wine you want to bring home from Tuscany!
I’m a sucker for true travel books that are “stranger than fiction”, so I start A LOT of them. Unfortunately, I don’t finish 90% of them because they are too dry, too boring, or too poorly written.
Fortunately, The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber is the exact opposite – a “stranger than fiction” story that actually lives up the moniker.
If the story of a whiskey drinking, semi-pro hockey player turned robber baron who becomes a folk hero in crazy post Communist Hungary sounds interesting to you, I promise that this book will not disappoint!
For every trip I take, I pack 3 pairs of shoes. A “dressy enough” pair, a pair of sandals, and a pair of sneakers.
And in order to pack a pair of sneakers that don’t take up your entire bag, you need to pack a pair of barefoot ones.
While I’m not a huge runner, I have run (slowly) in these plenty of times.
But the main reason I love them so much is that they are flexible enough to wear for almost any outdoor activity, whether it be dry (hiking, walking around a city, etc.) or wet (swimming, rafting, kayaking or even just splashing around in the rain)!
After trying out numerous pairs of barefoot sneakers, the Vivobarefoot Ultras are my all time favorite and have been with me to over 30 countries!
I love traveling with a nice leather bag and in the past have used my Cuyana tote for every trip. Now that we have a baby, I knew I needed to find a cool travel/diaper bag.
This is technically a diaper bag, but it also makes the PERFECT travel bag because it has tons of pockets to organize all your items and even has a sleeve in the back for your laptop.
It ‘s also very comfortable to carry around since it is a backpack rather than a tote bag. I have used this bag (I have the gray version) every single day and on every trip over the last year and I love it!
I bought a gray wool hat exactly like this three years ago at Madewell and I’ve taken it on most trips ever since. This year I bought the same version in linen and I love it!
However, those hats are not in stock at the moment so I found some others that are similar, such as the one above, from Nordstrom. It is perfect for covering up a bad hair day, which can happen more than you like when traveling.
It looks great paired with some aviators and a cargo jacket.
If you’re traveling somewhere colder, I also love these options from Amazon – this really affordable hat with a removable pompom and this cashmere set, which includes a scarf and gloves if you are really looking to spoil the traveler in your life!
While I still love the Nike Internationalist and wear them frequently, two years ago I finally bought these Superga sneakers and I love them! I brought them on all of our trips the past few years and they look great with basically any outfit and are incredibly comfortable.
They come in both leather and canvas and have a variety of colors. I went with the classic white leather because they are durable and easy to clean, but I am already eying up the black pair!
Towing a little guy around the world for the last year has introduced to a whole new type of travel — and made us realize that the products below are worth their weight in gold when traveling with an infant.
This is, hands down, one of the most useful, most practical, and best products we’ve ever used. It’s a stroller that with the push of a button converts in to a car seat, as the legs tuck right up under the frame.
After lugging around both a car seat and a stroller while in Budapest and Mallorca (and feeling like a pack mule) we found the Doona, and it was an answer to our prayers.
We’ve used it on every single trip since and we could not recommend it enough to any parents traveling with an infant.
Anyone who listens to our podcast knows my obsession love for coffee. Wherever we travel, I always track down the best cafes in that area – to the point where even Trav will research as well, knowing it’s inevitable we’ll find our way there.
When I found out there was a coffee club that sends you customized coffee from around the world every month, I was beyond excited and immediately knew I would be giving this gift to every coffee loving traveler I know!
But because we’ve spent the last 10 years almost exclusively traveling together, we didn’t have much to say about one the most popular forms of traveling.
When Hilton approached us about doing a solo travel challenge – each one of us would travel alone to a US city we had never been to and experience it the way WE wanted – we jumped at the chance.
While I was going to a Cubs’ games, eating pan pizza, and staying at the newly opened LondonHouse in Chicago, Heather would be laying on the beach, indulging herself at the spa, and enjoying the Conrad Miami.
And we’d each learn a thing (or two…or three) about the solo travel experience.
What were some of the biggest advantages of traveling solo?
Trav:The first advantage is a pretty obvious one – you get to do whatever you want, whenever you want!
No asking someone else what they want to do, how they feel, or worrying about their opinions.
For someone who usually travels with at least one other person, this “selfish” mindset was pretty liberating – and fun.
There was also one major logistical advantage – getting in to restaurants and bars!
On my first night, I tried to get a reservation at one of Chicago’s most popular restaurants, Girl and the Goat.
They were already fully booked for the night, but told me I could try to walk in. When I arrived, I was told there was a 2 hour wait, but….
…since I was there as just a single person, they stuck me on the end of another table immediately.
I had already eaten a fantastic meal and paid by the time people who came before me were just sitting down.
Score one for solo travel!
Heather:Being able to do whatever you want without regard to anyone else! :)
What were some of the biggest disadvantages of solo travel?
Trav:The major disadvantage was not getting to share the experience with someone else.
Since we constantly travel together, I never gave it much thought that when we come home from a trip and reminisce, the other person shares those memories.
This time, after coming home, I was happy to hear about Heather’s great time in Miami, but I couldn’t “feel” her experience or picture it the same as if I had been there.
Sharing the travel highs, lows, and everything in between with someone else is something I take for granted, since it always happens, but is something I can appreciate much more now that I’ve had a solo travel experience.
Heather: After four days of being basically alone I was definitely ready to see my loved ones and not eat dinner alone.
But other than that, I would say there weren’t any disadvantages. Oh… except not having my personal photographer husband. I had to take more selfies! You can check out my attempts on Instagram.
What Are a few things you did that you wouldn’t have done if the other person was there?
It’s no secret that I absolutely love biking, especially around cities. While Heather will sometimes humor me and bike around a bit, she’d never make it her main means of transportation.
In Chicago, which I found to be one of the most bike friendly big cities in America, I took advantage of this and biked everywhere.
The first day, I used their bikeshare program, Divvy, to get around. But I wanted to be able to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted (back to that selfish attitude again!) and so for the last two days, I rented my own personal road bike.
40 miles later, I had gone up and down the lakefront a few times, visited almost every neighborhood north and west of the Loop, and had the time of my life!
Another thing I did was take a lot of public transportation.
Much like biking, my affinity for public transportation is unmatched by Heather.
And since LondonHouse was in a perfect spot, centrally located right in the Loop district and near every train line, when I wasn’t taking my bike, I was riding the “El”.
Biking and public transportation – Heather would have hated it, but I couldn’t have been happier!
Heather: When we stay at nice hotels, Trav NEVER wants to eat at their restaurants!
He is always in search of small local places, which is fun, but…
Even when the clouds rolled in I continued to lounge in my chair and enjoy the beautiful views.
What was the biggest surprise of solo travel?
Trav: How much I take having someone to talk to for granted.
Even though I found it really easy to talk to people as a solo traveler, there were plenty of moments where I was sitting alone – at a restaurant, brewery, on a boat tour, at the beach – and had no one to talk to.
Most of the time, it was enjoyable to have some time alone, but it was still a big surprise when I realized just how much time I usually spent talking with someone else.
Heather: I didn’t really miss Trav a lot.
Not to sound callous or insensitive, especially because I don’t think he missed me either – but we travel so frequently together that it was a nice chance to just have alone time.
Did you find people talked to you more or less as a solo traveler?
Trav: I definitely felt that more people talked to me as a solo traveler. Granted, I like to talk to people, so that does play a part in it.
However, most of the time it was the other person who started the conversation, usually by asking something like
“so, what are you doing in Chicago?”
As a solo traveler, you’re much more approachable, and I also think that generally people are interested in why someone is there alone since it’s less common than being with someone else or in a group.
One of the places I felt most at ease was at my hotel, LondonHouse.
I’ve never encountered a more genuinely friendly, nice, and kind staff.
From Corey the doorman remembering that I went to the Cubs game and asking me about it the next day to the awesome staff at LH on 22, their incredible rooftop bar, I felt totally at home during my three days there, which really helped, especially as a solo traveler.
What’s really great is that I felt the same friendliness from the staff at a totally different type of establishment, The Drake.
While the LH on 22 rooftop bar is the newest hot spot in Chicago, The Drake is a place to go to experience “real Chicago” and has one of the oldest bars in the city, Coq d’Or.
A cozy bar, stiff drinks, steak dinners, and live lounge singers and piano players – The Drake is definitely your grandfather’s Chicago!
Two totally different places with two totally different vibes – but the same friendly service, which had me feeling comfortable as a solo traveler.
Heather: I did not think this was the case. People didn’t really talk to me at all as a solo traveler.
The only place people were especially friendly to me was at my hotel. I also spent a lot of time there – eating or hanging out and all of the staff were attentive and even chatty, which was nice!
Was it more stressful to travel alone?
Trav: Aside from losing my wallet within half an hour of landing in Chicago (woohoo, another travel mishap story!), I found that after getting over the initial apprehension and awkward feeling of traveling solo, that it was actually less stressful.
Even though Heather is more than capable of taking care of herself – and in fact, probably more capable than I am (case in point, I lost my wallet immediately after landing) – I still find myself worrying about her when we travel together.
Also, when traveling with someone else, I generally ask a lot of questions and overthink scenarios.
Oddly enough, when it’s just me, I just do it – probably because there is no one to ask about it!
Heather: I didn’t think it was more stressful to travel alone.
However, It was a short trip and also a domestic flight so we didn’t have to deal with any situations that were difficult or stressful.
Did you feel uncomfortable going out by yourself?
Trav: At first, yeah, it felt a bit awkward, especially going to a sit down restaurant like Girl and the Goat.
Usually, that awkwardness dissipated pretty quickly after I started chatting someone up, especially if it was somewhere less formal like a brewery.
But it definitely was a new feeling, and one that took some getting used to.
Heather: It was the opposite for me.
I didn’t feel uncomfortable at first. But after the 3rd meal eating out alone, I felt conspicuous and also just a little lonely.
How did you feel about night life as a solo traveler?
Trav: There were a few times when I was out at night that I felt a bit awkward being alone, especially because every other person was with someone else.
It was still fun, especially doing activities like the Second City Comedy Club, but the “night life” component was certainly when I felt the most self conscious about being a solo traveler.
Heather:Miami has quite the reputation as a party city, but I didn’t venture out too much at night – clubbing isn’t really my thing and especially not solo!
I would go out for dinner, but I was basically back in my room by 9 or 10 – which felt kind of lame but I really enjoyed relaxing in my room and watching whatever I wanted or reading without interruption.
Plus the views from the floor to ceiling windows were stunning and nice to look out at night.
What were 3 things you learned from solo travel?
1. Embrace the silence
As mentioned above, one of the biggest surprises was just how little time I spend in silence and not having someone else around.
I learned to embrace and enjoy it, and it made my trip much more enjoyable.
2. Just do it
If you want to do something, do it.
Want to rent a bike and cruise around the city? Do it!
Want to go to a sporting event in the middle of the day? Do it.
Fancy heading to a brewery to taste a delicious brew before noon? Go for it!
One of the best things about solo travel is getting to do whatever you want, whenever you want – and not having to worry about anyone else’s opinions!
3. Some things will suck…and that’s ok
I had a ton of amazing experiences and met some great people while I was traveling solo…
…but that doesn’t mean each time I went out and did something it was amazing.
I went on a hour and a half boat tour and didn’t talk to a single person the whole time.
I went to a brewery before the Cubs game, tried to chat with some of the staff there (it was 11 am, so I was the only customer) and basically got a few grunts back.
Not everything will be great and not everyone will want to talk to you.
Take it for what it is and move on without worrying about it too much.
1. It’s ok to do whatever you want.
If I didn’t feel the desire to go out and explore the city I could just sit by the pool instead – guilt free.
2. It’s ok to be alone and to dine alone.
It takes a certain level of confidence to eat alone and feel comfortable.
If there were moments I lacked the confidence I could always hide behind my iPhone or book.
Which brings me to #3…
3. Bring something to entertain yourself.
I always had my kindle with me so that if no one was being especially chatty I could pull out my book or my phone.
I would try not to do this right away so that I wouldn’t dissuade people from talking to me and missing out on an experience, but it was always my backup!
Do you have any tips for meeting people when traveling solo?
Trav: You can certainly do some things to give yourself a much better chance of meeting people when traveling solo.
First, head to places where other interesting people might be hanging.
You could go to the hotel’s lobby bar, take a free walking tour, join a group tour, etc.
You could also join a Facebook group for the area you’re going to or check if there is a Couchsurfing group in that area and go to one of their meetups.
Heather:I’m not sure – I probably could have used some tips before this trip! The only thing I can think of is to join a group tour or group activity of some sort. That way you can easily interact with other people.
Were there any times you felt unsafe as a solo traveler?
Granted, being a male it’s a bit different, and I was staying in a really nice area by the LondonHouse and doing activities that certainly weren’t dangerous, but I never once felt unsafe.
Heather: No, not really. But I also wasn’t out late at night.
What tips would you give a first time solo traveler?
Trav:Be selfish – go out and experience the things YOU want to experience.
Don’t be afraid to take a trip alone.
Embrace the quiet times.
And if you want to meet others, put yourself in situations to do it, and it’ll happen.
Heather:Be open to try new things or to feel uncomfortable.
For me especially, eating out alone is somewhat outside my comfort zone – especially every meal for four days.
But I didn’t let that stop me from researching and finding the best restaurants in Miami.
Also, depending on your situation and length of trip, take time to spoil yourself…often!
I think that solo travel is a great time to indulge because you can literally do whatever you want to do.
In my case, I lounged by the beach for an entire day, went to the spa at my hotel and ordered room service – indulgences I wouldn’t normally do with Trav.
What were the 3 best experiences you had during this trip?
1. Going to Wrigley Field for a Cub’s Day Game
There are very few things I love more than going to sporting events, and Wrigley Field is the holy grail.
It lived up to the hype and then some – and it didn’t hurt that the Cubs won!
2. The Chicago “Triathlon”
On Saturday, I pulled off the Chicago triathlon – a bike ride up Lakefront Trail, a swim in Lake Michigan, and a deep dish pizza.
And as great as Pequod’s pizza was, nothing beats the first two “legs” of the triathlon.
Biking up the lake followed by a swim are must-do’s if you’re in Chicago in the summer.
If you’re looking to take a summer solo travel trip, you can take advantage of the Hilton World Sale, which is running through September 6. If you’re a Hilton HHonors member, you can get up to 30 percent off your room, which is an awesome value.
And of course, you can always use your Hilton HHonors points to book a free night (or two, or three) and experience Chicago and Miami just like we did!
Both of us loved our solo travel experience and are glad that we finally got to “try out” a huge part of the travel landscape that we previously hadn’t really known.
Inherently, we knew it would be different, but were shocked at just how different the solo travel experience actually was from traveling with another person or a group.
And while it was great to do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, we certainly aren’t going to only solo travel from now.
We will still be traveling together most of the time, but we do plan on mixing in some solo travel adventures going forward so that we can both continue to experience cities and places in a way that just isn’t possible when you’re with someone else.
Have you been a solo traveler before? What are the biggest differences you experienced between solo travel and traveling with someone else? And what are your favorite solo travel destination (we want to try them out!)?
Let us know in the comments below!
Our “solo travel challenge” was sponsored by Hilton. All the opinions expressed are solely our own and are based on our actual experiences.
You need a gift for your favorite traveler, but you have no idea what to get them.
What could they want…or need?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
From less than $3 to over $1,000, we’ve picked out gifts for any budget.
And with gifts ranging from backpacks to himmelis (what are those?) and from headlamps to the perfect travel pants, there’s something for everyone.
Here are the 29 best gifts for travelers – so start shopping, and happy holidays!
Backpacks & Gear
There’s no more important item to a traveler than a good piece of luggage, and for almost all situations, I prefer a backpack instead of wheeled luggage (although we also have a wheeled luggage recommendation further down).
When shopping for a backpack, it pays to spend some money and find yourself a good one, and the two listed below are the ones I’ve been using, and loving, for the last 3 years.
Going on a shorter trip and want something more streamlined than the regular Tortuga backpack? The Tortuga Air is the perfect choice.
It opens up like a clamshell, making it super easy to grab something quickly. And my favorite part: the hidden but well padded laptop compartment makes removing it at an airport a cinch while still keeping it safe.
Anyone who is traveling and taking pictures or videos, whether it be for business or pleasure, needs an external hard drive.
Luckily, with the Seagate Backup Plus Slim, you don’t have to lug around the bulky hard drives of old. This one is so small you’ll barely even notice it and with 2 terabytes of space, you’ll never come close to filling it.
I love reading physical books as much as the next person (and probably even more), but carrying around multiple books at a time isn’t feasible when you’re trying to travel light – and you’re trying to travel light, right?
So grab the absolute best e-reader on the market and have the entire world’s library at your fingertips.
Make sure to splurge for the Paperwhite version, as the built in backlight will pay for itself many times over.
You’ve got your smartphone, laptop, Kindle, and camera battery, but the place you’re staying only has one outlet.
Fear not – by plugging in your with a Monster 2 Go powerstrip, you’ll have 4 outlets. And since it folds up almost flat and has a short cord that never gets tangled, it makes the perfect travel companion.
As an avid magazine reader, picture taker and app downloader I have to say I miss the presence of an iPad in my life.
We bought the original iPad back in 2010 and it has since been lost, found, cracked and un-updatable. We got a Kindle Fire, which we thought could replace the iPad. It cannot.
For a traveler who doesn’t need a full laptop at their disposable, the iPad Air is perfect. And even if you do need a laptop, an iPad Air is so lightweight that you might want to bring it along anyway!
One of the few things I never, ever leave home without – whether I’m taking off for a whirlwind, three month journey across the globe or just heading out downtown.
Taking notes and/or journaling is one of traveling’s greatest pleasures, and since the Moleskin Cahier notebook can easily fit in a pocket or a purse, you’ll never be without it when inspiration strikes.
All women’s gifts are recommendations from Heather Sherry, brainchild behind the fashion site Sartorial Stripes and the one who constantly stuns everyone by how good she looks while travels – and who keeps me from wearing sweatpants around the world.
A cardigan jacket is a nice supplement to your winter coat. This Zara one (above) is perfectly neutral but structured enough to wear with leggings or jeans whether you’re waiting at the gate, sleeping on the plane, or hitting the streets once you arrive.
A scarf is one of the best travel accessories and while I usually go for a neutral color, this plaid one seems a little more festive. And the best part? It is big enough to use as a blanket on the plane. I also love this blanket scarf by Shoreditch and this one by Calvin Klein.
This pair of Sam Edelman booties are a tried and true ankle boot. The same style is available every year because of its versatility, style and comfort. I can wear these boots walking around all day and my feet never hurt! There are a lot of colors available but I love the black because they can be casual or dressy.
If you like beer…and you like maps…well, we’re kindred spirits. And since that’s the case, you also probably reallyreallyreally want this map too – which I first saw at Sanitas brewery in Boulder and instantly fell in love with.
Every brewery, all 3,500 of them, is listed – yes, even that small, local one you’re sure isn’t on there.
It may be expensive but it’s big, unique, and it will make an incredible gift (especially for your favorite travel blogger…hint, hint!)
These beautiful Scandinavian inspired himmelis are a great way to add a bit of travel charm to your home space. There are quite a few design options to choose from, but the Moravian star is my favorite. It’s perfect for the holiday season but I would leave it up all year… possibly placed on top of a stack of travel books.
I am not a backpack person. I don’t pack quite as lightly as Trav does, and I really dislike the pain involved in schlepping around a heavy pack that hurts my neck (no matter how ergonomically designed they are) and causes my clothing to bunch up in weird places.
Therefore, I am dying to upgrade my well worn Samsonite to this highly rated hard shell case from Traveler’s Choice.
2 Pair of jeans – A pair of semi dark skinny jeans are perfect because they can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. I bought this pair from J.Crew in June and have taken them on the past four trips – they definitely pulled their weight! Plus, they don’t stretch out so you can wear them multiple times before washing.
I almost always pack a pair of white denim. If that is not your jam, then consider a boyfriend jean or black or gray skinnies.
1-2 Pair of leggings – A cheap pair from Target always come in handy for travel days or even for pajamas. I always make sure to have a pair with me.
An upgraded pair is also a necessity. I wouldn’t wear the Target leggings out to dinner but I would wear these (and often have)! I also have this pair (similar pair) and wear them quite frequently at home and abroad – the space they take up rolled in my suitcase is negligible.
Slouchy pants – By far some of the most comfortable pants out there. The fact that these pajama-like pants are considered fashionable is great news for travelers – now we don’t have to worry about what to wear on the plane!
Pair these with a t-shirt and sweater with a pair of flats and you’re ready to go. My favorites include these from H&M and these from Old Navy.
1 Wool Jacket – This is a great option from Amazon.
1 Packable Puffer – This piece is perfect for layering or on those days you are doing more active activities. This Patagonia puffer is actually warm and can easily fit under a more structured jacket on those especially cold or damp days on the road.
1 Blazer (optional) – A black blazer is perfect for elevating any look to something extra special. It easily fits folded at the top of your suitcase and pairing it with a scarf and skinny jeans makes for a seriously chic evening look. A good blazer is worth the investment and I turn to J.Crew for the best versions.
1-2 Pair of running leggings
1-2 Sports bra
1-2 Active tops
1 Pair of Flats – Buy the most comfortable pair you can find – remember, you want to be able to walk around all day without blisters. My favorites are usually from Madewell and J.Crew.This pair will elevate any look and can be worn while sight seeing and then out to dinner. I also have a classic pair (similar to these but older) and they have held up well for the past three years.
1 Pair of Sneakers – My favorite pair of sneakers for travel are my Nike Internationalist – and not just because of the name! They are the most comfortable waking shoe and can even be worn for a run if I don’t have running shoes with me. If you want a running shoe, the most fashionable pair are neutral colored (I love black and white) Nike Frees.
1 Pair of Boots – I typically pack a pair of ankle boots or riding boots for those trips with cooler weather. I find ankle boots to be more versatile in fluctuating temperatures because you can wear them with long pants or with shorts and dresses if the weather is warmer. My favorite pair are Sam Edelman (pictured above but are sold out). Here is a similar pair – Sam Edelman Petty Boot.
1 Pair or Heels (If the occasion calls for it – otherwise don’t bother.)
Bonus – A simple pair of flip flops is a good idea to bring on every trip. This way you are prepared for a jaunt to the pool or spa.
2 Pair of Dainty Earrings – a simple pair of studs works with every outfit any time.
1 Pair of Statement Earrings – swapping out a pair of studs for statement earrings is an easy way to transition from day to night activities.
2-3 Dainty Necklaces – My favorite necklaces are from Layered and Long. I wear these constantly whether we are at home or traveling. (You can use the code EPOP10 for a discount).
1 Statement Necklace – Another easy way to take your look from day to night. The best necklace (and one I am currently coveting) is this versatile piece from Stella and Dot. You can wear the Plume Necklace in several different ways which makes it the perfect piece for travel!
1 Watch – My current favorite is this Michael Kors piece, which I wear practically everywhere.
Suitcase – Trav prefers to travel with a backpack but I love having a suitcase because I really hate schlepping a backpack over my shoulder all the time! I have had a very sturdy canvas Samsonite for the past three years. This is a great suitcase but I would love to upgrade to a sleeker option such as this Delsey hard shell luggage.
Tote Bag – I take my Cuyana tote with me on every trip. It is very resilient and looks great as well. If you prefer a day pack I also have my trusty Osprey (similar version) which I will take on occasional trips.
The above list is intended to take the guesswork out of packing and help you minimize your travel stress and your suitcase.
And the best way to use money when traveling is something that has a lot of misconceptions, false information, and general confusion surrounding it.
Should you exchange money before leaving for a trip…or while you’re in the country?
Should you bring a lot of cash with you….or just a little?
Are ATM’s the best way to get money in a foreign country? Are they safe? And are there fees?
What credit cards should you use? And should you pay in the local currency or your home currency?
In this post, we’ll answer all of those questions and more, so that you will know exactly what to when it comes to money when traveling, both before and during your trip.
*Some of the specifics, such as which accounts to open, will be for US-based people only, but the general rules should be followed by everyone.*
What Not to Do:
It’s always easier to tell people what they shouldn’t do, so let’s start there.
1. Don’t Convert Money Before Traveling
The worst exchange rates will be at your home bank, converting your home currency to the currency of the country you are traveling to.
If you want to convert some just to be safe, I’d recommend $100 or less.
Then, use your debit or credit card while in the country and get a much better exchange rate (more about this in a moment).
2. Don’t Carry A Lot of Cash
Carrying a lot of cash has one major downside – the chance to lose it. If you’re someone sitting there saying “I never lose my wallet or purse”, well, you’re better than me.
But…why risk it?
If you follow our suggestions for getting the right debit and credit cards, you’ll have no need for a lot of cash, and if something does happen, you’re protected.
I personally never carry more than $100 on me at once.
If you are someone who still feels the need to have cash (looking at you, Dad), then I highly recommend splitting it up and putting some in your wallet or purse, some in a safe pocket in your luggage, etc.
3. Don’t Convert Money at Money Changers
Money changers, just like your banks back home, will rip you off – avoid changing money at them unless absolutely necessary.
Much better to take money out of the ATM with a debit card that charges you a small or no fee or pay with a credit card that doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee.
What To Do:
4. Open a Bank Account and Debit Card With Little or No Foreign Transaction Fees
Some banks will charge you for everything when using your card out of the country – a fee (up to 3% sometimes) on the amount you take out AND sometimes a set amount per withdrawal or transaction.
That’s ludicrous, and there is no need to get crushed with these fees when there is an amazing option out there.
But with the Charles Schwab account, you’ll get reimbursed that $6, each and every time.
If you can’t get a Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account for some reason, make sure the bank account you have charges either no foreign transaction fee or a small one. My secondary bank charges 1%, which isn’t bad if I have to use it in a pinch.
5. Carry two separate cards for two separate accounts when traveling
Speaking of secondary accounts, I always make sure that I’m traveling with more than just one ATM card.
I’d recommend having two different bank accounts (Charles Schwab and one other one) and bringing both ATM cards with you.
If you don’t want two bank accounts, you could bring one ATM card and one credit card. I personally bring along two ATM cards from two different banks and at least two credit cards.
You never know if one might get locked out for some reason, so better safe than sorry.
6. Tag your cards before leaving the country
Speaking of getting locked out (like these segues?), always make sure to call your bank and credit card companies before you’re traveling to let them know where you are going.
If you don’t do this, many times the banks will freeze your card when they see a suspicious purchase from overseas. If this happens, you’ll have to call them up to unfreeze it, and if it’s not normal business hours back home, you may find yourself stranded.
Instead, make the 5 minute phone call before leaving. It’s not foolproof – I’ve tagged my cards before and still had them get locked out – but if you don’t do it, you’ll almost certainly get locked out of your account pretty shortly after touching down somewhere.
7. Open up a no foreign transaction fee credit card
Just like you want to have a bank account and debit/ATM card that has no fees, you also want to have a credit card with no foreign transaction fee.
This allows you to use it abroad and not pay anything extra.
Be careful, because many of the best credit cards WILL have a foreign transaction fee of 3%.
The best ones with no foreign transaction fees are the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Barclays Arrival for personal use and the Chase Ink Plus for businesses.
Once you get a credit card with no foreign transaction fee, pay with that whenever possible while traveling.
In some countries, credit cards are not widely accepted, but in countries where they are, I always use it as my first option.
The reasons are threefold:
It’s hassle-free. You don’t need to worry about taking money out, carrying cash, or getting stuck with a bunch of small change.
You rack up rewards points and frequent flyer miles. If you use a credit card at home for this stuff, then you why not do it abroad as well!
It’s easy to track your spending. If you want to see how much you spent in a specific place or on the entire trip as a whole, it’s all right there on your statement.
9. When you pay with a credit card, ALWAYS pay in the local currency
Some places will give you the option of paying in the local currency or your home currency.
For example, in Spain, we were often asked if we’d like to pay in Euros (the local currency) or US dollars.
ALWAYS choose to pay in the local currency.
If you pay in your home currency, the restaurant/bar/store will add on an extra charge, usually up to 5%. This is called “dynamic currency conversion”, and you DON’T want this.
If you have a credit card or debit card with no foreign transaction fee then there is never a reason to pay in your home currency.
10. Take money out of ATM’s that are tied to banks
No matter what country you are in, it’s always safer to take money out of an ATM that is tied to a specific bank.
If it’s a bank that you recognize or have in your home country, even better.
While most ATM’s around the world are fairly safe, use common sense.
Ones that are found in city centers that are tied to large banks will generally be much less likely to steal your information than the one on dark street corner next to a pub or some random convenience store.
11. If you’re traveling with someone else, split up your cash and cards
In most relationships, one person is more forgetful than the other (points finger at self), which is why it’s always good reason to split up your cash and cards.
On top of that, you never know when you’ll get split up while traveling for one reason or another, and you don’t want to be left stranded with no cash or way to get some.
12. Keep your wallet and purse in safe areas
I’m not one to be overly cautious – no money belts for me – but getting pickpocketed or having your purse snatched is a very real possibility in many places.
For this reason, we always make sure to take small and simple precautions that can have a big impact.
For guys, I always suggest putting your wallet in your front pocket instead of the back and keep your hand on it when you’re in subways, trains, or big crowds.
If you want to take it one step further, Bluffs makes incredible travel pants that have a zipper pocket in the front for extra protection (use the discount code epop for 10% off).
For females, Heather suggests wearing a cross body bag, like this or this, and wearing the actual purse part in the front in crowded areas.
Bonus tip: Heather also turns her wedding ring upside down so that the diamond is facing down while on trains so it looks less conspicious.
13. Always be aware of the currency rates while traveling
You certainly don’t have to be as huge a nerd as I am about it (in fact, for your sake, I hope you’re not!) but being aware of the currency exchange rates can really help you save some big money when traveling.
Most people won’t plan their trip around this, but if you are flexible, you can score some really great deals. For example, just two years ago, Japan was very expensive to travel to because the yen was strong, at about 80 yen for each dollar.
In the past two years, that has flipped dramatically, and now you’ll get 124 yen for every dollar.
Two years ago, a sevenday Japan Rail Pass would have cost $363. Now, it costs $234.
The easiest way to track and convert currency quickly is the Converter App – which also helps when changing things to metric – or the XE Currency app.
14. Be prepared when paying a bribe
Depending on where you travel to, there may be times you’ll have to pay a “fee to a certain official”.
While this may sound either incredibly romantic or incredibly terrifying, depending on your personality, the truth is, it’s usually not either and is actually fairly common.
But being prepared can be the difference between getting completely ripped off and having it be no big deal.