To-Do List for International Travel

For the past few days, I have been scouring blogs and internet sources for suggestions on things I should be doing to prepare for international travel.  While some of these ideas are common sense (i.e. keep a watchful eye on personal belongings, don’t take a taxi ride from someone who approaches you at the airport, etc.), many of the tips that I have learned have become part of a long to-do list in anticipation of my trip.  Did I mention that I will be going to Mexico in 12 days? I thought so!  This week, my kids are all in camp so I have some time on my hands to get myself organized.  I chose today, Monday, to work on financial plans for the trip.  It is only 11:00am and I have accomplished a lot!  Here’s what I have done.

Ordered a small amount of pesos from my local bank branch  
Now, most international travel gurus will tell you that getting foreign currency at the ATM in the foreign destination is the best place to get cash.  However, I was a bit worried about this for the following reason…what if my debit card doesn’t work when I get to the Mexico City Airport?  Then, I’m stuck trying to pay for a bus ticket, taxi and other incidentals without pesos until I can resolve the problem with my bank. That doesn’t sound like fun to me.  I also didn’t want to have to worry about finding an ATM at the airport, waiting in line for the ATM at the airport or finding out that the ATM at the airport is being “serviced.”  Doesn’t that always seem to happen?   I’m sure that the exchange rate I got today at my local bank is not the absolute best rate, but I’m paying for convenience and peace of mind.  That’s worth it in the long run to me.  I’m going to take most of these pesos with me and I’m going to leave some with Brian for when he flies to Mexico City to meet me in July.  That way, he won’t have to scramble at the airport for cash. The downside is that I have to wait a few days for the pesos to arrive at my branch, but because I’m a super planner, I ordered them with time to spare.  If you decide to order foreign currency from a local bank, be sure to leave yourself at least a week of advance time.  I have been told that you can also order foreign currency through AAA if you have a membership.  I looked into this online and was quoted a $15 service fee and the website wouldn’t quote me an exchange rate so I decided to go with my local bank instead.  I wouldn’t rule out AAA in the future, but it was just as easy to stop by my local bank as it would have been to go to AAA.  There’s also the option of visiting the foreign exchange desk of a major bank, if you have one in your town.  We do have one, but it’s 20 miles from my house.  When factoring drive time, gas  
and parking, it made more sense for me to order locally.  To each his/her own, I guess.  
Notified credit card company that I will be traveling
I  called my credit card company to let them know that I will be out of the country. This way, they won’t question transactions that originate in Mexico.  I also verified that I do not have to pay international transaction fees on my card.  This is a special perk offered by my card issuer that will come in handy while traveling.  I plan to use my credit card for as much as possible to avoid having to carry too much cash.

Ordered a separate ATM-only card, just in case
While I was at the bank, I ordered a new ATM-only card.  I don’t plan to use this card, but I do plan to pack it in case my debit card or credit card are lost or stolen.  One of my worst fears is being in a position of not having cash or credit to pay for things.  Hopefully, by being proactive, I’m covering all possible bases.
These are the three main things that I did today to prepare myself financially for this trip.  I will be posting later this week about other things that I’m doing to prepare for the trip including a packing list, cell phone/smartphone international calling plans, registering with the US Embassy, etc.

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