June is National Safety Month, and if you visited the blog last month, you know that we were celebrating graduating seniors! Well, many recent grads take the time right after school has ended to experience the wide world before settling down. It can be so easy to get caught up in the thrill of exotic locales and unfamiliar destinations and neglect some basic safety measures that are so important. So, here are some tips on how to travel safely this summer!
Notify your bank
There are several reasons why it’s important to notify your bank of any travel, domestic OR international. First, sometimes a bank needs to authorize a card to be used in certain foreign countries. That’s a simple enough reason to call your bank ahead of time. Secondly, banks monitor the locations of transactions that take place on a debit, credit or ATM card. What that means is that if you use your plastic in a foreign country, your bank will be notified of it and possibly take it as a sign of fraud, so they’ll deactivate the card and attempt to contact you. This can result in simply a minor inconvenience or a much larger emergency that could leave you stranded without money in an unfamiliar place. Ultimately, it’s just wiser to not take the risk, and let your bank know ahead of time.
Of course, you could just keep cash with you, but…
DON’T flash your cash
The problem with carrying cash in a foreign country, or even larger cities in this country, is that you run a risk of announcing to everyone around you exactly how much money you’re carrying. The moment you pull out a wallet, purse, or billfold, you have to assume that you are being carefully watched.
It’s also important to be constantly aware of where your wallet or purse is, in large crowds. Pickpockets can take advantage of any crowded situation, and your valuables could be gone without you ever even noticing. It’s usually smart to keep a wallet in a front pocket, instead of the back, and backpacks and purses should be held close to the chest.
Share Your Itinerary
Here’s a personal story –
Several years ago, I was visiting Italy with some friends. We spent several days each in three different cities – Rome, Florence, and Cinque Terre. We stayed in hostels and took trains between each town. Because of a mix-up due to the language barrier, however, we managed to miss our train from Cinque Terre to Florence. We made it on to a later one that connected with a bus we would take from Venice. Things got complicated, and because of poor planning, I needed a cash injection from back home. So, as soon as I got to an internet connection, I messaged home and got the cash I needed to finish off our trip.
The story doesn’t end there, however, as a family member went on Facebook and posted a status about my asking for money from Italy. Immediately all of their Facebook friends warned them that this was a scam, and that someone was impersonating me, and that they absolutely should not give me any money under any circumstances.
The moral of the story is that someone else – family, friends, whoever – should have a copy of your itinerary. My family knew that I was in Italy, and therefore had no reason to doubt my message. But if they hadn’t known, they probably would have listened to their friends, and ignored me altogether.
Aside from the common-sense security reasons to make sure someone knows where you are when you travel, it really helps in case of a cash emergency, or the many other surprises that spring up during travel.
Don’t let money mistakes ruin your adventure! Some careful forethought and planning can ensure you travel, smart, safe, and carefree.