Quick Tip: Hello Kitty!

On one of our European trips, a portion of the time was with an organized tour. Alcoholic beverages weren’t included in our tour price. However, our tour leader was a bit of a wine connoisseur and enjoyed wine with meals. Since he was familiar with local wines and wanted to share the experience with us, he asked those who wanted to have wine with their meals to contribute $50 to a kitty that would be used during the tour to buy wine for the meals. I thought, what a great idea that could be applied to lots of group activities. Continue reading

Quick Tip: Ring My Bell

I got this idea from a backpacking trip with Sheri. We were hiking through bear country, so I had her put a bear bell on her backpack. The tinkling of the bell was supposed to announce our presence to bears in the area. (I joked that it was the dinner bell for the bears!) That night, we were sitting around our little campfire when we heard the bell sound. I turned my light towards the sound just in time to see a raccoon dragging Sheri’s pack down the path. If not for that bell, we might not have known her pack was even gone. Continue reading

Quick Tip: Bring Clean Money

I’m not talking about “laundered” money. We’ve had this problem a number of times when exchanging currency in other countries. If there is any writing on a bill, or if it’s torn, or even if it just looks crumpled up, foreign banks and moneychangers won’t accept it. Most money exchange businesses insist on clean, crisp bills, even with smaller denominations. They will also not accept older currency, especially older $100 and $20 bills with the smaller portrait image of Ben and Andy.

So before you go overseas, inspect the money you’re bringing to make sure it will be accepted. Most cash dispensed from ATMs is acceptable. Better yet, you can go to your bank and ask for new bills.

Quick Tip: The Plastic Shuffle

On our travels, we’re bringing a few forms of payment: credit cards, ATM card, and cash, in small and large denominations. For our credit cards, Sheri will carry two cards, our primary card and one other. I will also carry two cards, our primary card and another totally different card than what Sheri has. That way, if either of us has our wallet stolen, we cancel two cards and still have another credit card that can be used until we can get the others replaced.

We thought about doing the same with ATM cards, but concerns with express kidnappings have made me think twice about carrying another ATM card that kidnappers could also drain. In an emergency, we can get a cash advance on our credit card, but only if we have and know the PIN.

Quick Tip: Don’t settle for the first answer you get.

When you call to talk to the airlines, don’t settle for the first answer you get, especially if it isn’t the answer you’re looking for. Some agents on the phone just aren’t as skilled as others in finding what you need, so call back and speak to someone different. If necessary, keep doing this until you get what you need. This is especially true for airlines, but this can work with hotels and car rental agencies too.

For example, we tried to book our flight to Sydney through United, but were told that no award seats were available because we were booking them so late. After two more phone calls, we got someone who looked at all the partner airlines and found two seats leaving from Vancouver on Air Canada, a partner airline. It cost the same award miles and wasn’t as convenient as flying out of Seattle, but the benefit was that we now have a direct flight with no layovers.