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

Maya Angelou

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

—Maya Angelou
1928-2014, author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer

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.

Jumping Through Hoops for a Chip & Pin Card

After lots of research, I finally found a U.S. financial institution that offers a true chip and pin credit card. I didn’t choose Barclaycard because of all the stories of bad customer service, especially when overseas. Instead I went with UNFCU, United Nations Federal Credit Union because their web site actually advertises it as a true chip and pin, the reviews have been favorable, there are no foreign transaction fees, it’s a credit union and not a bank, and applying benefits United Nations programs. Choosing them was the easy part. Now we have lots of hoops to jump through.

In order to get a credit card through UNFCU, you must be a member of the United Nations or a member of the United Nations Association of the United States of America, UNA-USA. To join the UNA-USA, you must make a tax deductible donation of $40 annually for a regular membership. Then we need to include the email of the membership confirmation with a 4-page application to join the UNFCU along with copies of ID and a utility bill. Oh, and we also must open a savings account with a minimum of $50. After we’re “members,” then we can apply for the credit card.

All this just to get a true chip and pin card.