With vacation season upon us, here is some advice and tips from this author's own experience on the road.
#1: Travel Insurance...A product sold - never purchased! Customers don't know what they are buying and firms are fuzzy on what they cover. Most high quality credit cards will cover travel insurance, trip delay, baggage, car rental, and others. Customer complaints regarding travel insurance have drastically increased due to the poorly designed nature of policies. Broadly speaking, you almost never need this product unless you are traveling to a country with very specific risks. Important to note that if traveling abroad, a separate liability only policy may be necessary. (See #3)
#2: ATM Access...Banks and airports always up-charge you on currency exchange. Many countries (particularly Europe) are wired for easy ATM access. This author recently visited a Euro country and was only charged $2.50 for a non-US ATM fee. Compare this to the $50 fee charged by many banks for a currency order and the choice is obvious....get your cash when you arrive in most cases!
#3: Liability....Inside the US you are almost always covered for both collision AND liability if driving. Your insurance carrier however likely does not cover the liability component if you go outside of the US, Canada, or beyond 50 miles into Mexico. If driving abroad, inquire about a separate liability only policy from the rental car company. It is very affordable and often required by the laws of that country. Also remember that you must decline collision coverage if (and only if) you want coverage through your credit card - most cards require first position coverage to be effective.
#4: Credit Cards...Credit cards are the most valuable tool when traveling! A good credit card offers robust travel coverage in addition to points and rewards for purchases. You may also be eligible for emergency evacuation insurance or limited medical accident coverage with a good quality card. Regardless of destination, alert your card company that you will be out of town. If traveling abroad, ensure that your card will avoid foreign transaction fees - these fees are totally unnecessary in today's market.
#5: Health Insurance...If you do require medical care, many insurance policies have good coverage in the US and abroad. Keep ALL receipts so that you can submit them to the company upon your return home. Check with your company!
#6: Communication...If traveling inside the US this is largely not an issue. When traveling abroad however, most carriers now offer "day pass" plans depending on the length of trip. If you travel abroad more than a week, buy a SIM card for around $40. If less than a week, check with your mobile carrier to determine their international options. It's often pretty affordable around $50-$100.
#7: Get a PIN!...Credit cards in the US do not require PIN numbers. If traveling abroad however, you will need a PIN number. In addition, keep your PIN number to 4 digits in length as many machines abroad will not allow a 5 digit PIN. This is particularly true at gas stations.