On travel and money

Getting stuck at King Ludwig's castle with no money
Mad King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein

Bucket List item:  Tour the Mad King Ludwig’s Castle that inspired Walt Disney. 

I only had to pack my clothes for our honeymoon to the German Alps—and I packed way too much.  But this post is about how to prepare to pay for things once you get where you’re going-not packing. 


Not yet privy to a travel quote by Susan Heller,  I would later read and appreciate her prudent advice in the NY Times : “When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”


Before we were married I didn’t have a credit card to my name–I used my father’s when I travelled, but otherwise I didn’t need one.  My husband added me to his account and we planned to use that card during our honeymoon. He paid for the hotel rooms in advance so we only needed to charge meals, shopping, and the final rental car bill at the end of our trip. We had some cash for incidentals and emergencies.


It wasn’t until a couple of days after we arrived in the city of Garmisch that we had a  problem with our credit card. A dinner charge was declined.  We didn’t worry too much about it at the time. “Probably just a mistake.  I’ll call about it when we get back to the hotel,” my husband said as he pulled out some cash to pay for our meal. This was before the days of computers and cellphones.  Charges took several days to process, and there were always glitches when traveling abroad.


“No, nothing has changed with your account. There is not a problem, and yes, we know you are in Germany,” the credit card representative told him. The next day the card was declined everywhere we went and we were burning through our emergency cash.  No more spending until we figured out what was going wrong.


After two days of failed charge attempts and getting nowhere with the credit card company, my husband finally had to call his mother (imagine having to call mother for money on your honeymoon 🙂).  But we were extremely lucky to have her.  She wired us money and helped us get to the bottom of our credit card problem.


It turned out that the travel agent who booked our honeymoon had declined the collision damage waiver on our rental car agreement, so the rental company put an authorizational hold on the card for an amount high enough to buy a new car—which maxed out our limit, of course.   Since all of the paperwork had been handled ahead of time there was nothing else left to do when we arrived in Germany except pick up the keys, find the car, and go.   


Umm…and nobody mentioned the credit card hold to us.  It wasn’t in the contract either we later learned so we couldn’t have known about it.  Besides being nearly broke by the time we got to the bottom of it all, even worse was the amount of time it took away from the fun of our honeymoon. Extremely frustrating, to say the least.


Sometimes, in spite of the best planning, stuff happens and you learn from it. Bank networks fail, machines break, cards are declined—and it can cost. A crisis like this can take hours–days even–of precious holiday time to sort things out.  Knowledge and planning are still the best measures to avoid major problems, and help you get out of the ones that happen in spite of all planning.


Here are a few tips that may help you avoid some of the mishaps I’ve had to plod through:


Tip #1: Read Susan Heller’s travel advice, then memorize it and take it to heart.


Tip #2: Have an emergency stash of US dollars—(mostly $20 bills, but have some smaller bills on hand for tips).  Use a hidden money pouch and make sure each traveller has some cash.


Tip #3: Wait until you get to your destination to exchange money, and don’t change too much at once.  Try to use your credit card (responsibly 🙂 for most purchases.  Credit cards have protections that cash doesn’t–and you may need your cash for an emergency.


Tip #4: Travel with at least two (2) credit cards. Make sure at least one is a MasterCard or Visa. Many places, especially outside of the US, do not accept American Express.


Tip #5: If your ATM card isn’t part of a global network, get one that is. This will make accessing cash easier and help you save $$$ in fees.


Tip #6: Notify your credit card companies and banks of travel plans or you may find your cards blocked when the banks notice charges from outside your home state. The contact numbers for card issuers can usually be found on the back of the card or online.


Tip #7: Store the 24-hour emergency phone numbers and email addresses of all credit card issuers and banks in your contact list.  I also make copies of the front and back of all bankcards and passport information. If you take a snapshot with your phone instead, make sure the photos and information are not backed up into the cloud unless you know the data is encrypted and secure.


An additional tip I think worth mentioning is one of my pre-travel planning steps.  I do this before each trip to help me keep up with my cash and credit cards and ensure I have only the basic necessities in my purse or pack.  So here is my final tip:

Tip #8: Make a checklist of everything you need to carry in your purse or pack during the trip and lay all of those things out on a dinner-sized tray. Then pack only those items. If there are too many things, decide what can be left behind.  Your purse/pack will be lighter, you will have a proper accounting of all the items in there, and there will likely be more room to add a water bottle or a few small souvenirs.  Make sure you have an envelope or pouch for keeping all travel receipts together.

Hmmm… we needed money to get down from Zugspitz
Remember, you can follow all good advice and still have problems, but it is not as likely with good planning.

Here’s wishing you safe & happy travels ❤️✨   and no money or credit card snafus while travelling 💳💵💰

Louis Vuitton, Apple iPhone, Egypt coin purse, Hermes passport cover
Empty your purse & Lay out your travel items

Items in the top photo on the colorful handmade wooden tray from Namibia are listed below from top left, then clockwise:

  • Louis Vuitton wallet 
  • iPhone charger (foreign version if traveling outside the States)
  • Ferragamo pouch for smaller items (Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm in Red Dahlia, Mont Blanc pen, glow-in-the-dark flashlight for bedside, ceramic pill case from Netherlands, charger cord, iPod mini)
  • Silk handkerchief from Thailand (usually 2-3 are in my bag)
  • Change purse (from trip to Egypt) for coins and small bills
  • Louis Vuitton small change purse for memory cards, usb drives, etc.
  • Hermes leather passport holder (color is rouge grenat) to hold passport (of course) and receipts — (always keep receipts & match with bank statements in a timely manner)
  • Passport
  • iPhone in the middle with black leather case from Apple Store

© 2017 jsf.