1) Run, don’t walk, past currency exchange kiosks
Usually found in airports, train stations, and at border crossings, currency exchange booths NEVER provide a fair rate of exchange and alwaystack on exorbitant fees.
Bottom line: Don’t even consider using them.
2) Do your homework when choosing a credit card
Choosing the right card can immediately save you 2 -3% on foreign transaction fees, provide a substantial boost to your frequent flier account, gain access to business class lounges, and more.
Always, always read the fine print before signing up and, if possible, never carry a balance.
3) Do your homework, again, then consider applying for a Discover Card
The Discover Card offers many benefits to frequent travelers, but the main reason I’m mentioning it here is that it provides primary rental car insurance.
Most credit cards only provide secondary insurance on rentals, so your first line of defense in an accident is either the collision damage waiver provided (for a small fortune) by the rental car company or your personal insurance policy. Your personal policy usually will not cover international rentals, so if you don’t check the CDW when picking up your car you’re essentially driving around in a foreign country without insurance.
How much can you save by having a card that offers primary rental insurance and opting out of the collision damage waiver?
I recently ran a price check at sixti.com for a one week economy car rental in Nice, France.
The base rate, excluding insurance, was 136.02 Euros, which converts to about $189.55. After adding the Loss Damage Waiver and the Base Excess LDW my total came to 234.40 Euros ($326.65). That’s a difference of $137.10!
Rent a car once a year using Discover and you more than make up for the $60 annual fee.
The card offers other worthwhile travel perks, so do your research and decide for yourself if it’s right for you.
4) Book your rental car as early as possible
A recent price check at sixti.com for a one week economy car rental in Nice, France from July 20 – 27, 2009 (excluding insurance) was $189.55. The exact same car three months later from October 12 – 19, 2009 was listed at $132.37, a savings of $57.18.
Bottom Line: Book early and save.
5) Don’t sign up for your regular cell phone provider’s international rate plan
Here’s how it works.
You sign up for your provider’s international rate plan thinking you’ll save money during your next trip to Europe.
What you don’t know, and what they don’t tell you, is that the minute your plane touches down on European soil and you turn on your phone you are immediately linked to the European network.
Why does this matter?
Every time there’s activity on your phone you’re charged for it.
No big deal right? Why not just keep your phone turned off and only make two or three quick calls during the entire trip?
Every time there’s activity on your phone (incoming and outgoing calls, voice and text messages, etc.) EVEN IF YOUR PHONE IS TURNED OFF, you’re charged for it!
I learned my lesson the hard way on a recent trip to France when I got home and received a bill for over a thousand dollars.
One alternative is to rent a European phone upon arrival.
European SIM cards or Telecartes are also good options to consider.