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Posted: 1:13 p.m. Wednesday, April 30, 2014

International Travel Tips: Money, Mobile & Booking

Tips for money exchange, mobile & wifi use, and affordable accommodations while overseas



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By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


In this Overseas Travel guide, you'll learn how to use cell phone, mobile, and wifi overseas; the best ways to exchange and handle money; and I'll give you my tips for finding great deals on accommodations.

With my background in the travel industry and a lifelong passion for travel, I've learned a thing or two about cheap travel. You can save money and have great experiences too.

But before we get started, check out these basic travel tips:

Be flexible to find the best deals

If you want to save the most money on travel, you may have to do something many people either can't or won't do — don't pick a specific travel destination or date. The more flexibility you have about when and where you want to travel, the more likely you will find a great deal. Kayak.com is a great site for comparing fares. If you have any flexibility in your plans, you can use their Flexible Search option to indicate how many days "before" or "after" your ideal date you'd be willing to travel. You'll see a list of fares for each day, and you'll notice that it can vary widely from day to day.

Let the deal drive the destination

The key is to buy the deal and then figure out why you want to go there. That's been my travel philosophy since the airlines deregulated in 1978. Let the deal drive the trip instead of picking one place, and time, and trying to find an airfare deal to get there.

Fly the discount airlines

The data is overwhelming every year the Airline Quality Rating comes out: You get a much better experience on the discounters than the full-fare airlines, regardless of price. Our nation's discounters include Alaska, Allegiant, Frontier, JetBlue, Hawaiian, Southwest, and Virgin Air, among others.

Avoid baggage fees by not checking a bag

Only two discount airlines — JetBlue and Southwest — allow you to check a bag without paying a fee. Your first bag is free on JetBlue. Southwest, meanwhile, allows up to two checked bags absolutely free.

Of course, not everyone lives in a market served by JetBlue or Southwest. So there's still one other way to avoid baggage fees no matter which carrier you're flying: Don't check a bag! I travel only with what an airline permits free as a single carry-on — usually a 22x14x8 piece of luggage. Another plus is I never worry about the airline losing my baggage.

Track fares online and get a refund if the price drops

Have you heard of airfare envy? That's when you buy a ticket and find the same itinerary for less money afterward. The good news is that there are a handful of airlines that will give you a voucher for the difference if you ask. These include Alaska, JetBlue, Southwest, United, US Airways and others.

But unless you religiously follow airfares after you've made your purchase, you may not even know that you overpaid. That's where Yapta.com comes in handy. After completing the free registration, Yapta will e-mail you when your flight goes down in price and help you get a refund for the difference.

One caveat here. Some airlines will charge big fees if you want to do this kind of thing. United and US Air both charge a whopping $150. So make sure it's worth your while before you get involved.

Know when to buy trip insurance

Travel insurance policies are designed to protect consumers by giving them refunds in the event of illness to the traveler or immediate family member, or to provide a refund in the case of company, tour operator or airline default.

These policies should always be purchased when you are taking a cruise, a tour or traveling on a trip that requires pre-payment of thousands of dollars. Just be sure you purchase a policy independent of the cruise, tour or vacation planner. Never purchase the trip protection plan from the trip organizer. Those types of policies are designed to protect only the company and not the consumer!

You can expect a policy to cost around 6 percent of the total cost of the trip. Of course, it's possible to run that number way up. Visit InsureMyTrip.com to comparison shop for policies.

Destination: Saving Money!


   Using Cell Phones, Mobile & Wifi Outside the United States



   Handling Your Money Overseas



   Get the Best Deal When Booking Accommodations