Money, Security and Luggage

International Funds

The question of how to access funds while travelling is always challenging.  There rarely seems to be a best or single answer.

In recent years we have mostly used ANZ Travel Money –  which used to have single denomination cards depending on which major currency you wished to use but in more recent times they have a multi-denomination service.  We use this and each have accounts and cards loaded with New Zealand dollars, UK pounds, Euro and US dollars.  Each denomination is “isolated” from the other on your account.  It can be complex to understand but it’s best to do your own reading.

The reason we have accounts each is that the ANZ accounts come with two cards – one is intended to be your spare card in case the original gets lost or stolen.  Therefore we each carry each other’s spare card meaning that unless something truly disastrous happens we do not lose access to both accounts.

Transfer of funds to these accounts can be done by simply doing a BPay transaction from your normal Australian bank accounts.  Before you do that you need to ensure the PRIMARY denomination selected in your Travel account is the one you wish the credit to go towards.  eg if you’re travelling to Britain you need to make sure UKP is the primary denomination.

They are essentially a Visa Debit card so are acceptable almost anywhere  – although usually in our recent experiences, self service locations like fuel stations and the like are not always guaranteed to work.  This is when swipe and PIN work.

What we find is essential is to keep separation between our normal bank accounts and credit cards and our travel funds.  This way if the worst happens and your travel cards are acquired by someone else the biggest hit is to your travel funds not your regular accounts.

We have only ever had one issue when Craig was doing some online ferry bookings pre a journey and got duped by what turned out to be a scamming site that purported to be an agency for various channel ferry firms.  The transaction failed but not before the site harvested essential information that lead to a 200UKP transaction on the UK Olympics site being enacted.  This happened before our journey departure and was reported to ANZ who later refunded the amount in full.

With the ANZ service and others, you can access your account online to check balances, move funds between denominations, contact the service provider if you’ve been skimmed etc.

There are many varied ways to deal with international funds/debit/credit cards these days.  Do your research, talk to your bank etc and try to choose the best option for you.

Try to never purchase international funds at airports including ATMs in airports.  These services charge premium prices for their convenience.  For our 2014 journey we actually purchased US cash online a few weeks prior to our trip, through American Express.  It was secure delivered to our local post office – brand new notes too.

Never let your cards out of your sight.  If the restaurant does not have a mobile EFTPOS machine, go to the cashier.  You never know who and how people will skim your card while it is out of your sight.

Passport and Wallet Security

We use these over the neck type Pacsafe anti-theft wallets for larger documents such as passports etc.  When you will not be going through airline security one of us puts this wallet on in the morning like a holster (eg over neck with an arm through it) before putting on your shirt.  That way no one can grab the cord behind your neck and rip the wallet and contents away from you.  If travelling where you will have to go through airline security then you need to put it only over your head and then under your shirt so that you can conveniently take it off before scanning.

For a wallet try this Pacsafe wallet that clips onto a belt loop.  Then keep the wallet in a front pocket.  Guys, NEVER carry your wallet in your back pocket.  It’s waving a flag to cunning thieves.

Be sure that you never react to a sign warning you “pick pockets operate in the area – check your wallet”.  Natural instinct is to tap your pocket or bag where your wallet is.  A cunning thief then knows exactly where to target you.

Tags

Clearly identify your bags with good quality tags and even double up and use airline provided paper tags.  Have some ID inside the bags too.  Put some identifying marks on your suitcases.  For example our main cases each have a sticker from Cit In 2010 in Tasmania.  We seriously doubt there are two suitcases like them anywhere else.  We also have bright green straps that go around the bags before check in.  Although in a daze, Craig realised in 2015 that the red Samsonite bag he grabbed off the carousel at Sydney Airport was not in fact one of ours when the absence of a bright green strap gave the game away.  He subtly put the bag back on the carousel and awaited for the correct bags to arrive…

Hotel safes

Most hotels have in-room safes and you should use these where possible.  If travelling in a couple come up with a standard code you can use and agree on as the code for any safe(they’re usually four digits) so that either of you can open the safe.  Try to not use the type that relies on scanning a debit card – because if you lose that card your contents are still in the safe and you’ve got to wait for maintenance to unlock it.

TEST the safe locks and unlocks BEFORE you put anything in it.

Ensure the safe is actually bolted down!  Yes it has happened to us in a French hotel room – the safe was just sitting in the bottom of the wardrobe.  Fortunately it stayed there for the duration of our stay.

Document copies

Ensure you have copies of essential documents, such as passports, travel schedules etc.  These days of course it is easy to ensure you have scanned copies stored online such as in a Gmail or Dropbox folder.  Provide copies to key relatives or friends too.

We make up a travel book too.  A timeline compilation of all tickets, reservations (cars, hotels, tours etc) printed and bound in a comb binding or well stapled.  As you go you can rip out used pages.  Our 2014 trip to USA and France had some 90 pages in it when we started!  It was very handy when starting the journey as the check-in desk for Hawaiian Airlines at Sydney had trouble as we had not booked with them to exit the USA.  We showed the book that indicated our trip with Iceland Air for a month later from New York to France – many check-in keystrokes later we were good to go.  Had we not had that information handy it could have been challenging.

Luggage

Buy a medium sized suitcase – do not fall into the trap of buying a large suitcase.  Keeping yourself to medium will help ensure that you stay within the 23kg (50lb) limit of most airlines.  Yes you can carry more to and from the US, but once you’re there it’s usually 23kg  – check!  Emirates and Qantas now also allow 30kg to/from Europe – but again check.

We now use Samsonite Cosmolite bags in 69cm size.  We find these bags very handy and easy to move – they weigh very little and are incredibly hard wearing.

 

We also use some packing cells inside the bags to keep common items together.  eg Socks and undies in one, pants/shorts in another, shirts in another etc.  It makes packing and finding easier, and if you’re in a hotel room for a couple of days you can actually unpack your suitcase into the hotel draws really quickly.

A bag like this is also handy for putting dirty clothes into for lugging to the nearest laundromat and back.