Travel Hacks

Travel Hack: Use your iPhone Anywhere in the World

Before becoming a full-time traveler, I experienced foreign places like most others, as a tourist on vacation.  That meant turning the phone on airplane mode, and worrying about the rest when I got back to the office (or at least, when I got to the hotel room).  If I knew I needed to be “connected”, I would suck it up and pay the $5-10 per day for international data (damn you Verizon!!!).  The daily cost wasn’t too hard to swallow when my average vacation was only 4 or 5 days every 6 months or longer, but it just wasn’t an option when I started full-time travel and needed to be connected almost every day of the month.   Even if I was balling (not on a budget) and the $150-300 extra per month was no big deal, I was still facing a big problem once I hit 90 days abroad.  That’s when almost every U.S. carrier will suspend your line until you come back to the states. Drawbacks of T-Mobile’s International Plan You’re probably thinking, switch to a carrier like T-Mobile, which offers “unlimited” data in over 170 Countries for only $15/month!  Notice the quotes? That’s because T-Mobile’s international plan caps you at 5GB per month.  Then, they drop your data speed to 256kbps, which makes using the internet really difficult, to say the least.  Also, I’d still have the 90 day abroad problem mentioned above. Getting a client to FaceTime…. At this point, I was ready to accept that I would need to give up my U.S. phone number and get an international SIM card to keep up with work emails and phone calls.  Unfortunately, without a valid U.S. carrier, I wouldn’t be able to use my phone number to take Wi-Fi calls on services like FaceTime Audio, WhatsApp, or Skype.  Even if I could, it would be really awkward asking a client if I could FaceTime them on their iPhone. That’s when I came across an article on wirecutter.com, that recommended Google Fi for frequent international travel. Enter… Google Fi Google Fi, previously known as Project Fi, is kind of like a super carrier.  They constantly switch between multiple carriers, so you’re always connected to the best signal.  Google Fi charges a flat rate of $10/GB in over 170 countries. You only pay for the data you use, and they cap your charges at $60 per billing cycle (even less if you add multiple lines).  What’s even better is that you get 15GB (which means 9 GB for FREE) before they start throttling your data speed. You have the option of buying full 4G speeds again at $10/GB if you need it before your next billing cycle kicks in.  There is also a flat Talk & Text fee of $20/month, which can’t be turned off even if you’re not using talk minutes or texts (just an FYI for iPhone users, iMessage doesn’t count as texts). Pros & Cons of Google Fi With Google Fi, I didn’t need to worry about using my iPhone XS while abroad.  Another big plus (I thought) is that international calling was only 19 cents per minute.  That’s a significant amount less than other carriers that charge $1.19 or more PER MINUTE!!!  I thought I was golden. It wasn’t until I got to Europe that I realized how quickly the minutes add up, even at 19 cents. This brings me to some of the downfalls when using Google Fi on an iPhone.  Google Fi is currently in beta on iPhone, which means you lose some important functions.  The two most important to me are that I can’t use Wi-Fi Calling or hotspot internationally.  I’m hoping these features will become available once it’s no longer in beta. Until then, I found some amazing workarounds to save a ton on my monthly bill. Solution to the Problem: Avoid talk minute costs One solution to getting around the lack of Wi-Fi calling is to use Google Hangouts, which lets you dial using your own phone number over Wi-Fi for FREE!  What’s more amazing is that Google Hangouts uses data, not calling minutes, so it’s part of the $10/GB plan.  Just for reference, Google Hangouts uses about 40 megabytes per hour of talk. That means you can talk for 2.5 HOURS for just $1 basically anywhere in the world.  That’s insane considering U.S. carriers charge $1.19 per MINUTE.   Ultimate Dream Team: Google Fi & Google Hangouts This strategy of Google Fi plus Google Hangouts has been a game changer for working abroad.  It lets me use my iPhone just like I do in the U.S. without needing to notify anyone that I’m out of the country.   Hope these hacks help you with your future travels too! Let me know in the comments if you tried any other hacks that work for you! Sign up below for more travel hacks sent straight to your inbox! * indicates required Email Address * First Name Last Name Birthday / ( mm / dd ) Pin for later!

Best Credit Cards and Bank Accounts for Digital Nomads

I have always been borderline obsessed with money.  It wasn’t until Sana and I got married that I realized money doesn’t bring happiness. Turns out the age old adage is age old for a reason.  Don’t get me wrong, having good income makes life easier. Traveling with enough of a budget to afford the “Entire Home” option is much more comfortable than staying in hostels. But money alone won’t bring happiness. I have always done research into banking and credit cards. Which came in handy because having a bank account as flexible as our travel plans has definitely taken some stress. In this post, you’ll learn about the best credit cards and bank accounts for digital nomads. Of course the first thing to do is check your budget. But you can read more about that here. Why we bank with Charles Schwab One of the most important things to me when choosing a bank was having access to cash internationally without racking up huge ATM fees.  A lot of the cities around the world are mostly cash only, so having access to it is pretty important. I don’t like to take out large amounts of cash in one shot just in case something were to happen.  It might not seem like a lot, but after ATM and foreign exchange fees, you could be looking at $8-$15 USD per withdrawal. Multiply that by twice a week, and you’re spending $64 – $120 USD per month just to take out your own cash!   Many places in Europe and Asia cost less than $50 a night. So now you’re talking about two “free” nights per month. Which is equivalent to three “free” weeks per YEAR! That’s just by choosing a bank that reimburses you for ATM and foreign exchange fees. Charles Schwab offers both ATM reimbursement and foreign exchange fee reimbursements from any ATM, ANYWHERE!  I’m a little sad I didn’t switch to them earlier in life, instead of always walking around in search of a Bank of America. Chase Reserve: The Best Travel Card I try to avoid using cash whenever possible.  Instead, I pay with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. The card gets 3 points for every $1 spent on dining and travel and 1 point per $1 on everything else.  Life as a digital nomad involves a lot of travel and dining related expenses. So it is awesome being able to maximize those categories. The points are worth 1 cent each, which may not seem like much, but it adds up quickly.   There are several ways to redeem points, including cash back, but the best value comes from using the points on Chase’s Ultimate Rewards travel site. Your points are worth 1.5x when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards. I was a little skeptical at first.  I thought Chase must be jacking up prices for travel to offset the crazy bonus they offer, but after a lot of research, I can say that’s not the case. Chase recently began using Expedia to power their Ultimate Rewards site, and the prices are still consistently some of the best I’ve found. Chase Sapphire Reserve Sign Up Bonus The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is incredible for nomads.  They offer a ton of other great benefits (including Global Entry reimbursement), but there is one big downside.  THE PRICE!! The annual fee on this card is $450! But it’s a little misleading, because you get a $300 annual travel credit.  So the net fee is $150, which is still steep, but it’s worth it if you travel a lot. Another big perk is the signup bonus of 50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months.  On the Chase Ultimate Rewards’ site, those points are worth $750! A Charles Schwab account and the Chase Sapphire Reserve has been our go to for our financial needs.  I think this combo of bank account and credit card is perfect for digital nomads. I hope it helps you in your journey too! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about Schwab, Chase, or any other card you’ve been wondering about.

Budget & Debt

Probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get is “how are you going to afford to travel the world?”.  Well buckle in, because this is my first post of many dedicated to all things finance, including saving money, financial tips, budgeting, being debt free and whatever else comes to mind.  I have a few pointers that can help make your dreams of traveling into a reality (and to be honest, just all around good financial tips for life).  Personal Finance Software The first step is to take an honest look at your financial situation.  It’s okay to be in debt, most of us have at least some of it, you just need to have a plan to manage it.  The first step is to get on Quicken or Mint.  These programs allow you to track your income and expenses as frequently as you would like (monthly, weekly, etc.). This way, you'll have a much clearer financial picture.   Personally, I prefer Quicken because of its ability to project cash balances. Once you enter all of your bank accounts and credit cards, you should be able to see where your money is going have much more control over where you want it to go.  One piece of advice when creating your budget, treat your budget like a diet, if you deprive yourself of the things you like most, you’ll never stick to it. As much as we know going out to eat or for drinks (especially drinks) is expensive, it’s not realistic to think you can go from doing it 4 nights a week to none.  Instead, trim the things you don’t care about as much first, and go from there. There’s also no shame in becoming thrifty with how you spend your money. Happy Hours exist for a reason! Managing Interest The next best way to put more cash in your pocket (or in your travel fund) every month is to minimize or stop paying interest altogether.  Whether you owe on one card or five, you want to try to pay as little interest on it as possible. A great way to achieve this is by taking out a debt consolidation loan, preferably from a local credit union.  In my experience, credit unions can offer loans at rates below 8% for up to (5) years! While you can make your loan terms 5 years, I recommend sticking to below 3 years. And make sure you add the monthly bill to your Quicken or Mint account.  The most important part here….. Don’t get yourself buried under credit card debt again, make sure you pay off your credit card balance in full every month. A great way to achieve this is by taking out a debt consolidation loan, preferably from a local credit union.  In my experience, credit unions can offer loans at rates below 8% for up to (5) years! While you can make your loan terms 5 years, I recommend staying below 3 years. And make sure you add the monthly bill to your Quicken or Mint account.  The most important part here….. Don’t get yourself buried under credit card debt again, make sure you pay off your credit card balance in full every month. If you don’t have the discipline to stop yourself from overspending yet, just cut up the cards and pay for everything with cash.  You may not be maximizing travel points, but your future self will thank you. A loan is a great way to payoff your debt in a fixed period without it being too much of a burden.  A bonus is that it's significantly lower than credit card interest with an APR of 15-20%. Balance Transfers If you think you can pay off your debt in 12-15 months, or if you don’t get approved for a debt consolidation loan, the next option is to take advantage of promotional balance transfer offers on another card you have.  Many credit cards offer 0% balance transfer promotions for 12 - 15 months with a 3-5% transaction fee. The transaction fee is charged upfront (usually tacked on to the balance transfer), but if you think about it as “interest” you’re paying way less than your credit card charges you for interest.  If you don’t have enough available, you can always call to request a line of credit increase. Like I mentioned earlier, you have to stay disciplined after transferring, so you don’t find yourself in further debt. Time to Eliminate Debt If none of the above is an option for you, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and pay interest.  There are a few methods financial experts suggest with fancy names, but I’ll keep things simple. If crossing things off your list motivates you, then use all of your available funds to pay off the lowest balance credit card first while making minimum payments on your other cards.  Once you’ve paid off that card, pat yourself on the back because you’re making moves, and start paying down the next lowest balance card. Repeat this cycle until you are debt free! Another method to paying down debt (my preferred) is to use your available funds to pay down the credit card with the highest interest rate first.  Once that card is paid off, move on to the next highest interest rate card and repeat until you’ve made debt your bitch. Check your Credit Score It’s worth mentioning that as you pay down your credit cards, your credit score should go up.  I have been using Credit Karma for years to track my credit score with no complains.  The best part is it’s free! After some time, about 6 months,  you can (and should) apply for another debt consolidation loan.  Unless of course you’re almost debt free. This stuff may not be the most exciting (unless you’re me), but it’s crucial if you want to travel (or really just live) a lower stressed life.  Getting a firm grasp on your debt is empowering. That doesn’t mean you have to live debt free, just make sure you’re not crippling your personal cash flow with debt.  

How to: Prepare for Long-Term Travel with your Pet

When we thought about traveling the world, we thought it could only be a dream because we have an adorable little Shih-Poo, named Pepper. We see a ton of travel couples, but the ones with a pet usually travel by van and camp out and we’re definitely not the camping type. [Imagine how much money we could save if we didn’t love luxury travel!]  We’re trying to do as much research as possible to get this done right but I’m sure we’ll deal with some thing or another. When we do, we’ll be sure to update our blog to provide you with all the necessary information on traveling successfully with your fur babies!  If you have any questions on how to travel with your pets, feel free to leave a comment or email us at info@lifeofnomads.com  Before Travel: Do your research! Before you commit to a destination, look up the requirements for flying with pets from your origin to that country. Each country has their own rules and regulations for bringing pets in and taking them out of the country.  We made him an ESA [Emotional Support Animal] cause who are we kidding? I can’t sleep without the fur ball on my head. So we got an official letter from a therapist and this letter has helped us save SO much money. Flights usually charge anywhere between $50-$200 in pet fees just to let them travel in the cabin with you. If the pet is an ESA, they can’t charge you for this! So now we get to travel with him for free! Unfortunately, there were a ton of other fees associated with traveling with your pup. One big one is the international health certificate that most airlines require. See below for a list of airline links to pet travel. You’ll have to obtain this document from your local USDA-Accredited Vet and take it to the USDA to get it verified. Most Vets charge anywhere between $80-$150 for this and you’ll need a new health certificate every 10 days before a flight and it is valid for 30 days from your travel day. So for us, we’ll need a bunch of health certificates from multiple countries. I better get started on researching for a USDA-Accredited vet in Mexico!  A Health Certificate usually includes the following information: Name and address of the dog’s owner Identifying information for the dog, including breed, sex, age, color and markings Date of vaccination and the name of the vaccine used Date when the vaccination expires. If no expiration date is stated, the vaccination must have been completed within 12 months before arrival in the U.S. Also, make sure to do your own proper research for the flight you booked and follow their requirements for pet travel. Remember, a lot of airlines don’t allow pets to certain countries so do your research before you book!  Day of Travel Pet Carriers have qualifications they have to meet and they count as 1 carry on bag, so plan accordingly. The maximum dimensions for hard-sided kennels are 17.5 inches long x 12 inches wide x 7.5 inches high (44 cm x 30 cm x 19 cm). The recommended maximum dimensions for soft-sided kennels are 18 inches long x 11 inches wide x 11 inches high (46 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm). It’s important to get your pets comfortable with these carriers well in advance! If you can, I’d highly recommend putting your pet in these carriers and going for short drives and gradually increase to longer drives. Something that we found helpful is adding a blanket that Pepper LOVES in the carrier with him to remind him of home.  Feed your pet and get them to go potty to empty out their little bladders if your flight is over 6 hours. Remember, a pet can go 12 hours without food. Trust me, you’d rather have food ready for them when you get to your destination than have to smell something immensely unpleasant during a flight. It’s also just better etiquette for your neighbors. Then make sure they get a good work out. Run around the block for a couple miles to drain their energy. This will help them fall asleep quicker on a flight and be less anxious, and hey, it’ll probably help you fall asleep faster too!  Some Airline Requirements: Airlines sometimes have stricter guidelines than the country, when it comes to pet travel. Here are some helpful links to help with your research: Delta Air Lines: Delta Pet Policy and Other Information American Airlines: American Airlines Pet Travel Information and Policies United Airlines: United Airlines Travel for Pets Information JetBlue Airways: JetPaws Program Southwest Airlines: Southwest Pet Policy and Pet Reservations Spirit Airlines: Spirit Rules for Pets Onboard Other Modes of Transportation Traveling by air is by far the most complicated way to travel with your pet. When we get to Barcelona in April 2019, we plan on traveling by train through Europe to make it easier for Pepper.  We did some research on a few different trains and some allow pets, others don’t. Some have a maximum weight limit as well. Luckily, Pepper is only 11lbs and most weight limits are about 20-25lbs. For example, only service dogs are allowed on Eurostar. Some trains allow you to travel with dogs over the limit but require a muzzle. [I hate those!]  Again, some trains have more requirements than others and some countries still require a health certificate 5-30 days beforehand. Please do your own research or comment below and I will try my best to help out!  Subscribe to our blog and follow our Instagram. We’ll send you a monthly newsletter highlighting our latest blog post and update you on our travel plans. We will also provide you with plenty of awesome tips for traveling with a fur baby!