The only thing better than free is free that saves you money – or even better, pays expenses you might have had to incur.
Yes there's cheap, free and cheaper than free.
All the travel essentials in this post fall in one of those three categories. The goal, as always, is to help you travel farther longer and more often – which is what Travel Money Tuesdays is all about.
So here are five online and offline travel essentials that are important for travel safety and for saving money as you travel. I recommend that you have a good look at all of them and consider adding them, or something similar to them, to your travel resources.
Five Travel Essentials You Need
Virtual Private Network – It's simple
Why? With a VPN everything you send or receive over public WiFi, whether on your phone, computer or tablet, is encrypted thereby protecting your identity and allowing you to safely bank and buy online on the road.
Getting a VPN is easy (click here for details on the what, why and setup of a VPN). I use StrongVPN as recommended by my tech advisor but there are dozens on the market. I pay $69/year and did the set up myself. If you just want it for a month you can get VPN for $10. However, I find it helpful at home as well as while traveling so I pay for the year.
A Backup Credit Card – Free so why not?
Why? Because you can lose a card and should have one hidden away for such an occasion and because when you're traveling out of the country you're not guaranteed that every card will work.
I always travel with more than one credit card. In fact, I travel with three. I have the one I want to use out of the country which has no foreign transaction fees and then one that I will use if necessary which is my rewards card. Hidden away just in case I have a third card with no annual fee – it's free and is the backup to my backup. And yes, I have had to use it. Note: The links above show you options for Americans. The Chase Sapphire card which is on two of the lists is both a rewards card and has no foreign transaction fees. There's an annual fee but I find with my premium rewards card I earn much more than the card costs me.
Travel Insurance – know when to pay and when not to
Why? Because things can go wrong. In the last 18 months I've received over $1,500 in three claim payments and I also saved over $200 by not buying insurance for a car rental that I was pressed to buy but knew I didn't need because my Canadian credit card in US$ had it covered. So my insurance has actually been cheaper than free. I believe in insurance when appropriate and not when it's not.
So far I've been winning at the insurance game. To go through this here would be redundant because I have two posts that cover this topic well. Please have a read…
- When to Buy (and not buy) Trip Insurance?
- Do I Need Travel Insurance? Top Bloggers from 6 Countries Respond
Travel Apps – Saving you Money in Many Ways
Why? These apps are free and can help you save money on things like flights and communication.
- Hopper – great for predicting airfare price trends.
- Skyscanner and Airfarewatchdog – I use these for price change alerts
- Trailwallet – great for tracking spending on the road
- Skype and Facetime – Skype may be the original for video chatting but Facetime for iphone users is great too.
- What'sApp – excellent for free texting over WiFi. Great for texting to individuals and to groups.
Products that Protect: Keep Your Money & Documents Safe
Why? Because pickpockets are real and RFID (radio-frequency identification) skimming is a concern. RFID skimming is where, with the right technology, a person near you can gather data from your credit cards without your knowledge. There’s a bit of a debate about it but there’s no harm erring on the side of safety.
A money belt or a neck stash will keep your valuables out of sight and hard to get at. I don't always use them but there are circumstances when I do. They start at around $10, a little more if you get one that has RFID-protection. You can also get RFID protected card holders and leather wallets.
So there you have it. The list of my cheapest travel essentials. Yes there are other things that I travel with but these are so cheap no one should go without them.