Archives for April 2007


Five Tips for using your Debit Card Overseas

Electronic banking brought a fundamental change to the way I travel, no cashing traveller’s checks or quiet negotiations with wily money changers in foreign markets, just a debit card, credit card and a small emergency cash reserve. Follow these five tips for smart debit card use on your next vacation:

Use affiliated bank ATMs. Your bank has affiliate banks ion other countries and they usually wave transaction fees for your ATM withdrawal. Check with your local branch or the bank’s website.

Know your daily withdrawal limit. We changed our account to reduce fees without checking all the conditions. A year latter we found out our daily withdrawal limit had been reduced to $250 a day. Unfortunately, we were in Rome and reliant on cash transactions for most of our accommodation costs. We had to use a cash advance on the credit card, a very expensive alternative. Check your daily limit before you leave.

Advise your bank of your travel plans. Your bank is protecting your interests and will freeze accounts if unusual transactions suddenly appear in your statement. Advise your bank and credit card provider of your travel plans and carry contact numbers to resolve any problems whilst overseas.

Minimise your transactions. Fewer transactions reduce your exposure to fraud and fees.

Safeguard your card. Keep your debit card in your money belt with your passport and other valuable documents.


Travel Photographs – New York City

Each week I post a few of my personal travel photos to inspire your travel dreams. This week I chose my favourite shots of our visit to New York City.

Ground-Zero - NYC Twin Towers Site

Big-Nick's-Burger, NYC

View-from-the-Central Park


The Five Secrets of Travelling with Teenagers

The generation gap becomes a yawning chasm during an overseas vacation unless you maintain the decrepit rope bridge that connects your plan and their teenage expectations. Teenagers look forward to hanging out at the mall with their friends and an overseas vacation shackled to their parents is not a high note in their summer plans. You invested thousands of dollars on the vacation; ensure everyone gets value for money. We apply five secret strategies to our vacations. As a result, our teenagers enjoy the experiences and the travel is fun for everyone.

Secret One: Itinerary Compromise
Your kids are your travel companions; ensure they help plan the itinerary. Brainstorm the route together, list the major sights and attractions, and discuss everyone’s itinerary preferences. Cram your trip with museum visits and cultural events if you enjoy the company of apathetic teenagers. Add an afternoon riding the luge or an evening rock concert and you are instantly hip.

Secret Two: Let them decide what to Pack
Arguing over what to pack is a direct route to a lousy vacation, and an unhappy teenage travel companion. After several arguments over clothing choices, we discovered the second secret. Everyone has a bag, broad guidelines and instructions to pack anything they need and is prepared to carry. A quick sanity check ensured they packed enough necessities but otherwise we left the choices to them. Our daughter wore $2 slippers everywhere, and both favored jeans despite the heat of summer. Happy with their own choices, we never heard a complaint about heavy bags or sore feet, a first in our travel adventures.

Secret Three: Maintaining Contact with Friends
Three weeks without their friends is cruel and unusual punishment for most teenagers. Find hotels with Internet connections or close to Internet Cafes so the kids can get online to chat or exchange emails. Learning the latest gossip at home is more valuable knowledge to your teenager than the fascinating food preferences of ancient Romans. It is also a time to reflect on their travel, the boring morning at the museum is suddenly a cool experience to see Michelangelo’s David’ when chatting to friends who spent the day watching Sponge Bob.

Secret Four: Entertainment
After a long day sightseeing, you may enjoy writing a journal entry over coffee, watching CNN and reading a book but your teenager is bored. Bring their favorite entertainment with you. A laptop is a multi-purpose recreation tool and we never travel without one. It also serves as a portable darkroom for our family of digital photographers.

If technology is not a travel option, select books that appeal to everyone, old favorites or cannot miss new editions like Harry Potter are best, and find travel versions of your favorite board games. Sharing a bedroom with your teens for three weeks is a challenge for the happiest families, reduce the boredom and you are one-step closer to a successful journey.

Secret Five: Give Teenagers as much freedom as possible.
Teenagers want freedom more than any other commodity in their lives. At home, they go to the mall, the movies or just hang with friends, stretching their boundaries like an eaglet testing its wings before the leap off into the world. Many parents hold their teenagers back in foreign countries; afraid that they will get lost or fall victim to local criminals but the reality is most countries are no more dangerous than your neighborhood is.

Armed with a map, money and a sense of adventure, a parent free afternoon exploring or shopping becomes a vacation highlight. With the kids happy, you can enjoy a romantic meal for two at the quiet little cafe around the corner. Stretch your budget and book two rooms at least once a week; teenagers enjoy the freedom to stay up late watching movies and you can enjoy the romance you came for.


What do I put in a Basic Travel First Aid Kit?

A basic first aid kit should be part of every traveller’s packing list but what you need to carry depends on your destination and health. Every first aid kit should contain the following items:

Aspirin or ibuprofen

Antiseptic cream

Band-aids (variety of sizes)

Blister kit (moleskin or duct tape are popular choices)

Insect repellent


Add Dramamine if you suffer from motion sickness.

List of medical contacts and translations for common aliments and medications.

This should be sufficient for most travellers needs but add any non-prescription medications that you use on a regular basis. Always carry your prescription medications in their original container with a copy of your prescription to ensure you do not run afoul of the local constabulary.

Check the US State Department and Australian Smart Traveller websites for additional health information for your destination and enhance your basic first aid kit as required to meet any unique requirements. For example, malaria prevention medication is recommended for many countries.


How to Enjoy your Vacation without Worrying about Work

Last week I told you how to find time for travel, this week I’ll reveal the secrets for travel without worrying about your work. The keys to a work stress free vacation are planning and delegation.


Four weeks before your vacation, create a list of the tasks that are due before or during your time off.

Create new (earlier) deadlines for tasks that are due during your vacation.

Can you complete all these tasks before you leave? If not, list all the tasks that can be handled by a co-worker.

Negotiate new completion dates for any task that cannot be completed or outsourced to a co-worker.

Even with the best planning there will be unanticipated delays or new tasks that emerge during the last month before your vacation. Take a few minutes to revise your plan each day to ensure you stay on track to your well-deserved respite.


Delegating your tasks to other people can be stressful because we all know that no one can do our jobs as well as we do them otherwise we are expendable, right?

Wrong, there are no indispensable people in the world, everyone is replaceable but you’re a capable employee, well-respected and your boss knows that you earned this vacation. Time to delegate, split the tasks into two lists:

Delegate Down. Either elevate a team member to perform your supervisory role or distribute tasks amongst the team. The increased responsibility is a vote of confidence in their abilities and an opportunity to further their careers.

Delegate up. Some responsibilities cannot be delegated down and need to be reallocated across the management team. Meet with your supervisor, discuss your list and agree a plan for each of them, either delegated to a peer or to your supervisor.

One final task, set up the out of office rules on your email with a list of the responsible persons if they need immediate assistance. Leave a similar message on your voice mail or redirect your phone to a colleague. The work is in good hands, now you just have to enjoy yourself.