I’m not one of those crazy fear mongers that like to talk about the end of the world, etc. I am an pessimist most of the time though. There’s been tons of blog posts and even the media has told people to do this. It used to cost money to freeze your credit file. Because of security breaches, the government made this free. You should take advantage of this. The reason I’m posting this is because there are still many people I know that haven’t done this and very few people that I talk to have. You’ll hear about a new data breach once every few months or so and sometimes it’s big, sometimes it’s not. Regardless, your information is probably out there for purchase on the dark web. Back when Scott McNealy was CEO of Sun Microsystems, he said “You have zero privacy anyway … Get over it.” I think it’s truer today than ever.
That said, even if you data isn’t out there, you should protect yourself. One important way is to freeze your credit report. The links are below, but they can change at any time.
Note: You can unfreeze anytime for free and it’s instantaneous, but if you’re looking to get a bank loan, mortgage, credit card or something else that will require your credit to be checked, you might want to do that before freezing your credit files. If you have already frozen your credit files and need credit cards, etc, just ask them which credit bureau they’ll be running. Most banks will tell you. When they do, you can do temporary lifts and it’s a pretty simple process.
All credit bureaus have been breached at some point. They will be hit again. Please, freeze your credit files.
Some additional things to do are to keep an eye on your finances and monitor your personal credit report and financial activity. Nearly every bank now will also do credit monitoring for free. Sign up if you need to. If your bank doesn’t do it, find one that does.
I wrote this list mainly for myself, but thought maybe others could benefit from this. No matter how much experience you have traveling, I think you’ll always run into something you forget. Hopefully this list can help you minimize those things and allow you to enjoy your trip more rather than you needing to get out and get something because of an emergency.
Medicine – obvious #1 on my list. It’s not always easy to get medications, especially in foreign countries. Bring the ones you need – anything that you’re prescribed. For me, luckily, I don’t take any prescription medicines except for Montelukast (Singulair) if I have an allergy. I guess you can’t predict allergies. For that reason, I carry Loratadine (Claritin) as well. At my last doctor’s visit, he asked me to try Zyrtec instead of the combination of the two, so I will do that next time. Aside from the allergy medications, I would recommend some of the common ones. These include Tylenol or Ibuprofen, NyQuil, etc. If you need pills for motion sickness, sleep aid, caffeine, etc., you probably want to bring some of those as well. Don’t assume that you’ll be able to buy medications abroad. Some over the counter medications in the US are not sold over the counter in other countries. I was shocked to hear that Ibuprofen was considered a strong medication in another country. I also carry stomach medication just in case I eat something bad. I use the Japanese one pictured below. If you have asthma, even if you haven’t had an attack in a long time, be sure to keep an inhaler and if you use a nasal rinse, you might want to bring a bottle and some salt packets. I usually just mix mine with cold bottled water, but most hotels have water kettles to boil water.
Glasses/contacts – I recommend having an extra set of each just in case. What can you do if you can’t see?
Toiletries – toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, maybe a small bottle of mouthwash. Unless you’re staying in Asia, your hotel will not likely have these available for you. They may have some available for sale, but I like to carry my own.
Charging cables – you don’t want to be desperate without a cable. Do whatever you can to avoid paying the tourist price for a crappy cable. In Las Vegas, they were trying to sell generic iPhone cables for $40! Bring your own cable. I like Anker cables, but will carry super cheap cables I get off Amazon as spares as I lose cables pretty often. I also have couple of cables that charge both, my watch and phone.
Nail clipper – I cut my nails almost every week and I’ve bought countless nail clippers abroad. I think it’s good to keep one with you just in case.
Shaving Razors – I’ve also bought many of these abroad. If you’re staying in Asia, most hotels will probably provide you some disposable ones. I would recommend that you have at least one set with you.
Noise-cancelling Headphones – Bose QC35II – I don’t travel without them. I turn them on while I’m on a plane even if I’m not listening to anything just to cancel out the noise. Like a friend said, “They’re expensive, but they’re worth it.”
Humidifier – I keep a little mini humidifier with me when I travel because hotels don’t usually have them. This one works great for me.
Travel power adapter – I keep one of these even if I’m traveling domestically. I recommend you get one of those that has usb charging. I use mine for a night light and usb charging. Additionally, most plugs on airplanes are universal and they tend to stay in much better than standard U.S prongs. The one I use is this one.
Shoes/Slippers – If I’m traveling for work, I always keep a pair of sneakers in the luggage or the dress shoes in the luggage if I’m not heading for business the same day. Always have a set of sneakers or slippers just to be comfortable. I might also bring a pair of flip flops if I plan on swimming.
Extra underwear/socks – I always bring a couple of extra just in case there’s a flight delay or you get dirty for some reason, etc.
Workout clothes/Bathing suit – if you know that where you’re going will have a gym/pool, you should bring a set even if you don’t think you’ll have time to use the facilities. Many times, I’ve gone and been up at 5 am wondering what I should do. The gym is a great way to help you get over jet-lag.
WiFi hotspot – I have one of these so that I can share WiFi among my multiple devices – laptop/iPhone/iPad, but it’s becoming less and less necessary. United airplanes allow you to switch devices as you wish.
First aid kit – if you’re going to be outdoors and not staying at a nice hotel, bringing a first-aid kid with you. Your first aid kit should have things like alcohol, Neosporin, itch cream, bandages, etc.
Portable battery – I don’t usually need/use it, but I carry a portable battery with me most of the time just in case. If you get one, get one that can charge with multiple interfaces – micro-USB and iPhone if you can find it. I use this one. It’s a bit heavy, but it has a high capacity and it charges very quickly.
Laundry detergent – I’m pretty cheap, so I almost never use the hotel laundry service. If I’m staying for more than a week or so, I would look for a laundromat and do the laundry myself if laundry machines are not available in the hotel. If they are, all the better. For this reason, I usually keep a couple of detergent pods in my suitcase as well.
Hope this helps! Please tell me about some of the things you pack in the comments. 🙂
Unless someone really wants a gift card like the ones in the photo, I would not recommend it! They’re unsafe and prone to hacking. I’ve been burnt twice now for over $600 with no recourse. I bought these because I wanted to pay off some bills with American Express. Because those providers didn’t take AMEX, I bought Visas to do it with. I left the cards sealed and unopened in my drawer figuring that I would just use them later.
The first time I ran into an issue was when I logged into the website and saw that my $500 gift card had only $2 on it! Turned out that somehow, it was used at Gamestop for $497.xx. I had no idea how that could’ve happened! The card was in my drawer and I had just opened it! I emailed the company to file a dispute and I got this response:
Communication Update Subject: charge dispute Hello, Our team is currently working on your Case CS2767575 and has the below update. Thank you for your patience with this matter. Comments: Hello,
As stated in your Account Agreement, account discrepancies are to be communicated to us no later than 60 calendar days after the transaction history was first made available to you. Unfortunately, we did not receive your inquiry within this time limit. We have no recourse to recoup these funds for you.
Therefore, we are unable to credit your account, thus closing this dispute. Although we are not able to assist you further, we urge you to pursue this matter directly with the merchant.
We appreciate your business and value you as a customer. If you have any questions about this matter, please contact our Customer Service Department at the number or website address listed on the back of your card. This inbox is used strictly to receive documentation, or information requested related to the disputes processes. We are unable to provide account or disputes updates and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
Thank you, Customer Dispute Services Case Status Tracker(Resolved) What Next? Our customer service team will reach out to you shortly regarding your issue. Any Questions? Click here to reply.
Sure, I let the card sit in my drawer for a long time, but the card hadn’t expired. How did it get used!?
My best guess as to how the card got used: Their website sucks. Now, it has a little stupid check to see if you’re human – shows you a picture of a toy that you need to rotate and when you finally get it, you could check your cards – register the card to use online, check balance, etc. I think maybe the theft happened prior to this security measure was put in place. Maybe it wasn’t. Anyway, I think someone had a script that generated numbers against their website for CVV matches and return the gift card values.
I was unlucky. Hope you’re not next. If you must buy gift cards, definitely have a plan on using them. If someone gave you one, try to use it asap. Some ideas on how to use them – obviously, it’s best to get cash for them if possible. It’s possible, but not easy. I’ve traveled to different places where Walmart cashiers are oblivious and would sell money orders for them. Most Walmarts will not. I’ve also loaded a bluebird card with one as well. Unfortunately, none around me will do it. I think it’s just how lucky you are. The way I use the cards is by doing my regular spend and all of my bills. T-Mobile takes them, I’ve used them for my water bills and energy bills as well. It’s great that I could use them to the penny.
Hope this helps!
By the way, if you’ve been screwed like me and think this is worthy of a class action lawsuit, please let me know and I would love to join.
Here are a couple of videos that I find profound and very interesting. Unsurprisingly, they’re videos from a couple of my favorite Chinese actresses.
The first one is with Li Yitong 李一桐. I’ve been a fan of hers since seeing her in The Legend of the Condor Heroes. http://www.iqiyi.com/lib/m_208895914.html. In this video, she does a great narrative about breakup. Please watch the video if you could. The gist of it is that you should enjoy what you have. While you’re enjoying it however, you might be too busy enjoying it that you’re not spending the time to cherish it. You also don’t think you’ll ever lose it. Over time, things change and people drift apart. For her, he had known all of her weaknesses, all but one. Her biggest fear however was knowing one day that she wasn’t able to marry the guy. Well, she’s gotten used to not having him. Moving on, she wishes him well, thanks him for the memories and thanks him for allowing her to love her. Basically, be grateful. How profound!
With Athena, this was a quick replay of A Chinese Odyssey Part One: Pandora’s Box 西遊記第壹佰零壹回之月光寶盒, a film that I’ve seen a couple of times and undoubtedly will watch at least couple more. Also about love – interesting that she says that if you’re not in a loving relationship, leave. There’s someone else out there that’s waiting for you. I certainly hope that’s true. I don’t know if it is, but I do think it’s a beautiful story.
While shopping this holiday season, don’t leave travel points or rebates on the table! A lot of people, myself included, often will just go straight to Amazon or eBay for certain things without even thinking about shopping around for the best deal or what rewards they can get for a purchase. I must admit that I’ve bought things countless times off of those sites either going directly or using a link off of a deal site.
Shopping online is almost always better than shopping at a brick and mortar. It’s almost always cheaper at least. One thing about shopping online though is that you can’t touch the product, smell it, etc. That said, you can always use the store as a showroom – go to a store and do that and then order online.
Decide what you want to buy: If you’re just looking for a deal and not looking for something specific, some of my favorite deal sites are: slickdeals.net, bensbargains.com, and spoofee.com. When you’re looking for something specific, you should search the forums on slickdeals.net to see what others say as well. For some tips on saving money from Amazon, check out thebabbleout.com.
At the point where you’ve decided on what you’re going to buy, do NOT just add to cart and buy. That won’t give you all the discounts or points you want.
Use Gift cards: First off, do you have any gift cards? If not, would it be worthwhile to buy one and get some points off of it? The best way to acquire gift cards is by seeing if there’s one you can get at a significant discount. A couple of ways to do this is via eBay or Gift Card Granny. Another one of my favorite ways to acquire gift cards is at 5% off. When the Chase Freedom card has 5x points on stores that sell gift cards, that’s when I go out and buy them. I bought a few thousand dollars worth of gift cards at Safeway the last quarter they had 5x points on grocery stores. That’s about 5% off right there. Another way I like to acquire gift cards is through Mileage Plus X. With it, you can get one or more United Airline miles for every dollar you spend on a gift card. I have learned whenever going to a chain store to check the app to see if I can buy a gift card for use.
Use shopping portals: When you’ve decided for certain what you’re buying and which store you’re buying from, if you’re buying online, you want to see if the store can be access via a shopping portal for additional rewards. The site I like to use is evreward.com. It’s generally up to date, but sometimes, other shopping portals can run special promotions so that you might not want to miss. Also factor in bonuses. Sometimes, the shopping portals can run bonuses so you might want to buy from the same one, like if you spend X amount of $ using the portal, they can give you Y amount of points. The various shopping portals can give you points from a plethora of different loyalty programs, including cash back. Here are some of my favorites: Ebates.com for cash back, American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping for AA miles – they’re generally more than United miles. There are other shopping portals, but those are my favorites. It just depends on which airlines you like to fly, hotels you like to stay at, or if you would just prefer cash.
Buy with the credit card that gives you rewards. Lastly, use the credit card that gives you the rewards you want. This could be the Target card that gives you 5% off, your favorite airline card or your favorite cash back card. Just remember that when you spend cash, you lose cash.
So, here are some examples:
Last year, on Black Friday, I foolishly went into Target and bought an iPad. It was a great deal. I think it was $400 for a 64 or 128gb. I tried my Target card, but forgot the pin. I didn’t want to get back into line again, so I just bought it with my regular card that probably gave me 1% back. That’s only about $4. Had I been able to use the Target card, I would’ve gotten about $20. That’s a significant difference, but had I bought online, where I didn’t need to even leave the house, I could’ve used the AA portal, at the time that was giving 3 points per dollar, and gotten my 5% + about 1200 AA points. 1200 AA miles is a mid distance flight! There aren’t too many discounts for Target gift cards, so I’m going to leave that to another example.
I was in need of a laser printer and for some reason, after perusing deal sites, I decided on a Dell. There weren’t a ton of deals at the time, but then I decided to use gift card granny, that sent me to buy a gift card from Raise.com. The printer cost about $100, 108 with tax. I paid $96 for the gift card, giving me $4 off. The credit card I used to buy the card gave me 2% cash back, so I took another $2 back on top of that. I again used the AA portal to give me 3 AA miles per dollar and got just over 300 points.
There’s a local banya that I like to visit for hot tubbing and sauna. The typical entrance fee is about $50 for a 1/2 day. The place also sells a Groupon for about the same price for a full day. I never go for more than a 1/2 day anyway. Why would I buy a Groupon when there’s an expiration date and it’s no cheaper than going direct? Again, gift cards and shopping portal. I don’t remember what % off I got from Gift card granny. I might have bought it from Safeway @ 5% off. Then I took 3 AA miles/dollar @ the AA shopping portal. I’ve had up to 10 miles/dollar for Groupon via the United portal.
My last example is an interesting one. Capital One gives you a credit card number instantly after you’re approved when signing up for a new card. For this reason, I was able to use it immediately and knock out about $500 of spend before I even received my credit card in the mail. I keep a list of all of the automatic payments I made and when I get a new credit card number, I change them all immediately. I did this immediately after I applied and was approved for the Capital One Spark card. I then put the number into Mileage Plus X and went to the mall. There, we ate at Red Robin, Cold Stone Creamery, bought gifts and Hollister and Bed Bath and Beyond. For all of those things, I bought gift cards with the Mileage Plus X card. Spent all this money without even getting the credit card yet.
Happy Spending! Hope this read saves you some money! 🙂
If you got some however, please don’t throw them out. Here’s how to make them taste better. I was watching an episode of Diner Revival where Amanda Freitag show someone how to make a gluten free pancake and used a banana. That inspired me to give it a shot and it worked well! When following instructions, add a banana to the mix before putting them in the blender.
It’ll add just the texture you want. They’ll taste almost like regular pancakes. Of course, add maple syrup or honey to your liking. 🙂
I just bought a refurbished printer/scanner from the Epson store online and with it came a quick start guide and manual, but the manual only came in Spanish! WTF!? Did I buy the device in Mexico or the US!? What’s the United States coming to!? Last time I looked, the United States’ national language was English! You can confirm that here too! Then, I got a motion detector light because at my house, the street lights aren’t directly across from my house, so I can’t see where to stick the key in at night. Going by my sense of touch just wasn’t enough, so I decided to get one of those. It’s the model E100WSB-C made by EML Technologies, LLC. Why the heck did it only include instructions in Spanish!? Do they assume that most installers are Mexicans or of South American descent? I can understand having both languages, but really can’t understand Spanish only. It makes no sense to me.
If you can guess, I’m totally against education of subjects other than foreign language in a foreign language as well. I don’t see why school systems need to teach mathematics in Spanish or history in Spanish in the United States. I think that if you come to this country, you should be learning the national language.
Also, when was the last time you dialed into an automated system and heard, “For English, press 1”? I don’t remember not hearing that!