Travel Tips. Before you go, and money, and losing your phone, (and scorpions).

‘Nother long one … but some good stuff.

Yeah, a road-trip is all about freedom and escape, but ..let someone and banks know where you’re going and for how long – Whyyyy?”

IF LOSE ALL OF YOUR MONEY, I.D. AND HAVE NOTHING – you will need a friend or relative who can ‘wire’ some bucks. Before you contact ‘friend back home’ (awkward!), ONE money transfer company I spoke with said that you will need to ‘at least’ give the State / Province of the branch that will be receiving your dough, and AT BEST they are 9 to 5pm hours. They may be a key-cutting kiosk outlet in a mall, that closes on religious holidays. Seriously. (Depending, you MAY need to give an actual address to tell your friend to send it to, so get that info before making that “one last call” from a borrowed cell – or prison cell.) Again depending, (you, with no I.D.), your friend may have to give a security question such as “what’s my cat’s name”? Or they could be a dick and ask “Q – Why did the universe have such low entropy in the past, resulting in the distinction between past and future and the second law of thermodynamics?” (A: – “Bootsy?”) Go to the money-transfer place to get the ‘rules’ BEFORE you call ‘friend’, (and make friends with someone with money before you leave). Not sure of a ‘beg-for-immediate-money’ site online, but …ya never know.

You may avoid rushing to the local police with no I.D. (unless it’s an emergency or it’s “Andy of Mayberry”), as they’re kinda busy with ‘other stuff’ and not there to welcome tourists. But you know who IS THERE to welcome you? Tthe local “Welcome to California” Center, kiosk, hut, people, THAT’S who! They are actually, usually, great! They won’t give you money but can point you in the right direction for the night. They are there to help, but may be volunteer and ‘folksy’, or even an un-manned collection of brochures in a mall that closes at 3PM like Santa Fe, NM. But, don’t panic. People can be good and will help. NOT to categorize, but I once needed help with directions and went into a strip mall, outskirts of Dallas. “7-11 there … dentist office over there …”. The dentist office people were very understanding, knowlegable, and helpful. I’ve also walked into a fire station. They’re non – threatened! Just sayin’ (Use your head.)

IF you find NO MONEY in your account, but still have ATM access (Yeah, me in London), you hopefully have a VERY GOOD FRIEND (like ROB) who will deposit money into your account, but IF they can’t email / transfer – and not everybody can or is set up to (think of Grandma), you may need your ‘bank transfer number’ (Again, 1 quick call before you leave?) Or wait 12 hours until the sun rises on that side of the planet when they can get to a bank. Mine turns out to be “60”. This number is usually not online but will be on a cheque / check if you have a blank one, which is not a bad idea to tuck into your wallet – just in case.) Or call my friend Rob!

I actually have an email sent to myself with a scan of my cards including passport, credit cards, ATM card, (back and front), and any emergency phone numbers, etc., – but it is NOT labeled “IMPORTANT INFO” or anything like that. (I think it says “boring work email” or something. Good luck trying to find it. I can’t!)  I mix up numbers such as “21456” by typing 21 for fiver sex” Just to screw with the ‘bad bots’ looking for patterns.

IF you lose your phone / computer access, you can usually ‘borrow’ a computer in the lobby of a classy hotel – or library! (Um, yes I had to take out a library card in St. Louis to access their computer. They were very nice. I was very quiet.) You may even have to ‘beg’ to borrow someone’s cell phone. (And yes, there was this time in Orlando when I, … err ..never mind ..)

I really suggest connecting with your bank and card people before. In my experience, your bank can usually re-start your ATM card after a phone call during their business hours and some verification, a long on-hold time with bad muzak, and “recorded for quality assurance”. (But that may NOT be your case!) Obviously many people know this but in conversation with 3 separate people (who haven’t traveled a lot), I was surprised that they hadn’t thought of contacting their ‘card holders’. Also recently, having lunch with a good friend who does travel a lot said “you don’t have to do that anymore” (inform them) and after he was pick-pocketed overseas said, “they offered to get my credit card to me (from Canada) within 2 days!”. Now, they (bank) may have said that as he’s not a liar, but I say NO WAY I’m taking that chance! I want it ‘noted’ for reference before I go! (How does your bank know for sure when your ATM (Bank card) or Visa number is used on the other side of the planet – that it hasn’t been compromised, unless you TOLD them you’d be there?) I just do it on-line. Takes 2 secs.  Maybe I’m wrong .. but …

VISA – in my experience – cannot. That’s not a slam to VISA or other card companies as they do that for a very good reason. (Yes, I did get a call from them asking if I was in Conneticut and did I purchase blah blah. I said “No, nor have I ever BEEN to conneticut!) They WILL have to send you an actual new card, WILL need an address to send it to, and in my experience, it may take up to 10 business days or more. NOT a good situation when you’re road-tripping! Worth checking before. I actually once said “send it to The Florida Evergaldes..I’ll find it.”

IF you do not tell them (Bank, Visa, etc.) ahead of time, you may risk the “security robots” shutting down your card immediately as it may be ‘red flagged’ for possible theft. Then you’re screwed. I was screwed in Mexico when my bank card was shut down on my first day. I was screwed in Florida when I went to use my VISA card (but had not told them I would be travelling there). I may be paranoid about this but nothing ruins your day more than having NO ACCESS TO MONEY! Even recently when I was in Georgia (U.S.) and HAD alerted my bank as to my travels and dates, butI decided to take a last-minute, ‘un-announced’ day trip into Alabama. I stopped just before the State line to hit a bank machine so I wouldn’t have to use my cards. (Never told them about Alabama! But again, don’t want to trigger them Bots!)

I know some are going to disagree and have different experiences, but point being, why take a chance? We’re dealing with digital, technical ‘robots’ with no beating heart, soul, or functioning, logical, case-by-case, brain. (Much like my daytime job.) The ONE TIME that a card problem occurs will be on a tolled freeway in Kansas at 10PM as you are short on gas and really thirsty. (Yes, this happened to me.) Awkward explaining to the ‘toll guard’!(“Sorry.” And, “are you finished with that Gatorade Ma’am?”) Then what. Argue over the phone at 10pm, Kansas time to a ‘phone-tree’ – “but your call IS important!” because some unsure, young bank dude said “don’t worry about it!”? Check with your card people before and make sure they understand the importance. (Or get their personal cell number for that 10PM call from Kansas.)

Let an actual person know where you’re ‘sort-of’ going. Personally I only pre-book my first night’s hotel and my last night’s room. (The thought being, if it all goes to HELL for 2 weeks or whatever, at least I’ll have a paid-for shower and continental breakfast at the end of it all. Some even have waffles. Mmm waffles.) But it’s at LEAST one place “for sure” on “this date” that someone will know. (Unless you die in the desert and are eaten by scorpions half-way through your trip, – but then, there’d really be no need to send you a new VISA card now, would there? And that’s the good news.) On one trip to New Mexico I said ‘bu-bye’ to my Dad (whom we had just removed from 9 months in hospital into a great ‘long term’ facility), but he died the day I flew out. I landed in Albuquerque and drove to Roswell, Lubbock, TX, Amarillo, Santa Fe, back to Albuquerque and flew home 1 week later. (They had to delay his ‘services’ until I got home – as they had no way to contact me.)

Although a road-trip is an escape in many ways, not a bad idea to let some know, and have a ‘contact’ point / date along the way. Just sayin’, just in case.