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  1. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Posts
    653

    Default

    Credit cards make things easy, for sure, but if your bank charges international transaction fees (as did my credit union) they can add up after a bit. Personally, I used my card for things like gas and hotels and cash for smaller purchases (like donuts and coffee at Tim Horton's). So near the border, most businesses take US dollars as payment, but the rate won't be to your advantage.

    One last bit of advice: if you use a Smart Phone, or a tablet with a data service, make sure your service provider includes Canada. If it does not? Turn off "roaming data" in your settings, or put the device into "airplane mode". Otherwise, you may get a rude surprise on your next statement (even if you don't make or receive any calls or text messages).

    Most hotels and restaurants offer free wi-fi, so that's what you use instead.

    Rick

  2. #12
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,722

    Default

    Yes, International Transaction fees can add up, which is why I would recommend finding a card that doesn't charge them, however, even in cases where they do charge, the fee is typically 2 or 3%. That 2-3% off of the official exchange rate is still often a better rate than what you can get from a cash transaction at a bank or currency exchange.

    Very good point about the Data/Roaming. I actually signed up for T-Mobile for one month during my last trip. They allow free roaming into Canada and Mexico, and thus their service north of the border was actually better than it was in the US!

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    10,104

    Default

    In fact, turn off your data roaming before you even get to the border - I've been hit with data roaming charges on I-8 and I-10 near the Mexican border. The phone locked onto a Mexican tower for a while. It was only a couple of bucks, but it's the principle that galled me.

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Posts
    653

    Default

    AT&T offers what they call a Passport Plan, 30 days for $30. It gives you unlimited texting and dollar a minute phone calls, plus limited data (it's really designed for emergencies, not daily use). T-Mobile is a terrific option. The guy who traveled to Mexico with me last fall had their service and it was great, even in the most remote locations. Actually, they contract with local providers in Mexico, and the cell phone infrastructure down there is amazingly good. (There's a reason why Carlos Slim is one of the richest men in the world). I suspect it's the same in Canada--though when you get very far outside the populated areas (like up in the Yukon), there's often no signal at all (so, you don't want to break down). I'd like to think that other phone companies will follow suit with Canada/Mexico plans, if only to stay competitive? But perhaps not. We're all cash cows to those guys.

    Rick

  5. #15
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    5,650

    Default

    We should be home by mid-July, Michael. Thanks for the hints about phone service and foreign transaction fees. I don't recall getting hit by the latter 16 years ago, and we're still at the same bank, so will have to find out for sure. I do remember using mostly plastic and keeping cash only for little things. I had a cell phone ... one ... 16 years ago, but I think I kept it turned off for most of the trip except when in the US (including Alaska).

    GLC, I tried to make a call when I was around the Glamis sand dunes near Yuma one time (which is just a short distance from the Mexican border) and got a recording saying that I was going to be charged a foreign roaming fee. I've never been charged extra for "just passing through" that area, but ever since that experience, I haven't picked up my phone to make a call until I was in Yuma or El Centro, where I knew I was on a USA cellular tower.

    So I guess I'll be making a call to our cell service provider, and to our bank. Thanks for the heads up!


    Donna

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    10,104

    Default

    Donna, with a smartphone your apps are all doing background stuff, so if you don't turn the data roaming off you WILL be hit with a data roaming charge just passing through.

  7. #17
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    5,650

    Default

    At the time when I got a recorded message telling me I was going to be billed international for that call, I had a dumb phone. But my bill has been the same every month for the last 2 years. So no data roaming charges to our knowledge! We've been pretty diligent about turning off the GPS locator except when it's needed, so perhaps that's been our saving grace.

    Checked with my phone service provider online. $2/day per phone line for a travel passport plan to Canada, which would equate to $4/day for the two of us, for 3 days, makes $12. That keeps us on the same data, text and talk plan as we have here at home. No extra data, but we don't usually use data while on the road except when connected to wi-fi.
    Cheap enough. Hubby said we'll do that, because on a long trip, one of us has a phone on at all times. (I have aging parents, and you all may remember when we lost his mom while on our trip 5 years ago.)


    Donna

  8. #18
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    5,650

    Default

    Just have to share my excitement! With the kitchen renovation going better than we had hoped, we went ahead and made a new purchase. We are now owners of TWO digital SLR cameras.

    We had been sharing the Canon Rebel T3i that we bought about four years ago. Sometimes one would take our old Sony video camera and the other would take the DSLR. For this trip, though, each of us carrying a still camera will be the order of the day.

    Shopping around, but still confirmed Canon camera fans, we ended up with the Rebel T6i. CostCo had a really nice kit: camera body, TWO lenses (we can share that 55-250 zoom), case, 2 batteries, charger, and a 32GB card, for $900. We checked other stores, including the local military exchange, but this was the best deal.

    They had another deal on the Rebel T5, but not the T5i. We wanted that swivel screen, and the extra lens clinched the deal for us.

    Donna

  9. #19
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    5,650

    Default

    My kitchen is *finally* finished. We had a pinhole leak that caused us to lose two banks of cabinets, one upper and one lower. Insurance helped out a lot, but not completely since their solution was to dry out the old cabinets and then reinstall them on new drywall, or replace the boxes and reuse the facing of the old one. Of course their solution was to replace our real wood cabinets with some built of particle board. Um....no. We went ahead and put out the money to replace our cabinets completely. Thank goodness, we had purchased top-of-the-line Home Depot Thomasville, they still had the same style and the same finish, and upon arrival 4 wks 2 days later, we discovered that the finish was an exact match to the ones purchased 9 years ago. Whew!!!!!!! We also hired our favorite contractor, the one who has done most of the work on this house for the past 9 years, and knows it inside and out, to do the rehab. Best decision on our part.

    What do you all do when you leave your home for a long vacation? In the past, we've walked away just leaving a light or two on timers, shutting down the icemaker on the fridge. Once bitten by a $10K repair (that could have been a LOT worse had we not been home), we're looking to be more careful. Shutting down the water to the house completely is not a possibility, at least not for this year. The sprinkler system for the back yard is tied to the house water, not separate like the front yard. (This is something we may remedy, down the line.) Not sure what else we can do. Anyone have ideas?


    Donna

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,660

    Default Eyes and ears.

    If you are lucky enough to have family live nearby, or a trusted friend, we usually leave a key so they can drop in to check on things and empty the mail box etc. Our neighbour also has said family members phone number in case of any emergency, or if they hear things going on in our property.

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