TEN HELPFUL TRAVEL LINKS FOR A HOME FREE ADVENTURE
All changes over time and in the electronics world, they change even faster. In May 2016 I eliminated three of my original ten items and replaced them with others, due to our changing electronics and communications.
In April 2011 we retired, left Chicago via RT66 and have been traveling ever since. Much of the time has been spent in the Southwest with trips to Mexico, China and two extended trips in Europe. We have neither a home nor RV. Here is a list of some tips and Internet links we have found useful for a home free lifestyle.
Please visit my BLOG and Photo Gallery to see where we have traveled during our retirement adventure.
Vacations Rentals By Owner, VRBO is our go-to site for lodging needs. This is also the same rental company as Home Away . Here you will find privately owned homes and condos for rent to travelers who wish more homey accommodations vs. a motel, hotel or hostel. When traveling it is useful to have a microwave, refrigerator and stove so that you can prepare some of your own meals or snacks. European kitchens come in many varieties, ranging fully equipped to hot plates and no ice maker, and some homes and condos have two bedrooms to allow you to spread out more. These rentals are often set in residential neighborhoods, which hopefully provides a less touristy travel experience. Each rental listing has a slide show of the unit being offered, reviews from prior customers and secure means of payments, such as Pay-Pal. We have made over 50 such reservations and have never had a single minor financial issue.
Repositioning Cruises, Vacations to Go This site offers only repositioning cruises. A Caribbean cruise is inviting to someone stuck in the snow of South Dakota in the winter, but much less inviting in the hot summer months. Therefore, the cruise industry re-positions their boats to provide service to other locations, in the case of our first trans-Atlantic crossing, Fort Lauderdale to a port near Rome, Italy. Since we have no home and no place to stay, we are not in a hurry to get anywhere, so a lengthy cruise offering fine lodging, food and service fits the bill. A trans-Atlantic cruise for two with a balcony will cost us about $6,400, there and back. (Repositioning cruises are really one way tickets, not round trips) Plane fare from California to Rome costs about $4,000 for two, round trip. So while we are paying $2,400 more than airfare, we get 30 days lodging and food. With no home, we have to pay to live somewhere…. Here I did an analysis of cruising to Europe vs. flying. Cruise vs. flying to Europe
3) Cash / ATM:
Charles Schwab offers a bank account with an ATM Card that works in almost all international bank ATMs. Since it is not possible to visit a physical Charles Schwab Bank to withdraw funds, they reimburse you for the assessed access charges from all other institutions. I have tested this across the US and internationally. You will see your reimbursed ATM fees as extra deposits in your monthly Charles Schwab bank account. In addition, all my monthly bills can be run through Charles Schwab as automatic payments so you do not need to cut checks or log-in to pay bills on the road.
4) US Mail Services:
Dakota Post Mail in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Where and when you receive your mail is up to you, but Dakota Post is in the business of delivering it as you travel. Whenever you are in one location for an extended period of time or staying at a relative’s house, advise the fine folks at DakotaPost via a phone call or e-mail and they will send you your mail, omitting all junk mail. It has been years since I received any junk mail. A single delivery per month on the day you choose currently costs $168 per year, plus postage. Your mail is not forwarded to this South Dakota address, this is your address, for banking, voting, drivers license and federal tax returns. Because we own no land, have no ongoing business and fully intend to return to South Dakota in the future, we are residents of this tax-free state, which also has low vehicle insurance and registration costs. Another great similar mail service option is: Traveling Mailbox
5) Foreign Transaction Costs:
CapitalOne Venture or Chase Marriott Card credit card. When making a purchase in
another currency, many credit cards will charge an expensive foreign transaction fee, typically an additional 3% of the total purchase. Obviously this can add up over time. We currently use the Chase Marriott Card as our primary credit card accumulate many points for free stays in a Marriott Hotel. It is best to select one card and concentrate your efforts for the best rewards. There are other credit cards with no foreign transaction fees, but these are the two we use. Any card you choose for travel should be a recently issued CHIP card. Europe expects CHIP and PIN transactions, but as of 2016 the US issues ‘CHIP and signature’ which will still cause a bit of a fuss sometimes, but DO NOT try to use your old technology magnetic ‘swipe and sign’ cards. With CHIP and signature transactions, you may be asked to provide ID like a copy of a passport or drivers license. Further, when making credit card purchases in another country, when offered the chance, accept the charge in the local currency, not the US $. Your credit card company will always give you a better exchange rate than the foreign entity. I’ve tested this many times and have found no exceptions.
6) Mobile Financial App:
Personal Capital App: It is a mobile world with smart phones and you’re a mobile traveler. Download the ‘Personal
Capital’ App and you will have all your brokerage accounts, dividend income, saving and credit card accounts in one easy to manage place. Even if you have made the determination to hand all of your finances to some financial guru, it would still be a useful app and wise to track your guru’s performance and fees. Without such an app, if you wish to check the charges on two credit cards and your brokerage account, you would have to sign in and out three times. With Personal Capital, you can sign in once and use your thumb print as your log in. Great all round mobile financial app. Another good mobile app is SigFig Wealth Management.
7) Smart Phones:
Quad-band smart phones and T-Mobile as your phone carrier is my current choice when traveling internationally for extended periods of time. In the Apple world quad-band means an iPhone 6 or newer. The term quad-band describes a device that supports four frequency bands: 850 and 1900 MHz, mostly used in the USA and the 900 and 1800 MHz bands commonly used in Europe and elsewhere. Be on the lookout for penta-band phones which may soon be available. A penta-band phone will support a fifth frequency band, the 2100 MHz band used in other parts of the world.
The quad-band phone and T-Mobile allows you to seamlessly travel from the US to Europe and many other places and have good phone and Internet service magically upon arrival. As a bonus, when I switched to T-Mobile in 2016 no annual contract was required and they bought out my Verizon contract and paid the $270 penalty for me, in the form of a gift card.
The intricacies of dialing from a USA phone number from one country code to another is easily remedied through smart phone technology. The phrase ‘Dial Assist’ pops up on my screen and the call magically goes through.
With the Internet and your smart phone, mark your foreign rental apartment as a ‘new contact’, First Name = Barcelona, Last Name = Spain. In conjunction with a map app on your phone you can now wander about the city for hours and easily find your way home via the narrow, walled, winding streets.
Any article which touts buying a local sim card and refilling it as needed is likely addressing a short-term tourist, not a traveler. The tourist will need to hurry home, back to obligations after ten days or so and the traveler will continue on. Keep in mind buying a sim card in Romania will not have English electronic set-up instructions.
When getting in a cab with your smart phone, show the driver your destination address from your phone which you have previously pasted in Pages or Word in LARGE font eliminating any communication issues. Save this as a Directions Page and it will be properly formatted for your next use, saving time. Then follow his driving progress in maps to your destination. If he hears the maps app speaking to you, he will know not to drive you around on a more circuitous and expensive route.
Home Free Adventures Lynne Martin wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal October 22, 2012 where she described their wandering lifestyle as “senior gypsies.” This article piqued my interest in a nomadic lifestyle in my much-anticipated retirement as I trudged off for another uneventful day at the salt mine. I cut out the article for future reference and inspiration. Lynne and her husband Tim have since built a home in California so they are no longer Home-Free.
Go Curry Cracker is an active travel site full of helpful travel and financial information. This home free family of three constantly travel the world. I highly recommend this site for useful travel information.
9) Dress like a local:
…as much as possible, or at least don’t dress totally unlike a local. You will likely never see a retired
resident of Europe, a pensioner, wearing shorts unless they are at the beach. Pair your shorts with bright white tennis shoes and long, pulled up white socks, and you’re screaming “I’m an American Tourist!” Regardless of how you dress, any merchant you deal with will certainly know you are an American. Also, any good pickpocket will also know you are a tourist from a distance. But if you wear long dark pants, dark shoes and a collared shirt at least you will not stand out like a gazelle wearing red pajamas in the herd. Also, don’t spread that six-foot long tourist map out with both hands standing on a street corner. For security, don’t carry your passport, just a copy of it. Put your wallet into a zippered pocket. The goal is not to try to fool people into thinking you are a local, rather the goal is to not stand out in the herd, “No pijamas rojos” as they might say in Spain.
10) Investments and Savings Software:
Quicken Deluxe Computer Software: Hope is NOT an investment strategy and don’t stick your head in the sand (or dirt…) Many people easily cite the numerous reasons for their lack of savings or poor financial situation, accepting a defeatist attitude. Worse, non-savers often blame others, not themselves…. Quicken, made by Intuit, is Windows-based software that empowers you to track your financial improvements, whether you are trying to get out of debt, save for a specific event, or grow your investments. I have used Quicken software since the early 90’s. (As of May 2016, the Apple Quicken version is not worth getting) Tracking our expenses and income helped determine our budget in retirement and our ability to retire. When using one set of retirement assumptions, Quicken would eventually give us the green light, saying our goals were met and we could retire. I would then make the retirement assumption more conservative, now failing the retirement algorithm. When our retirement plans were again given the green light, the assumptions were made even more conservative. Eventually my wife discovered this tactic to keep us in the workforce…. We retired soon after. I have used just about every computer retirement program available, some free and others costing over $800. In my opinion the Quicken retirement program which comes with the Deluxe Windows version is all that is needed. Quicken allows you to make your own retirement assumptions, automatically update your investments, track your net worth and overall financial progress. Even for those who have turned this important task of personal financial management over to a trusted financial adviser, why not do some double checking with this software? Quicken would also improve your understanding of your financial condition so that you can ask more focused questions of your adviser. Don’t let a lack of financial understanding lead you to quiz your restaurant waiter in more detail than your financial adviser.
It is too bad our culture and the media are so geared toward consumption and spending on more needless toys or fashions of the day, rather than savings. When a radio DJ gives away $1,000 to an ecstatic listener, he will ask how the money will be spent. Think how odd it would sound if he asked “Are you going to invest this, or use it for debt reduction?” Our high schools generally do not help this situation as personal finance classes are typically not a part of the curriculum. You may need to strike out on your own to learn personal finances. Two good places to start for a basic financial understanding are the WEB Sites of:
We used to watch Suze Orman every Saturday night on TV and listen to Bob Brinker on the weekend radio when traveling on the weekends. Do not accept an attitude of “I can’t.” Having savings, no debt, and a clear path to financial freedom is very empowering. These two financial gurus can help you establish and attain your goals. For us personally, only about 10% of our expenses are covered by a pension, so we must manage our investments and make them last.
To assist you in your planning, here is a partial list of my final Quicken retirement planning assumptions to help you understand some of the variables involved.
- Longevity: 95 years old. What is your family history like. How long have your parents and grandparents lived?
- Inflation Rate: 5% per year. This is a very high rate of inflation considering a 1.5% rate in December 2013; .8% in 2014 and .7% for all of 2015. The average for the last 100 years is 3.3%. Assuming a 5% inflation rate would require one to save and accumulate much more than a lower inflation rate estimate, so it is a ‘conservative’ financial assumption, providing a cushion for unforeseen events.
- Investment returns: 6% Almost half of this, 3%, of this can come from dividends so I am only looking for about 3% market appreciation annually.
- Social Security income, reduced by half due to possible future needs-testing by our government.
The most succinct advice I can pass along to young savers is: “live below your means.” When you are fortunate enough to get a raise at work, increase your savings rate before increasing your spending and buying some item destined for a future garage sale. If you can recite endless sports statistics but think Japanese candlesticks are for the Thanksgiving table, you are a prime candidate to increase your financial knowledge. You have the power to greatly improve your financial situation. Quicken can help you get started on a path of financial freedom and empowerment.