Five Places To Register Before You Travel Overseas

There's always a lot to organise before you head overseas: itineraries, accommodation, your packing list, and filling your device with entertainment for the flight. But in the rush, you shouldn't forget to notify some key organisations about your plans. Here are the five most important.

Picture by thinboyfatter

1. Smartraveller

You've probably seen the incessant TV advertising campaign for the government-backed Smartraveller site running right now, which is just as well: it's an option many people ignore. Registering your travel plans with the site means that consular officials know where you are and how to get in contact with you if there's an emergency. You might think you're travelling somewhere relatively safe, but natural disasters or bus crashes can happen anywhere. The site also includes up-to-date information on issues to consider for different countries, and a useful travel checklist covering issues you might not think about otherwise, such as the implications of dual nationality for your travel.

2. Your bank

It's easier than ever to use your credit card or bank card when overseas, but it's very unwise to do so. To combat fraud, banks monitor every transaction that happens in your account, and if a bunch of withdrawals suddenly happen in Frankfurt but you live in French's Forest, the normal conclusion is that fraud is involved. If they can't get hold of you in a hurry (often tricky if you're overseas), then the likely outcome is that your card will be suspended — not what you want in the middle of your dream holiday. So ring your bank and notify it that you'll be on the road. Problem solved! This usually does involve a phone call or a visit to a branch — I'm not aware of any bank offering this option as part of its online services, but if you know different, tell us in the comments.

3. The Post Office

If you're going away on a brief trip, you can potentially get a neighbour or friend to collect your mail and stop it piling up as a burgle-me-now signal. If your trip is longer, however, paying to have your mail temporarily redirected back to your local post office makes sense. You can apply for the service online, though at least three days notice is needed. (The other alternative, if you travel a lot, is to get a post office box, which eliminates the need to have constant diversions.)

4. Your neighbours (perhaps)

If you're on friendly terms with your neighbours, then letting them know that you're hitting the road makes sense: as well as (potentially) emptying your mailbox, they can keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. If you don't know your neighbours, this is less wise: at best, it seems like an unfair imposition, and at worse, you might be merely advertising that your house is empty to someone with malicious intent.

5. Your social networks (perhaps)

A similar judgement call applies to boasting about your trip on Facebook, Twitter and the like. The obvious upside is that you can get advice on places to visit. But some people warn against this, arguing that it advertises your absence to burglars. Whether that bothers you will depend on a bunch of factors: can your address be easily discovered online? Are you confident in your household security? How big an issue is burglary in your neighbourhood? There's no hard and fast rule here, other than consciously thinking about it makes more sense than diving online without due precaution. (One strategy if you're paranoid: ask well in advance of the trip so you're not promoting when you're away.)

Got any additions for this list? Share them in the comments.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman sometimes feels like it would be easier to notify people when he is home rather than away. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.


Comments

    The Bank! This one annoys me.
    The whole point of a Visa or MasterCard, as they are sold to us, is the world-wide acceptance.
    They don't call to verify internet transactions, yet they feel it's necessary to interrupt my holiday, calling my phone, to limit their liability, while I incur roaming charges, to verify a transaction I just PIN/signed for, and they approved. Nuts to them.
    I carry several cards, if a Bank wants to cancel a card that's fine, I'll use a different card/bank.

      "They don’t call to verify internet transactions" - Where I work we do indeed call to verify internet transations.

      "to limit their liability" I see.. so the $5,000 (or whatever your balance is) that gets ripped out of your account while you're away is not any hinderance. We will refund regardless, it's got nothing to do with liability.. it's got to do with account security and minimising loss.

      "to verify a transaction I just PIN/signed for" You do realise that these people can create a new card with full magnetic strip, within hours of getting your card's details, and then PIN/sign for it? I assure you, we see this occur DAILY.

      "necessary to interrupt my holiday" with a quick phone call beforehand, you wouldn't be bothered.

      @Angus - "I’m not aware of any bank offering this option as part of its online services, but if you know different, tell us in the comments. " - Where I work there is a facility, within the secured internet banking facility, that allows you to send secure emails direct to customer service.. so you could just send a message from there... though a regular email, even from the email address you have linked to your contact details, wouldn't be enough.

        And where is it that you work?

          sounds like ANZ by the terminology

            Not ANZ but not important. :)

        What is the main issue with the practice of the bank contacting the customer regarding a transaction is the process implemented to do so. I’m a customer of an Australian bank who calls me and asks me to give them details to prove to them who I am. Time and time again I explain that I have no idea who they are calling me telling them to tell me who they are before I tell them anything about me or my account. They sometimes try to prove who they are by saying “I just told you I’m calling because of the recent transaction you did in country x or online”. The result is always the same: They hang up with a bad attitude – I lodge a complaint with the following comments:
        Stop contacting your customers and asking them who they are as anyone can call and say “I’m calling from XXX Bank”. The practice currently used by your bank installs the procedure in your customers that THEY SHOULD authenticate themselves to someone contacting THEM just because they say they are calling from your bank. You are grooming your customers vulnerable to identity theft. Instead create an automated process sending sms, email or if no response a letter to the customer stating: “Dear (INSERT REAL CUSTOMER NAME), We wish to get in contact with you regarding recent transactions on your account with us. Please call us on the number printed on the back of your card ending with number XXX”.

          AMEN to that Fred... If the banks want to get truly serious about identity security... then get serious about it... don't adopt the "do as we say, not as we do" policy. I too have had this frustrating, time wasting and hypocritical experience from Aust banks when travelling overseas, going about my business and leisure.

          @FredB - Yup, I *TOTALLY* agree with you. On one hand they tell you to never provide details to people who call/email and then they ring you out of the blue to ask for private and personal "identification" information.

          We don't do that where I work (ie. ring and ask the customer to identify themselves, we identify OURSELVES and never ask for personal information to identify themselves).. for EXACTLY the reasons you have detailed here.

    I can send the secure emails via my ANZ accounts. And I have had ANZ ring me twice to check that I had made transactions on my credit card.

      Suncorp has that option too.

    i like the concept of this post. thanks

    I went overseas recently and called up my bank, BankWest, to let them know and they directed me to a PDF form on the website to fill in and email to the CC Fraud department. All really painless and if i'd read the bit under the phone number I could of saved the phone call.

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