My Personal Bucket List

A few years ago, a started writing up a “bucket list” of things I would like to do while on Earth. It started off with about ten items and I’ve been gradually adding to it. It’s to the point where I’m not sure it’s doable but I’ve got a few things checked off which I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Here we go…

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My Terrifying Experience With a Wolf Spider

This is a story of how I nearly had to hand in my man-card a few years ago. It came up in conversation so I thought I’d write a post on it as sort of an archive. It happened when my wife and I moved into our new place and we had no idea that we were invading a spider colony.

This was I guess because the neighborhood was a bit new and our house was about a year old and had been left vacant for a month after the previous tenant moved out. Because of this, we had the everyday run-ins with the spiders as they were used to living free of humans.

Personally, I do not like spiders, much as they help us get rid of other pests, I think they could do this better outside. Anyway, most of those we’d seen were small harmless beings. Or so we thought…

When we first moved in we saw a couple of the wolf spiders and thought we had seen the last of them. A wolf spider looks like a small tarantula and I am generally not one who minds killing pests in the house, but large spiders are where I draw the line. This was confirmed on our last trip to Hawaii where large insects love to hang out. It is also highly unlikely that I’ll trap one and take it outside.

My wife is a workout enthusiast. The kind who never misses a day, she works out including holidays and even gets up early during tax season when accountants are doing overtime. One morning, while I was still sleeping and probably dreaming of the latest episode of Vikings, I awoke to my agitated wife yelling about a big hairy spider on the floor. When I finally woke up, she pointed at the wolf spider almost as big as Texas on top of her gym shirt.

It was then that I realized that we might have to burn the house down and move. It also occurred to me that my wife was waiting for me to do something about the huge monster in the room. She must have realized that I had no intention of dealing with the spider in the closet in the near future.

Upon realizing this, she had the brilliant idea to call her dad to come and deal with it. In that instant I couldn’t help but think of how I would have to hear for the rest of my life the story about how my father in law had to wake up in the middle of the night to save us from a horrid monster while I hid under the covers. This would reinforce the idea that I did not have a real job as writing and psychology are not ‘real men jobs’.

I realized I had no choice but to face my fears. I dragged myself out of bed and looked into the closet. Then I saw it, huge, hairy and imposing… daring me to come any closer. I could feel a thin trickle of sweat down my back. I even considered letting her call her dad. They wouldn’t even miss us at the family functions. But that wouldn’t work.

My wife trusted me to deal with the beast and I was not going to let her down. I picked up the first thing I saw which turned out to be a shoe and suddenly wished I had bigger feet. Just as I was about to end the spider’s life, my wife yelled that it was a wolf spider and they jump (oh c’mon!).

Note: Since the incident, I found that wolf spiders are pretty much harmless according to https://www.ridmycritters.com/how-to-get-rid-of-wolf-spiders but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get one as a pet.

This must have scared the spider because it decided to run and hide further in the closet. We both breathed a sigh of relief before we realized that we now had to look for it. By now I was very spooked out and did not trust a shoe to help me kill the monster.

I had with me the arm of our vacuum cleaner. This would ensure that I did not have to get so close to the spider to kill it. Once we had located the spider, I turned the vacuum cleaner on and sucked the spider up like our lives depended on it. We then put the vacuum cleaner in the garage for a couple of days to make sure the spider wouldn’t come back.

Luckily, we have not had any other spider related close-shaves. While I still hate spiders, I’m educating myself a bit more on the RMC site I mentioned above and their Facebook page.

Fishing in Lake Tahoe

tahoe-tripOk, I know that my About Me page mentions that I’m not much of a writer. Well a lot has changed since that time and I’ve really started to take a liking to it. I still have a ways to go before I publish my first book (haha) but practice makes perfect. My wife actually encouraged me to write this post about my trip to Lake Tahoe. It is in a slightly different format. Here goes…

The phone shook violently from its perch on the picnic table. I adjusted my body and set the steaming cup of coffee down on table before picking up the phone. It was a text from my son. I put in the password to unlock my new smart phone. I was still getting used to all the options but it was a handy little thing. I hit a few buttons to bring up the text.

“Good Morning, it is about 6:00 here, the girls are still sleeping. I just have to load up the truck and I will be ready to go.”

I chuckled slightly as my fingers slid across the screen. “You are getting a late start. Its 4:00 here and I already have the coffee done.” I sent the text and picked up my cup. The warmth helped clear the winter chill from my bones. I smiled and shook my head. At thirty seven degrees the December weather here in Lake Tahoe would have been considered spring back in Wisconsin. My phone buzzed again. I pulled up the most recent text.

“I just got the auger in truck. I just need to grab a few more things and then layer up. How long is it going to take you to get ready?” The text read.

I chuckled again. I looked down, my waders were already on my feet. I stood up and walked to my tent. I unzipped the fly and reached in to grab my fisherman’s life jacket, which I finally decided to buy after reading about in a life vest reviews site I came across last Fall. I checked the pockets that held my various gear and tackle. Everything was in place. I closed the tent fly and headed to my truck. I looked carefully at the various rod and reals before choosing my ugly stick. I was going to be going for big game today. I walked back to the table and took another sip of coffee.

nice-catch“Ready.” I texted. I sat and watched the area around. I took another sip of coffee before sending another text. “The phone told me it is going to get near seventy here. What is the weather like in Tomah this morning?” I walked over to the coffee pot freshened my cup. My phone buzzed several times before it made it back to the table.

“Cold” the first text read. “We are not supposed to break zero today.” The following text stated. “You have an extra spot in that camp site?” The last text asked.

I laughed again. “There is always room. You are going to have bring my granddaughters with you though.” I sent the one text and started sending another. I tucked the phone into one of my the pockets of my new fishing life vest and began my walk to the lake.

“My phone buzzed just as I was approaching the lake. It was picture of the old ice fishing shack with caption “Not going to find this in California.”

I turned on my camera and took a picture of Lake Tahoe. A clear lake wreathed in snowy mountains. “You won’t find anything like this in Wisconsin.” My phone buzzed again.

“Setting up the tip ups now. Remember the rules Grandpa Ed. The person with the smaller fish buys a plane ticket to visit the winner.” The text read.

“I expect my granddaughters to be joining you once I beat you.” I pulled out my lucky spinner and attached it to the end of my fishing line and stepped into the lake. It would still be a few moments before he got started. A preemptive strike. I threw the first cast of the day.

Top 10 Things to Do in Hawaii

Hawaii stands alone as the only state that is composed entirely of islands. The Hawaii contains several climate and terrain types, including tropical, mountain, and flatland. Each one contains diversity that is unique to the island chain.

Explore the Islands

The Hawaiian island chain is filled with many things to discover. As you explore Hawaii, you will come upon well-known beaches, breathtaking views, and experience a very unique environment.

hawaii-beaches1. World famous beaches are the main attraction. Hawaii has an astounding variety of beaches, including white, red, and black sands. The Travel Channel has a good list of beaches in Hawaii but here are my favorites:

Poipu Beach is one of several that have been awarded “America’s Best Beach.”

 

Hanalei Beach is renowned for it’s alluring sunsets.

 

Papohaku Beach is one of America’s largest white sand beaches.

 

Punaluu Beach is a black sand beach composed of volcanic ash and rock.

2. Hiking is a wonderful experience. You will find some of the best views on foot, away from the bustle of other visitors. Be sure to visit Leahi (Diamond Head) to enjoy some of Hawaii’s most breathtaking views.

3. The Beauty of Nature can be found everywhere. From pineapples to colorful shells, Hawaii offers something for everyone. Be sure to include a visit to Hawaii’s volcanoes, the natural forces that raised these islands out of the sea.

Experience the Sea

hawaiiIsland life has grown up around what the sea has to offer. Whether you go by boat, in the water, or beneath the waves, you will bring home wonderful stories.

4. Boating and Day Cruises will allow you to get as close as the original island inhabitants. This is the only way to reach some of the more secluded beaches and sunken vessels.

5. Unsurpassed Surfing is abundant in Hawaii. Beginners and experienced surfers alike will find ample opportunity to hone their sport. Hawaii has some of the largest waves in the world.

 

Kahaluu Beach Park is excellent for learning to surf.

 

Waikiki Beach, one of Hawaii’s best-known beaches, is great for beginners.

 

Waimea Bay is regarded as the birthplace of big wave surfing.

6.  Snorkeling and Scuba Diving are popular. Whether you are searching for the rare pearl, taking a closer look at tropical fish, or exploring a historic shipwreck, a mask and a pair of flippers will give you the best view you can get.

Investigate the Culture

Hawaii has been populated for more than a thousand years, and contains a variety of history, unique cuisine and island culture. Hawaiian culture is both educational and entertaining.

7. Hawaiian culture reaches back into prehistoric times. One example is Kaunolu Village on the island of Lanai. In Honolulu, tour the residence of Hawaii’s last monarch, Washington Place.

hawaii-food8. Hawaiian cuisine is a memorable experience. The islands have several world famous chefs. Hawaiian cuisine is best known for it’s meats and produce raised in the rich soil of volcanic deposits.

9. The island chain’s National Parks contain diverse examples of endangered species, including the majestic humpback whale. For up close fun, the tidal pools of Hulopoe Bay contain a variety of marine species.

10. History is everywhere you look. Prehistoric village ruins, early Asian influence, and colonial expansion are some of the historical treats, along with the wartime artifacts of World War II.

  • Kaunolu Village marks the oldest prehistoric village on the island chain.

  • Pearl Harbor, Oahu, is the place where the United States was officially drawn into World War II.

  • Kona is home to many temples, including the first Christian church on the islands, and Ahuena Heiau, built by King Kamhameha I.

Hawaii really does have something to do for everyone and it’s a very safe place to visit for the most part. Because tourism drives its economy, thievery does exist here. If you must take valuables with you, I highly recommend making sure the hotel you are staying at has a safe in your room. My friend Tim, who runs the site gunsafeadvisor.com, is an expert in gun safes which are frequently used as safes for other valuables. Since he does a lot of traveling, he has been a good resource on Hawaii. Be sure to read his article on his recommendation of the best gun safe for cars which would prove to be interesting for those who prefer roadtrips to flying.

Essential Safety Tips for Garage Doors

garage-door-safetySomething that can be overlooked so many times in many homes is not only the regular maintenance of garage doors, but the overall safety of them as well. This is a factor that can be unfortunate due to the fact that approximately over 30,000 individuals are injured every year in incidents related to garage doors, some of which can result in death.

Personally, installing a garage door in my first home caused me to slip off a ladder and literally fall on my head. I fractured a vertebrae in my neck and suffered a ruptured disc. It wasn’t until 3 surgeries and years of wearing a home cervical traction device that I started to not notice the pain.

Want to have to use one of these because you wanted to install a garage door yourself?

neck-stretcher

Image courtesy of: Back Pained.

 

So, take it from me, if you’re considering installing or performing regular maintenance on a garage door (which is generally done every year), these are processes that are best completed by a pro rather than attempting the job yourself.

Here are some general tips to make note of regarding garage doors that will help to keep you and your family safe.

Installation

As previously stated, the installation of a garage door is something that should always be completed by a professional. Many times, homeowners (especially non-coordinated ones such as myself) will try to complete the jobs on their own in an attempt to save money, only to find that they will have to contact a professional anyway when they discover just how difficult the process actually is. Additionally, if you were to install the door incorrectly, you run the risk of becoming injured, as well as causing the door itself to operate in a faulty manner.

Repair

Professionals should be contacted for two reasons when it comes to garage doors: installations and repairs. While there can be the instance of a faulty garage door operating if you try to install it yourself, the exact same exact risk also exists if you attempt to make any repairs on your own. While contacting a professional to make any necessary repairs is generally the best option to take, it can also be more cost-effective at times to outright purchase a brand new door.

Operation

It’s important to always take the opportunity to test your garage door on a regular basis in order to ensure that it’s working properly. There are a wide variety of doors that come with motion sensors, which are designed to detect objects that are underneath the door itself. Whenever any object is detected, the door will not be able to close, which is important due to the fact that it will prevent all sorts of accidents from taking place, such as small children accidentally getting crushed. The best way to test the door’s sensors is to simply slide a piece of wood under it, then close it. If the sensors are working properly, the piece of wood will be detected and the door will not close.

safety-releaseEmergency Release

Another aspect of importance regarding garage doors is the emergency release feature, more specifically how to use it. In the event that something occurs with the door and you need to manually open it, the emergency release will need to be activated in order for this to happen. One great example of this would be if someone were to accidentally become pinned underneath the door.

Garage Door Opener

Under no circumstances should any children be permitted to go anywhere near any part of the garage door’s operating features. All buttons should be installed at a decent enough height that will not enable children to be able to reach them. Furthermore, parents should take the time to teach their children about basic garage door safety.

Electric Wires

It’s important to keep in mind that all garage doors are powered by electric wires, which can obviously cause a great deal of injury. This makes it even more important to always hire a professional to complete any and all installations and repairs because if you make even one wrong move, not only can you potentially injure yourself, but you could also injure someone else in your home. Additionally, be extra careful around the spring that is designed to control how the door itself moves, as this spring is heavy and has the ability to cause a great deal of injury and/or death in the event that it pops off. If this spring does pop off, never attempt to repair it on your own.

A New Healthier Me

high-cholesterolWhen I retired last year, my wife and I decided to move away from the cold Wisconsin winters, and closer to our young grandchildren in southern California. As an active couple, we were excited to enjoy all that California had to offer.

Things were going great. We took every advantage of the temperate weather in our new home and spent time walking through area parks, taking the grand kids to the beach, and even learning to sail. I’d never felt healthier.

The Not-So-Good News

That’s why the results of my first physical with my new doctor took me completely by surprise. When I went in for the follow up, to find out the results from my lab tests, my doctor informed me that my cholesterol was dangerously high. With numbers like mine, I was at increased risk of heart disease and stroke, and I needed to turn things around.

Knowing that I was already physically active, my doctor suggested that I meet with a nutritionist to look at ways I could help lower my cholesterol through dietary changes. I’ll be honest; I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy. Always have been. Changing up my diet didn’t just sound unpleasant, it sounded scary. I did some research on nutritionists and what exactly they do.

Time for a Change

I didn’t know if I could make the kinds of changes I figured I would have to make, but I knew I wanted to be around a long time. I was loving retirement, spending time with my wife, with the grand kids, enjoying all life had to offer. I made the appointment.

Meeting with the nutritionist (don’t confuse nutritionist vs dietitian) actually turned out to be one of the best things I could have done. My wife went with me, so we could learn together about the healthy changes we’d have to make in my diet.

coconut_oilThe nutritionist showed me several ways I could improve my cholesterol quickly. Ideas like cutting back the saturated fat in my diet and changing the kinds of oils and spreads we were using could make a lot of difference. I didn’t know a lot about different types of fats, and we’d used the same margarine for years. I had no idea that there were buttery-tasting spreads that not only didn’t raise your cholesterol, but contained ingredients to help lower it.

She also advised me to increase my fiber intake. I learned that fiber rich foods are important in managing cholesterol levels, and they help maintain colon health, too

Finally, the nutritionist convinced me to try more fresh fish, and even provided us with some great recipes. Living close to some of the best fish markets in the world, we had no excuse not to add more of these powerful cholesterol fighting meals, full of omega-3 fatty acids, to our menu.

Results

In the weeks and months following my physical, I’ve seen a lot of positive changes. My cholesterol has come down significantly and I even lost some stubborn abdominal fat. As great as I was feeling before I found out about my high cholesterol, I am feeling even better now.

Changing my diet wasn’t as daunting as I thought it would be. My wife cooks with olive oil now, and we’re choosier about the spreads we use, saving butter for special treats. I grill more fish than steaks, having found several selections we enjoy. And we’ve really increased the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables we eat, visiting farmers’ markets together and enjoying the bounty of the local growers.

If you have high cholesterol, or better yet, before you have a problem, see a nutritionist and see what healthy changes you can make. I know you’ll be glad you did.

Top Woodworking Projects for Kids

Woodworking is a popular hobby and a good way to introduce kids to tools. The concepts of simple machines and safety learned in basic carpentry will apply to almost any other project. Introducing kids to basic projects will show them how easy and functional carpentry can be. Adults also use more complex tools, but they are based on the same principles, so learning how they work as a child will lead to more options.

Tool Box (easy)

toolboxOne of the first projects for kids to work on is a tool box. This is a popular choice because it demonstrates how a few common tools can be used to create a sturdy and useful item. Keep in mind, you don’t need to spend a fortune for the best hand tools. I trip to Harbor Freight is all that’s needed. Since it can be made from a single piece of wood, it shows kids how to make the most of the available resources. As a bonus, they are easily customized with paint so they will have a handy tote they decorated on their own.
Assembling a tool box requires the use of the following:
  • handsaw
  • hammer
  • screwdriver
  • nails
  • screws

To show how to use additional tools, a square will help make sure the pieces fit together neatly. When kids see how easy it is to follow the plans, they will be encouraged to try another project.

Jewelry Box (Medium)

jewelry-boxAnother project that is commonly used to introduce kids to carpentry is a jewelry box. One of the reasons this is a popular choice is that it can be given to the child’s mother when it is complete. The same plan for a box is also easily adapted to other uses depending on the need. Boxes are a interesting choice because they offer options for those with different skills or who want to learn how to use more tools. One option is to use a miter box to cut the boards at an angle for a more sophisticated look.

Those who are ready for more advanced techniques can learn to cut dovetail joints in the pieces used for the sides so they fit together snugly. When giving boxes like this as a gift, the chance to add a finish will teach kids the value of preserving and protecting the wood with a sealer or a stain. Assembling a lid means learning the value of taking fine measurements so it fits exactly and how to add hinges to improve the quality of a project. For some good tool buying advice be sure to do your research online so you don’t waste money on tools you don’t need.

Bird House (Advanced)

birdhouseBuilding projects that are clearly functional will appeal to kids when they can see them being used everyday. This is where a bird house is an excellent choice as it will be highly visible and put to good use. Since it provides shelter for local birds, it will be appreciated for more than just a way to practice using tools. Some of the features of bird houses and feeders make them good for demonstrating additional techniques.

The roof will be more attractive when it is cut with a clean mitered joint. The walls and sides can be cut to any shape the child desires, as long as the front and back and both sides match. They also offer the chance to practice using drills to add openings for birds or to make small holes so a dowel can be inserted as a perch.

Learning to use carpentry tools safely is a valuable skill that gives every one a chance to build some of the things they want instead of buying them. Woodworking also gives kids an outlet to express their creativity in ways that will impress their friends and family.

Why You Should Change Your Own Oil

I’m by no means comfortable with doing my own major car repairs but there are a couple things I always do myself: wash my car and change the oil. Something I learned early on in life is that in order for a vehicle to run properly, it must be well maintained. If you want your car to run well for as long as possible, you will need to have the oil changed regularly. You may want to consider changing the oil in your car on your own. It is not overly difficult to do and there are many benefits to doing the work yourself.

Save Yourself Money

Changing your oil on your own will save you a lot of money. You can compare the cost of the filter and oil to be sure that you are getting the best price possible. There are times when you can find oil on clearance and save yourself even more money. If you plan on doing other maintenance and repair, I’d highly recommended investing in a floor jack. A good 2 ton floor jack will last you a lifetime and save a bunch of time and effort.

Save Yourself Time

Changing the oil yourself will save you time because you can do it whenever it is convenient for you. You will not have to spend hours on end waiting for a mechanic to change the oil. Many mechanics have numerous oil changes to do in a day and this can cause you to have to wait two to four hours just to get an oil change.

Get Peace of Mind

Mechanics are often in a hurry when changing oil. They want to get as many jobs done as possible to ensure that they are able to make as much money as they can. By doing the oil change on your own, you will be able to rest assured that the job was done the right way, that no plugs are missing, and that the filter was put into the car the right way. Don’t be like my friend who went into one of those speedy oil change places and the attendant there forgot to fully tighten the oil pan bolt. By the time he got home, there was no oil in the car and the engine was smoking. Now he’s fighting them to get reimbursed for the damage.

Changing your own oil will take less than an hour, once you get used to doing it. When you consider the time and financial savings that come from changing your own oil, you will realize that it is well worth the effort.

Essential Woodworking Tools for the Garage

I love working with wood. It’s relaxing and gets the creative juices flowing. Woodworking as either income or hobby entails the use of certain tools. Once you decide to convert your garage into a shop, you will need to know the best choices for a limited space. Some tools are indispensable while others can be passed by depending on what you expect to achieve from your shop.

We can start by listing the most needed power tools followed by hand tools and incidentals. If you know exactly what you’ll be doing, tools may be added and removed, but we can make a good beginners list here.

Table Saw

table-sawThe biggest tool you should have will be your tablesaw. For accuracy, for ability to make repetitive cuts and for the ability to handle large sizes of board, this tool can’t be beat. The drawback is the amount of space it takes up. Being a cabinetmaker, I like my tablesaw bench to be large enough to handle at least a 4X8 sheet of plywood. That means my bench would be nine to ten feet from front to back and nine feet wide with the saw blade being center of that span.

An alternative to such a large piece of real estate in your garage is a portable tablesaw that can be stored under a workbench, but they have never been known for accuracy. For accuracy, you should turn to your circular saw, a good straightedge and clamps. It takes a bit to set up but it will give you a far better cut than the portable.

Power Tools

cordless-drillNext up is a drill. Some think that this is where it stops. Of course, you can put a screwdriver bit in and run screws but woodworking often requires a more delicate hand. In my opinion, drills are for drilling but screwguns are for screwing. They can be adjusted to stop before blowing through the wood.

A jigsaw is the next tool, preferably one that can scroll. This is followed by a router. Obtain an extra base for your router so that you have the ability to use it by hand and attach the other base to a router table. In a perfect world, your shop would have at least two routers, one with a ¼-inch shank and another with a ½-inch shank. Keep in mind, router bits can get very expensive.

Sanders are up next. You can certainly do ninety-nine percent of your sanding with a random orbital sander. However, a belt sander for large jobs certainly makes the job easier. For the small spaces, a triangular sander gets it done.

An air compressor is probably the most versatile piece of equipment in your shop or garage. Whether you’re using it with an air sander or just blowing off sawdust for cleaning, it’ll be used quite often. Since you’ll probably be in a small enclosed air, a quiet air compressor is the best option. Feel free to check out various other air compressor reviews online if you need something larger.

Finally, the indispensable compound miter saw or “chop saw” as it’s called in shops. This saw will cut straight, clean miters for corners, compound miters for angled corners such as crown molding and repetitive crosscuts. This tool can be built into the workbench or used away from it with collapsible supports.

Hand Tools

hand-toolsHand tools are the remaining link between past and present. No matter how many innovations are made to power tools, there will always be a time when you’ll reach for a hand tool. The list can go on forever but here are the necessities:

  • Chisels for cutting and cleaning up your projects. Chisels range in size from ¼-inch to 2 inches.

  • Squares come in several styles and you should have one of each. Framing squares, adjustable squares and T-squares are the most used in a wood shop.

  • Clamps, hand planes, screwdrivers, wrenches, tape measures and folding rulers round out the list.

Brains

The most important tool is your common sense. Be sure the garage is well ventilated, always wear safety equipment and work smart.

Cell Phone Tips When Traveling Internationally

You cannot assume that your popular cellphone will work internationally, or that your current plan will cover the costs of using it. If you insist on using your own phone overseas, have your carrier set up an international plan. Even then, you need to wary of costly surcharges and exceptions that affect phones when they leave the country.

Avoid Fees

Even if your cellphone will work outside of the country, your service provider may charge you outrageous fees or surcharges to use it. Even companies that advertise global access may have hidden costs that only become apparent when you receive a bill for usage. Contact your provider and go over the details of what you need to have available when traveling abroad, and get the facts in writing.

Beware of Data Rates

You may have unlimited data usage within the United States, but those rates seldom follow you other countries. Be sure to look at the current rates in your destination, and schedule or restrict your usage accordingly. Be sure to turn of automatic updates before you leave on your trip.

Data rates apply to many categories, including:

  • Downloads
  • Email
  • Phone and App Updates
  • Streaming Media
  • Texting
  • Web Usage

Plan for Power Needs

AC power in the United States is different from the default power available in other countries. Make sure you know what is coming out of the outlets in your destination, and buy the necessary power adapters to fit your cellphone. American standard connectors will probably be useless when you visit foreign lands.

Reception

cell-phone-international-travelLike in the US, cell phone reception around the world varies greatly. If staying in a hotel that’s far enough outside a city where reception is weak, a good cell phone booster for travel that’s rated for international frequencies can mean the difference between good reception and no reception. As always, do your research to make sure the unit will work outside the country by visiting various reviews sites such as this one.

Understand Your Plan

Even if you have the broadest domestic plan, it may not work for you abroad. Roaming charges are one example where a domestic plan can turn into a financial nightmare overseas, and you could find yourself paying upward of $1.00 per minute on a plan that is usually free to use.

Verify Your Cellphone

Just as the power and data options are different in overseas locations, the phone you use may not work either. Very few countries still use the cellphone networks that Americans think of as state-of-the-art. Even the SIM card in your phone may be incompatible with services in other countries. To overcome this and most other problems, consider buying or renting a phone once you arrive at your destination. If you do this, be sure to make a written copy of the numbers you may need to dial so you can enter them in the new phone.

Use WiFi When Possible

Instead of relying on your cellphone, it might be more affordable to leverage the power of WiFi. Take along a laptop or netbook, and use Internet cafes or free Wifi. By logging in to free WiFi along the way, you can avoid data charges, network compatibility problems and data plan surcharges.

WiFi can be used for most cellular communication, such as:

  • Internet Surfing
  • Magic Jack to Mimic Landlines
  • Skype or other VOIP Communication
  • Social Networking
  • Video Conferencing