Traveling internationally can be overwhelming and it can seem like a large leap to take. Regardless of where you are going there are several steps you can follow in order to ease your travel and have a successful trip. Here are my top 20 tips for international travel:
1. Get a Passport
If you don’t already have a passport, one of the first steps you should take before planning an international trip is obtaining a passport. If you already have a passport make sure it is not expired and that you have exit/entry visa pages left inside your passport book.
Keep in mind several countries will deny you entrance if your passport expires within 6 months of entering their country. Make sure to check the passport rules relating to the country you are traveling to before you leave.
2. Apply for Necessary Visas
Depending on where you are going and the length of your stay, a visa may be necessary. Even if you are just planning a week long vacation, there are countries that require you to have a tourist visa. Be sure to research visa regulations before planning your trip. You definitely do not want to cut your vacation short due to lack of preparation!
3. Notify your credit card company and bank
The last issue you want is to use your card at an ATM or in a store and realize it is not going to work. Most banks and credit card companies now have fraud-monitoring systems that will interrupt any activity that is out of the norm such as using your card in a foreign country. Be sure to let both your credit card companies and bank know that you are traveling abroad. I would advice you tell them the length of your stay and the foreign locations you plan on visiting in order to prevent these problems.
4. Check for vaccinations & prepare your medicines
Certain countries require individuals entering their country to have special vaccinations upon their arrival. Even if you are not required to have certain vaccinations, it is best to check in with your doctor before traveling to see what their suggestions are regarding vaccinations or medicines for your trip. Additionally, if you are prescribed a medication that you regularly take make sure you have enough to cover the duration of your trip.
Check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to find out what vaccines and medicines you may need:
5. Make copies of important documents
In the case that your passport would get lost or stolen this is something you definitely want to do. Make sure to bring and leave copies of your passport at home. When I travel, I also make photo copies of any cards that I am bringing and my license and leave them with a trusted person at home.
6. Leave someone at home a copy of your Itinerary
If you know where you are headed and where you are staying, give someone at home a copy of your itinerary. This way you can be tracked down in the case that something goes wrong (hopefully that will never never).
7. Go to an ATM in the country you are visiting
Many people like to pre order foreign currency before they travel abroad. This is an option however this is something I do not do. I always go to an ATM where I am visiting and take out cash. I stay away from exchanging money in airports because the conversion fees tend to be very high. I head to a bank or ATM in a surrounding area to take out whatever amount of money I will need.
8. Check the exchange rate before you leave
The last thing you want is to come home thinking your vacation was well budgeted and then realize your credit card bills are through the roof. It’s always a good idea to know what the foreign currency you will be using is against yours. That way you can calculate exactly what you are spending and can save yourself from any surprises.
9. Bring an adaptor
Not all countries have the same electrical outlets. If you want to have charged electronics or be able to use your blow-dryer, buy an adapter either online or at an electronics store before you leave. I also suggest checking the voltage of your electronics to make sure that they are compatible with the electrical current of wherever you are going.
10. Check the airlines baggage regulations
You do not want to get to the airport and be surprised that you over packed and have to pay an additional fee to bring your luggage abroad. Each airline has their own guidelines and regulations when it comes to the size and amount of bags you can take on your trip. Before packing and preparing for your trip, look up what exactly your airline will allow. This way there will be no confusion once you get to the airport and you can avoid those extra fees.
11. Pack enough in your carry-on bag to get you through a few days
There is always the possibly that your luggage could get lost. When traveling internationally, you want to pack enough in your carry-on that you could make it through a few days without your actual luggage. Trust me, one time I was stuck in Italy without my luggage for an entire week!
12. Turn off your data roaming
Make sure your cell phone is set up so that you are not roaming for data internationally. If you are a frequent traveler, you probably have an internationally calling and data plan but for those of you who are first time travelers your cell phone will not work the same abroad as it does at home. If you forgot to turn off your data roaming, you will come home to a very large phone bill! Another suggestion is to leave your phone in airplane mode for the duration of your trip only using it when you can access WIFI.
If you are going for an extended period of time I would suggest buying an unlocked phone before hand. This way you can simply buy a sim card once you are abroad and a prepaid phone plan that includes calling, data, and texting.
13. Research where you are going
In my opinion, it is best to learn about where you are going before you arrive. Find out what there is to see, what events are going on, and even a bit about the culture.
14. Check to see if there is an entrance and exit fee
Regardless if you obtain the necessary documents to travel such as a passport and a visa, there may be an entrance and exit fee for the country you are traveling to. A perfect example of this can be seen with Argentina who charges visitors from the United States $160 when entering their country.
15. Bring paper copies of your hotel and flight reservations
I always make sure to have paper copies of my hotel and flight reservations. I think it can be very risky to rely on your electronics for this information. Anything could happen to your phone, tablet, or computer and you want to make sure you have all the information you need at hand!
16. Interact with locals
It definitely can be intimidating being in a country where you don’t speak the language and you are out of your comfort zone. This can make you feel nervous and may make you shy away from interacting with locals. However, interacting with local people is the best way to learn about unique and exciting places to go! You might miss out on an amazing opportunity just because you didn’t ask.
17. Stay Open minded
Everyone’s culture and customs around the world are different. It’s very possible that you will see things abroad that you have never seen before or that seem extremely strange to you. Keep in mind that you are the visitor and this is their way of life. Always be respectful and try to learn from the things you see.
18. Leave yourself plenty of time for the airport
International flights are not the same as domestic flights. You want to make sure you have enough time in the airport and are not in a situation where you could miss your flight. I have missed several flights because I underestimated the amount of time I would need in the airport and trust me it is no fun! Allow yourself 2-3 hours of time if you are flying internationally. This way you can check-in, go through security with ease, and wont risk running to your flight before the doors close.
19. Check the weather conditions before you leave
Different countries have different climates and depending on where they are located in terms of the equator they can have different seasons too. For example, when it’s the middle of winter and there’s a snow storm in New York City, it’s summer and time for the beach in Brazil! Be sure to check the climate of wherever you are headed and pack appropriately.
20. Stay aware of your surroundings
No matter where you are, you should always stay aware of your surroundings. However, it is even more important to do so when you are in a foreign location. You do not have to constantly worry but it is a good idea to keep a close eye on your personal belongings and make sure that you are staying out of any harmful situations.
Take precautions such as closing your purse, keeping your wallet in your front pocket, not wearing flashy jewelry, and keeping your electronics away when walking around in public.
Hopefully if you’re planning to travel internationally these tips will be useful for your next trip!