As exciting as it is, traveling outside the country can be pretty intimidating. Between all the prep before you go and the culture shock when you arrive, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But breathe, breathe…I’m here to help ya out girl! Don’t let the anxiety of travel keep you from living your best life. Check out my list below of 20 things to do before traveling internationally.
1. Register for the STEP. The U.S. Dept. of State offers a free registration for your trip with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Read through the alerts and warnings on your destination and use it to help decide the best mode of transportation, areas to avoid, general safety information, and other tips.
2. Check your passport! Make sure everything is still accurate…I’m lookin at you newlywed…and valid for 6 months after your trip. Some places require a visa and some are required prior to arrival. Check with the embassy of the country you’re visiting.
3. Make copies of important docs. At least have a copy of your passport in case anything gets lost or stolen or left under the Eiffel Tower in the middle of a romantic walk. Am I speaking from experience? Maybe??
4. Check for vaccinations, health insurance coverage and make sure you have your medications. The CDC has a helpful tool to determine what’s needed for the location you’re visiting. In general, it’s good to be up-to-date with your doctor visits, prescriptions and medications.
5. Keep family aware of your travel plan. You’ve probably already told your mom or sister about the vacation you’re “literally dying to go on”, but did you make sure to tell them the name of the hotel, airline, and how they can reach you? It’s best to tell at least one person of your plan juuuust in case of any emergencies. Because just like when you haul that oversized umbrella around with you when it’s supposed to rain, if you plan for it, it won’t happen. And that’s exactly how we like our emergencies. :-)
6. Make sure your credit cards are squared away. You’ll definitely want to alert your credit card company that you’ll be out of town so you can avoid having them shut down your card for fraud while you’re traveling. Also, be sure to check if yours has international fees. Sometimes, credit card companies offer extras like travel or car insurance for your rental car so ask them about that, too.
7. Get that cash money. Exchange cash at the bank for foreign currency ahead of time or at the airport. I hate carrying cash, but it’s probably a good idea to have at least a little bit with you in safe keeping if you’re unfamiliar with the country you’re traveling to.
8. Have a plan for your phone. Do you have unlimited data internationally? What are the charges for making calls? Be sure to have a plan of action for using your phone and WiFi if it’s not included because those costs can seriously add up.
9. Have the hotel address + directions for when you arrive. Not only is it helpful for any language barrier, but you can feel a little safer knowing where you’re going when you get in a car with a stranger half-way across the world.
10. Check your hotel/hostel for amenities included. Some places will have free WiFi and breakfast and others are ahead of the game with free minibar items- my personal fave! It’s good to know ahead of time in case this changes your plans or at least helps you save on packing some granola bars.
11. Print directions to/from your hotel and other key places. Or screenshot directions while you have WiFi. David and I made it over a week almost entirely on foot in Paris, Dijon, and London by using free WiFi to take pictures of the directions. It’s a little bit of planning, but $10 saved on data is $10 I can spend on crepes! If you’re driving, be sure to have an International Driver’s Permit. You can get one on here.
12. Print important tickets. Especially for transportation like trains or excursions. Once you make it to that picture perfect wine-tasting tour in the French countryside, your cell service might not be as reliable as back in the city. And getting back on the train in the most charming little town you’ve ever seen might be a problem if your phone has died from all the pictures you took all day. It never seems important, until it’s important.
13. Pre-download playlists. Trust me. You’ll want these downloaded to save yourself some data on the beach.
14. Pack smart. Take a few minutes to think through all the activities you have planned or want to plan abroad to make sure you have the essentials packed. I always like to bring a water filter bottle to save on bottles of water in the hotel room and usually toss in a portable speaker for outdoor activities. But don’t worry if this brings on the anxiety! I have a complete packing list for you here.
15. Pack light. Ugh! It’s the worst, I know. But keep in mind the baggage fees when flying international and any backpacking or switching hotels. You (or your partner) will thank me later. I like to wear a minimal wardrobe to save space and use jewelry from my blingsling® to accessorize and spice things up!
16. Pick up foreign adapters for electronics. A lot of hotels have these to borrow, but it’s helpful to have a few on hand to save time.
17. Talk the talk. Learn a few important phrases (Where’s the bathroom? Do you speak English?) in the foreign language to feel a little more comfortable approaching people. Even if they speak English, I’ve found they’re much more accepting if you try to speak theirs. Even if it’s terrible. There are also some translation apps (if you’re using data) or you could grab a travel translation book to keep with you. When in doubt, there’s always charades!
18. Double check the dates. Confirm your reservation dates, especially if you’re going to a new time zone or taking a red eye!
19. Hold your mail. You know your mailbox, but if you’re gone longer than a week I suggest having someone you trust collect it for you or scheduling it through USPS.
20. Make sure bills are paid up or scheduled before you leave. As much as we’d all like to just ignore these, I think we all know what will happen here.
See! That wasn’t so bad, was it?! I’ve been to over 12 different countries and have a tendency to freak out each time, but nothing puts me at ease like over-preparing. If you put in a little work before you leave, you can relax and fully enjoy your time exploring the destination and connecting with the world.
What do you think clever girl? Any tips I missed? Any crazy abroad stories you survived? Leave a comment below and share with your friends!
Love. Inspire. Grow. Enjoy.