You have finally decided to take that trip that you have been dreaming about your entire life. How do you best plan for your trip? What can you do to make your trip the experience that you have dreamt of?
Following are the 50 best international travel tips to cover you from the planning stage through the trip itself.
Preparing For Your Trip
1. Order your passport early
Passports can take weeks to process at times, and if you don’t want to pay that extra fee to expedite it, then getting your paperwork together early is always a good idea. Once you have received your passport, make a copy or two and put the copy someplace safe.
If you already have a passport, you will need to make sure that it does not expire within six months of your trip. Most countries will not accept a passport that is six months from its expiration date or less.
2. Medical Documentation
You will need to carry a copy of some of your more pertinent medical information with you as well as making sure that you are well enough to take the trip. Make sure that you have a copy of your immunization documentation as well as all of your doctor’s contact information.
It is always best to expect the worst and hope for the best, and you never know what you might need while you are overseas.
3. Contact your credit card company
You don’t want to be stranded anywhere so you will need to contact your credit card provider to make sure that your card will work correctly in a foreign country.
While you have their attention, tell them that you want to document the countries that you will be visiting so that their fraud alert radar doesn’t freeze up your card while you are traveling.
4. Do your homework
Start reading up on the places you will be visiting. The more information you can learn before you go someplace new, the more comfortable you will be when you get there.
Buy guidebooks and anything else that might look interesting and that might familiarize you with the culture of your destination. Buy your maps in advance as well. Any of these things will be more expensive during your trip itself.
You need to be prepared for your visit to a foreign country. If you aren’t familiar with the food they eat there, you should find local fare of that cuisine and accustom yourself to it.
It might be spicier than you are used to, or richer. There might be some dishes that agree with you and some that don’t. Learning these things before your trip can save a lot of aggravation while you are on vacation.
Once you have reached your destination, be sure that you sample the local cuisine. Don’t look for the large tourist trap restaurants.
For a true sampling of the local food, you need to ask the locals where to go. You will most likely be pointed towards small local bistros that will give you the truest sampling of the local fare.
6. Foreign language tapes/programs
Get a program to help immerse yourself in the language. You won’t be able to master it, but familiarity with the more important terms and being able to speak several phrases will help you on your journey.
You will also want to pick up a translation app and a dictionary.
The translation app will help you the most when you need to ask directions, communicate needs, or understand some of the chatter around you.
The dictionary will help you with any written signs you come across. These two items are among some of the best international travel tips you may receive.
7. Plan your budget
One of the most important tips for international travel is to be prepared for every contingency. Some countries require an entry and an exit fee. You should be aware of what those countries are and how much of a fee you will be charged.
Research conversion rates so that you can stretch your dollars as much as possible. Research the places that you plan to visit to check on access to ATM machines, banks, and what types of cards are accepted. Research what their monetary units are and keep an eye on the exchange rate.
It is best to do a small conversion before you leave, and then find a bank when you arrive. Currency conversion centers found in airports abroad will charge stiff fees to change your money. The only way to avoid these fees is to use a local bank instead.
8. Get your visa, if you need one
Not every country will require a visa for your entry or exit. For those who do, it is non-negotiable. It is best to deal with all of your visa requirements before you leave as some visas can take substantial time to be issued.
9. Contact the State Department
Make sure that you are aware of any safety issues or current alerts in the areas you plan to travel to. Alerts and threats can change frequently, so it is best to keep monitoring their website prior to your departure date.
Elections, strikes and protests, health alerts, or risk of terror attacks are some of the events that will bring a State Department alert.
The State Department has a program known as the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) which will regularly send you updates about any travel advisories or security updates. It will also help the US government reach you in case of an emergency
10. Travel insurance
Second among the most important travel tips for international travel is to contact your health insurance provider and make sure that you will be covered in a foreign country. Medicare will not cover any illness or treatment outside of the United States.
If your insurance provider will not cover emergency medical overseas, it will be in your best interest to pick up a temporary supplemental policy that will cover you. T
ravel insurance that includes emergency medical transport benefits is a necessity as well as it can cover any unexpected expenses you may encounter.
Make sure that you have plenty of both your prescription medications as well as any over the counter medications you may need. While you will have access pharmacies in most countries you might travel to, it is always best to bring as much with you as you may need.
Medications are something where the terminology could easily get lost in the translation. You will also want to have a doctor’s note with you that references what medications you are ono and why.
12. Immunizations and vaccines
There are recommendations as to which vaccines and inoculations you will need before you travel.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) can advise you. They will also be able to tell you of any other health precautions necessary for travel in various regions.
Many countries will require you to carry an International Certificate of Vaccination, also known as a ‘Yellow Card.’ You can get this information from the embassy of the country you plan to visit prior to your trip.
You may want to monitor the weather leading up to your trip so that you can pack accordingly.
Storm seasons for one country are not necessarily the same as storm seasons for another. If the area you are traveling too is known for its volatile weather patterns, you will want to monitor the weather closely as your departure date approaches.
As your departure date approaches, check on how often planes are late at your destination. It is too easy to miss a connecting flight overseas and end up stranded in a strange place.
Make yourself familiar. International travel is expensive. Sometimes, local airlines will provide you with better prices than those airlines headquartered in the US. Always look for the best deals for your airfare.
15. Phone plans
Check with your plan provider as to what your international options are. You will need to make sure that you disable international data roaming.
You may be able to work with your current plan, but you might also find it more beneficial to buy a new cell phone with an international SIM card in it once you reach your destination. Your cell phone provider should be able to guide you through your options.
16. International Driving Permit
If you plan to rent a car while you are on your trip, you should obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) before you go. A number of countries will not consider you to be driving legally without one.
Since an IDP is an identification used in conjunction with your US driver’s license, it can only be issued in the US. The IDP translates your personal identification information into ten different languages.
Even if it is not required by the country you plan to visit, it is recommended that you get one.
Not every country is as understanding about single parents with children. If you are traveling alone with your child, you will need a notarized document or letter signed by the other parent noting that you have their permission to travel alone with the child.
This document should be kept in a convenient place with their passport. The question will most likely come up as you pass through customs.
There are too many situations where a child will abscond with a child without the other parent’s permission. It is better to be prepared to prove that you are not one of them.
18. Buy a Sarong
This simple piece of cloth can prove to have multiple uses when you travel. It can be a blanket on the plane, a sunshade, an oversized scarf, or a bathing suit cover-up.
International flights can be hard on the body. The flights are very long, and tedious, and dry as there is actually very little air in airplane cabins. Following are travel tips for international flights.
19. Set your watch to the local time for your destination
By getting used to functioning on travel time from the very beginning of your flight, you will adjust better and your jetlag will be significantly less.
20. Dress comfortably
Clothing that you would be comfortable sleeping in is probably your best bet not only for the flight itself but for the security lines and customs.
There are some brands out there that specifically design clothes for travel that include hidden pockets for your passport and air ticket.
This is especially important on flights over 8 hours long. Many international destinations can require 15 hours or more on an airplane.
As much as possible, try to keep a normal schedule on the flight. For example, if you are ready to sleep, go wash your face and brush your teeth as you would at home.
Keep an extra set of comfortable clothing in your carry-on so that you can change clothes about halfway through your flight. If the flight is especially long, you may even want to pack pajamas in your carry-on.
22. Upgrade your seats if possible
If your original tickets are for economy and you have any way of upgrading your seats, your flight will be a lot more comfortable.
This is especially true for taller people as there is more legroom just about everywhere other than economy. Try and check in early and ask at the desk if there are upgrades available.
23. Compression socks
For the longest of flights, your legs can go numb which can increase your fatigue. The one thing that can help is wearing compression socks on those long flights.
These socks might feel tight at first, but your legs will actually feel energized in the long run. There is a reason why they are so popular with people who work long shifts on their feet.
24. Snacks and water
Bring your favorite snacks on the plane with you, Having your favorite snacks available allows you to eat on your terms and not the flight attendants. Unopened bottles of water or bottles you refill in the terminal are also important.
This is even more important if you are traveling with a child. It is easy to become dehydrated on long flights, and delays before beverage service can be inevitable coming out of some of the larger airports.
25. A flight bag
You should have a flight bag that fits easily into your carry-on bag that contains items that will make your flight easier on you. You should include headphones, earplugs, soft eye mask, and anything else that will help you relax.
It is important to sleep on long flights as you adjust to the time change so that your jet lag is minimized.
26. Your Carry-on Bag
Always put a change of clothing, deodorant, and at least a couple extra pair of underwear in your carry-on bag. Other essentials you will need during the flight are charging cords for your various electronics, your electronics, medication, and your toothbrush.
This way, you have at least a few clothes with you should the rest of your luggage get lost.
Bring extra batteries for your various gadgets as not all airlines will have charging ports. A small neck pillow, blanket, and slippers. Your carry-on is also the ideal place to store your electrical adapters.
Since books can weigh more than you really want to be carrying around, a kindle is an excellent investment before you travel. Each Kindle can hold 2000 different books.
The Fire model does not hold a charge for very long. You would be better off buying the Kindle Paperwhite model. The touchscreen is backlit and really provides you with everything you need from an e-reader.
There are a lot of books in Kindle format on Amazon that are completely free so loading your Kindle won’t be all that expensive.
During Your Trip
28. Money belt
Scammers and pickpockets are always on the prowl in foreign countries. Never put your wallet in your back pocket, or keep your purse open.
The safest place to keep your money is in a money belt that fits comfortably under your clothing. The belts are easily accessible and will give you a personal sense of security.
29. Be Patient
Traveling can be aggravating. Be patient as much as possible. If you don’t stress about factors that you have no control over, you will have a much better time.
If there is a snafu in your plans, just take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are on vacation. If you don’t overreact to the little things, you will enjoy your trip much more.
30. Observe the locals
If you really want to get a feel for the cities and countries that you are visiting, find a bench in a park or a small table at an outdoor café and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the city.
Watching how the locals behave and interact with each other can tell you a lot about their culture. It is a practice that is relaxing and in some ways can tell you more than all the guidebooks combined.
31. Local Banks
Find out where the local banks are. While you should have converted a small amount of cash to the local currency, it is much cheaper to go to a local bank to convert your American dollars into the local currency.
This will also give you an idea as to the location of local ATM machines. If possible, avoid the currency exchange kiosks at the airport or any large currency exchange business in the city. The fees charged by these businesses can be rather exorbitant.
Avoid the larger hotels and resorts. You can usually find nice accommodations at a better price if you stay in some of the local places. Smaller boutique hotels have much more character and tend to give you more of the local flavor you want to experience.
Do your research in advance, and don’t book your hotel through the larger travel sites. Once you check in, make sure that you grab a business card or two and keep it on you at all times. That way, if you get lost, you have a physical address to ask directions to.
While you most likely made at least a list of the places you want to visit during your research, there will most likely be places that intrigue you that you might not have had prior knowledge of.
This goes hand in hand with the smaller boutique hotels. The locals can tell you the best places to go and the best times to visit them.
Organized tours can be very expensive. Ask around when you reach your destination. You may find better alternatives at a lower price. Most cities have free walking tours that will allow you to take in more of the sights at a little slower pace.
This is another reason to avoid the larger hotels and resorts as they make commissions from the tour companies. If there is a tour that you absolutely must take, make your arrangements once you reach your destination.
You may find that what you are looking for has several different options not advertised in the guidebooks.
35. Wake up early
Don’t sleep in while you are on vacation. If necessary, you can always take a short afternoon nap. By waking up early, you won’t encounter the crowds that you would have to battle later in the day.
You will have a better opportunity to take pictures of the local color when there are fewer people on the street. Looking to visit a local farmer’s market? The best selections are always out first, and you can shop at a leisurely pace.
36. Public Transportation
While you might want to rent a car for part of the time that you are there, you should experience the local public transportation at least once.
Always ask the price before boarding so that you can avoid any surprise fees. This experience can actually prove to be one of the best international travel tips you could receive.
It is always in your best interest to check in with your embassy when you arrive in town. This way, should there be any sort of emergency, the embassy will know how to reach you.
Many embassies have gatherings for tourists like yourself. These gatherings can be a great resource for asking about the local spots and for learning about what areas might not be as safe as others.
Be flexible. Change happens. Weather happens. Adapt to your environment. Be ready for anything. Plans can change with no notice. You might become friendly with some of the locals, or you might see someplace that you want to explore further.
Being completely locked into a planned itinerary is a recipe for failure. Always keep your options open when you are traveling. Something that might not have seemed interesting in the books you were reading at home could really catch your attention.
Treat yourself to something that you would usually consider too extravagant whether it is a spa day, shopping spree, or a piece of clothing you see in a shop window. You need to go with your gut sometimes.
40. Be Spontaneous
If you see a road that looks interesting, walk down it. Take the opportunity to be spontaneous while you are on vacation.
Be aware of where the less safe parts of town are and avoid them, but don’t lose out on an opportunity to explore something really great. Keeping your itinerary loose will give you the chance to find these types of opportunities.
41. Keep a journal
While you are on your adventure, keep a journal. Write down thoughts and experiences. Write about the people you meet on your adventure. You don’t have to be a great writer to journal your experiences.
If you haven’t kept a journal before, you just might find that travel is your muse and that a writer has been hiding inside all along.
42. Take pictures
For this kind of vacation, you might want to invest in a really good camera and learn how to use it before your trip. Make sure that you have an extra battery.
You should photograph everything that strikes you one way or another, and there is no such thing as taking too many pictures. They will serve as some of your most important memories from your adventure.
43. Don’t forget about the folks back home
Keep in touch with your loved ones while you are away. It might be a quick email at night, or it could be a daily phone call. They are your greatest support system, and while they are probably a little jealous, they also want to know that you are happy.
Just because they couldn’t come with you doesn’t mean that they won’t appreciate the experience through your eyes.
44. Get sleep
Just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean that you don’t still need sleep. If you are fatigued from a lack of sleep, your defenses will be down and you might get sick. You will enjoy your adventure far more if you are alert and rested.
45. Make new friends
You will be destined to meet other tourists while you are on your journey, the strangers who you share your journey with can become lifelong friends. It is much more fun to share an experience of this magnitude with others who can relate to it.
The people who you keep crossing paths with could be the perfect people to compare notes and experiences with. Perhaps they went to a festival that you were curious about. Maybe they spotted you coming out of a restaurant that they were interested in.
Shared experiences and shared information can be fulfilling. Besides, especially when you are in a foreign country where few speak your language, you will want to occasionally feel a little closer to home by talking to others who understand you.
You also might make new friends with locals from the area you are visiting too. These people might be just as curious about you as you are about them.
46. Be careful
While the main point of your vacation is to have fun, you still need to be aware of what is going on around you.
If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong or a person could be dangerous, listen to your gut. Get back to a space that feels safer to you. You may save your own life by doing so.
47. Don’t let others dictate your journey
This is your vacation, not theirs. It is important the trip be satisfying for you.
If you are traveling with family members who don’t want to do the same things that you do, split up for a day. Let them go visit the landmarks that interest them while you take a quiet day to yourself taking care of your own wants and needs.
Since trips like this don’t happen every day, you should not let other people ruin it for you.
48. Don’t stay angry about anything
If something negative happens at some point during your trip, don’t stay angry. It happened. Move on and continue your vacation. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on it.
Since it is a vacation, good experiences should completely overshadow any bad experiences.
49. Be on time
When it comes time to finally head home, you will need to get to the airport a good three hours before your flight is scheduled.
You will need to make sure that you declare to customs everything that you are bringing home with you, and you might want to check the list of disallowed items for both the country you are departing from and the one you are coming home to.
If the airport is smaller, you will want to double check to make sure that your flight is on time.
Throughout your journey, don’t forget to tip those who provide you with great service. Just as it is both customary and expected in the US, it is also expected within the tourism industry in most countries these days.
You should not tip as much when traveling overseas as most service personnel are better compensated than those in the US. There are some countries where tipping is considered an insult, such as Japan and Hong Kong.
If, however, you feel that a tip is well deserved, place the tip inside an envelope and discretely hand it over. In French Polynesia, tipping is not expected, and might even be refused.
Traveling to a foreign country is an exciting event in anyone’s life. The more prepared you are for the experience, the more fun you will have.