I always wonder if I would have this travel bug if my Dad didn’t bring me to Europe back in my early 20s. We headed to Italy to visit Milan, our hometown of Vernazza in the Cinque Terre and Rome. It was an incredible experience and one I’ll never forget. Since then, I’m always eager to go back and explore more of the world. My bucket list of places to travel is getting longer and I can’t seem to keep up with how many things I’m adding versus actually checking off. I hear about a cute city that has a good restaurant, and I instantly add it to the list. Probably not a great tactic, but hey, why not go there, right?
Europe’s a fairly easy trip to make in terms of international travel. It’s not THAT far and a lot of areas speak English. Plus, it’s easy to get a fairly cheap flight if you want to check out these tips here. When I went to Asia for the first time, that was a whole new experience. I was thankful to have my friend Kristin with me who travels to Asia frequently for work. Between my Europe trips and my one visit to Asia, I do feel confident in my International travel. From keeping organized, safe and getting around.
There are some things I’ve learned to not do, and things I would NEVER not do on any overseas trip. Here are my best tips for feeling safe and confident on your next international trip. Whether it’s your first trip or your 10th, these are all great things to try out on your next adventure.
Tips For International Travel
Probably the most urgent concern the second you’re about to leave the country is how the hell am I going to stay connected. Between communicating with family back home, navigating maps and being able to share your best photos on Instagram, how does one stay connected? There’s a few ways to do this and here are just a few favorites.
- AT&T users can sign up for the International plan. It’s $10 per 24 hours of usage. Once it’s on your plan (it’s free, you just get charged when you’re overseas) it automatically charges you. No need to worry, just use your phone the same way you do at home without being charged an arm and a leg. This will most definitely get expensive after about a week or so. If you’re going on a month long trip you may way to consider other options.
- Verizon SIM card – I did this for one trip not knowing about AT&T’s option yet. I got a Verizon SIM card and popped it into my phone for the week. Yes, I had a different number, but it was much cheaper than the plans that AT&T originally used to offer. If you’re a Verizon user, no need to change anything. Your phone usually works in most foreign countries just like you do at home, just be sure to check the countries!
- Travel Wifi – These can be great especially if you have several people traveling with you. They’re little on the go wi-fi hot spots that you carry around with you and can usually accommodate up to 4 people.
- Many restaurants, stores and airports do have free wi-fi. Way more so than in the US. If you don’t want to use your phone, you totally can get by without it. Just plan ahead by printing out more directions and details you may need.
Money & Credit Cards
Ask me how many times my ass has left America without changing money over. It happens to the best of us, okay? Depending on how long you’re overseas, and how much shopping you plan on doing, will depend on how much you want to take out. I typically do about $200 for a week as I try to put everything I can on my travel AMEX or Visa.
The exchange rate on my card is usually better than cash and just makes life easier. However, you never know when you’ll find yourself between a rock and a hard place and have to hand cash over. As in, a cab decides to be complicated and say they don’t take cards, or that restaurant doesn’t take cards because it’s a tiny hole in the wall. It’s just important and smart to have cash on hand. And fun fact, some countries are really annoying and require you to pay a dollar or so to use the bathroom. So yeah, keep money on you if you want to use a potty.
TIP: Call your credit card company if it’s your first time going overseas and ask about any conversion fees. These can add up!
I have TWO recommendations on how to get money and do this the right way and it mostly depends on your preference. My first recommendation is to switch money over at the airport at a currency exchange spot. The exchange rate isn’t always GREAT, but you’ll at least land overseas with money in hand. The second way is to pull money out in foreign currency at an ATM machine once you land overseas. You’ll get a more accurate exchange rate and also only pay your bank fee which is usually significantly less than what the currency exchange folks will charge in US airports.
Fun fact, Ally Bank allows you to do this without fees (PS they’re also my favorite savings account if you remember this post). Just find any ATM, they’re usually everywhere in an airport and take out some money.
TIP: This does require you to remember your debit card. Which fun fact, I have totally forgotten along with actual cash leaving me sort of panicked when I landed. Some hotels may exchange money for you so always ask!
In addition to having foreign currency on you, always have $100 or so in USD on you. Why? Because you never know when you’ll find yourself between a rock and a hard place and have to weasel your way out of something with cash. Money talks, even USD in a foreign country.
Converters & Adapters
Also, ask me how many steamers I’ve blown up while overseas. You live and you learn, people! PS this is the steamer I swear by and have rebought three times now thanks to frying it by using it the WRONG way. There’s a BIG difference between an adapter and a converter. You’ll likely need both of these if you plan on using a steamer or a curling iron. I recommend leaving your blow dryer at home, most hotels and AirBnB’s have these and it’s less bulk.
An adapter simply changes the outlet, not the voltage. This is how you will use your chargers, laptop chords and any dual voltage (also known as universal voltage) devices you may have. But a converter changes the actual voltage so that you don’t blow your devices like typical curling irons and steamers. This is what I use that will convert and adapt for you. Just be aware of what you’re plugging in and what the voltage needs to be. My steamer and curling iron need to be adapted, my chargers only need to be converted. I also use this one to adapt since it also has two USB plugs leaving the plug open for other devices.
PS I always bring more than one external charger to have on hand. Keeping a small one in your purse to have on hand while out and about is great. Phones can get drained quickly while searching for wi-fi, googling directions, etc.
There’s only been one city I’ve ever truly felt unsafe in. That was Athens Greece. Every other place I’ve been to I’ve felt fairly safe in without a problem. There are things to be aware of when traveling abroad, especially as a woman. Staying safe is key as you’re not in your usual comfort zone, you can easily take a wrong turn and pickpocketers are a real thing in many major cities. Here are just a few tips I recommend to staying safe.
- Always wear a crossbody bag – You can read my post here on this as well, but a crossbody bag that zips up is less likely to be stolen in my opinion. It’s impossible to grab off your body and if it’s zipped, you’re less likely to be pickpocketed.
- Staying Sober – So you don’t have to stay sober the entire trip, but getting totally lit with your friends and blacking out is not recommended. I am always hyper-aware of my intoxication when I’m overseas. It’s also important to keep an eye on your drink. This is something we should ALL do no matter where we are, home or away, but never leave your drink unattended, period.
- Passport – Some people like to leave their passport in the safe, some in their bag at all times. I’m torn on this one as I’ve done both. You’re basically totally screwed if your passport gets stolen and it’s just a mess. So the safe is a good place so long as you remember to take it with you!
- Be aware of your surroundings – This just goes without saying anywhere, but I always like to be aware of my surroundings. Look around, be aware of any strange activity. If something doesn’t feel right, head somewhere else.
- Always be communicating with someone – I always check in with my parents daily when I travel. Especially if I’m solo. Just a simple text, you made it, you’re alive, is all you need. Someone should be aware of where you are and where you’re staying if god forbid anything goes wrong.
Passports are the most important document you’ll be carrying with you while traveling abroad. It’s so easy to lose this document, forget about the expiration date and so on. A few important tips to keep in mind are:
- Put a reminder in your phone 9 months prior to your expiration date so you don’t get stuck with a passport that’s about to expire. Some countries have weird rules about traveling 3-6 months prior to the expiration date. So getting it taken care of prior to this 6-month rule is important.
- Have a passport holder. I like to keep an extra credit card, my global entry card and plane ticket all in there.
- Make a copy! Not only should YOU have a hard copy of your passport on you (separate from your passport holder obviously) but someone back home as well. If you lose your passport, it can be a total nightmare.
- Figure out if you need a Visa. Some countries require a Visa to enter and it can be super easy to get, but a total pain if you forget it.
I’ll be doing a WHOLE big post on what I always pack in my carry-on, but when packing for International travel, there are a few packing tips I do recommend.
- Mind your size – Many of the regional plane companies charge for every little thing. Plus, getting to your destination while abroad may mean trains, planes and automobiles (and sometimes buses and boats). The smaller the bag, the easier it is. Use packing cubes to make sure you get the most out of your bag.
- Drugs! – Make sure you pack all your necessary medicines and then some. I also luckily have an extra antibiotic that I always bring to have on hand for emergencies. Plus Dramamine for any potential boat excursions, Benadryl for any possible allergic reactions, Bandaids, and anything else you find yourself using if you were to get sick. Personally, I always also have Alka-Seltzer for hangovers, Pepto for upset tummies and Advil.
- Itineraries – Print out hard copies of your smaller regional flights once you’re overseas. Sometimes it’s nice to have that on hand in case your cell service isn’t working great. Put the address of your hotels in your calendar and also print if you can.
- Quart size bag for toiletries is a REAL thing overseas – In the US, this is never regulated. No one seems to care about your toiletries here. But overseas is a totally different story. I once had nearly half my toiletries thrown out coming back from Paris. A lesson learned for sure! You’ll want to put all your toiletries in a quart Ziploc bag since you’ll need to take them out at security. A few tips to getting things to fit is to take the lids off. You can do this when you’re in line so it doesn’t become a mess. Just plan accordingly on what you can fit in the bag, and what needs to come out. I also use these small tubs for products like my daily moisturizer instead of bringing my 3 oz tube. Keep your makeup separate, no one will really notice that. And keep any additional products that may be a “toiletry” separate like hand cream in your purse, or that Benadryl cream in your emergency bag.
Have a favorite travel tip I’ve missed? Leave it in the comments below!