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Tickets are booked, bags are almost packed, excitement is at level 100, and your trip abroad is just around the corner! But with all the excitement and anticipation it can be easy to brush over some things and well, to simply forget others.
Today I’ve got some tips and tricks to help you plan your trip as well as some important things to remember along the way.
1. Get an Adaptor
Taking a phone charger? Computer? Hair Dryer? Depending on where you’re traveling, you will need to get an adaptor so that your electronics actually work! This website is a great source for figuring out what type of adaptor you’ll need, but a simple Google search should also get you lots of helpful info. We use this adaptor.
With your phone, either turn it on airplane mode or be aware of your roaming charges. With airplane mode, you are still able to connect to wifi and use your phone almost like normal (You’d be surprised how much you’re still able to do by connecting to wifi!). But if you need your phone in full working condition (a.k.a. relying on airplane mode is a no go), look into getting a local sim card.
3. Get a Paper Map
Especially if you’re renting a car or headed anywhere you need to rely on your own directions (i.e., unlike a train, bus etc.). Because as lovely as technology can be sometimes, you just never know when it will decide to not work, and if you’re headed somewhere or don’t know where you are and that happens, having a paper map will be super handy. Of course, asking for help is also a great option, but in situations where you don’t speak the local language, having a paper map backup is a wise choice!
This is the maps app we use the most when traveling abroad and man, I can’t say enough about it. No wifi needed, you just need to make sure you download the map for the area that you are headed. Do that before you leave and you’re golden! It works great as a navigation tool for driving and you can also pin any places that you want to highlight – and did I mention it works independently of a wifi/data connection? So clutch.
5. Know thy Currency
Yes, know what kind of currency the country you are headed to uses, but that’s not all I’m talking about. Take some time to learn how the currency compares to your own money, and come up with a good conversion chart in your head. For example, if something says it costs $100 in the currency of the country you are visiting, know if that means $150 or $50 in your currency because that’s a big difference and you’ll want to be on top of those differences before you leave.
6. Bring Cash
Even if your plan is to primarily use credit cards as your means of payment while traveling, always, always take some extra cash in the local currency with you. You may come across places that only accept cash or only certain types of credit cards, and in those scenarios, you’ll be super thankful for that extra cash on hand!
7. Bring a Credit Card with No International Fees
A little-knowndrawback of certain cards is that they have international fees attached to them, so if you use them overseas, you get charged a small percentage on top of your cost just for using it. Most travel-centric cards will have a no-international-fees perk. If you have a couple credit card options, read over your cardmember agreement or do some Googling to figure out which card works the best for overseas use. Ideally, you would have a card with no international fees as your primary card, and then any of your others can serve as emergency backups.
8. Keep Credit Cards Separate
Are you taking several cards that you could potentially use as payment on your trip? Keep them separate from one another. It might sound complicated, and disorganized, but if your wallet or purse gets stolen or lost, you at least have another one to fall back on because it wasn’t in the exact same place.
9. Let Your Bank and Credit Card Company Know You’re Traveling
Most banks and credit cards have an online form within your account where you can provide them with specific dates and locations of where you are headed so that they don’t shut that baby down.
10. Provide an Itinerary for Family/Friends
It doesn’t have to be a super intense, this-is-where-we’ll-be-every-hour-of-every-day-itinerary, (because let’s be real, you don’t even know that yourself yet!), but a general overview of the places you’ll be staying at (addresses and numbers) and the dates you’ll be there, can be helpful and reassuring to loved ones. Whether there’s crappy internet or urgent matters and they need to get a hold of you they know how. Also, have you seen Taken? I kid, but this is a great just-in-case thing to do because your dad isn’t Liam Neeson (though I’m sure he’s great).
11. Know the Local Tipping Policies
There isn’t a universal formula for tipping so it’s important to know how tipping works in the country you are visiting. Some places might be similar to what you are used to, but others already include a tip in the price or don’t expect a tip. Do a little research and find out what the proper etiquette is for where you are headed. P.S. ordering water might not be free (gasp!).
12. Know thy Transportation
Take advantage of public transportation if it’s available, and learn how it works. Do you buy tickets on the bus or beforehand? Is there a card that you can load with money to use on multiple transportations options? Are there tourist passes that you can buy? Knowing the answers to these questions before you leave can solve a lot of last minute questions.
13. Learn Basic Phrases in the Local Language
Even just hello and goodbye in the local language can make a difference. And sometimes, you might be able to understand things differently than people you are with! I’ll never forget when Ian tried to check-in to our hostel in Dublin, the man asked clear as day to see his ID and he just stood there with a blank look on his face. Luckily for Ian, I’m fluent in English.
14. Be Aware of Your Passport
Certain places won’t let you in if your passport expires in six months or less. Know that, and make sure you check your passport waaayyyy in advance so that if you need to get it renewed, it’s not a mad dash to try and do it before you leave. When we were dating, Ian accidentally booked a trip to visit me with an expired passport and might have spent a pretty penny to get his passport expedited (hey, true love!).
Also, keep it safe. It goes without saying, and you may have your plane ticket, but that document is your real ticket back home, so know where it is at all times!
15. Research Travel Visas
Before jet-setting off, make sure you know if you need to get a travel visa for where you are headed. Depending on the country you are headed to, a travel visa may be needed to get through customs. Research it in advance so you have enough time to get one.
16. Look Into Travel Insurance
Research travel insurance and decide if it is needed for your trip. It tends to be pretty affordable, especially if it is a miles and points trip. Ian uses Insuremytrip to find and compare the best insurance for us, depending on what type of trip we are going on. Just make sure you read the fine print so you know exactly what is included!
17. Have Photocopies of Your Passport.
Again, if your passport were to get stolen or lost, although a photocopy is not a replacement option for the actual passport, it can be helpful to have along just in case.
18. Get Your Rest
Jetlag is no joke, and that, on top of being up and at ‘em seeing and exploring new places, can leave you exhausted FAST. Get plenty of rest!
19. Get Out if Your Comfort Zone
Embrace the new culture that you are in. As Ian puts it, “You don’t just want to find your America inside of Europe”. Try new things, do things you normally wouldn’t and embrace the places you are traveling to.
20. Be Ready for the Unexpected and Roll with It
When you are traveling to a different culture, you’re going to also run into different ways of doing things from what you’re used to. Enjoy those differences because you never know where they’ll take you or what once in a lifetime memories you can make because of them!
The Simple Summary
Happy travels, friends! Please send us postcards (I love postcards). And if you have any other tips or advice for traveling abroad, we’d love to hear them and continue to add to our list!