You may be familiar with St. Augustine’s famous quote, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
Before you open that symbolic book and fill the pages with your travels, make sure you’re prepared.
You want your book to overflow with happy memories and fun-filled days. Not scribbles about what you wish you had known or done instead.
Here are the best international travel tips to help keep you safe, prepared and ready to ravish every story-enhancing experience.
29 International Travel Tips for Globetrotting Like a Boss
Pack These Essentials for an International Trip
1. Use packing cubes
One of the best ways to stay organized and pack more in a small space is to use packing cubes. Once you use packing cubes, you will never go back!
2. Download helpful apps beforehand
There is an app for almost anything you could possibly think of, and these apps make traveling safer and easier.
- Check out FluentU to learn the local language ahead of time. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into language learning experiences. You can also download material for offline use to keep studying if you’re out and about without Wi-Fi in your new country.
- For language translation, download Google Translate.
- Try WAZE to make navigating your new city as painless as possible.
- For communication, WhatsApp works well in numerous countries.
- For safety, look into Sitata Travel Safe.
3. Always have ear plugs
Oh, the noises you experience in the night while traveling internationally. Especially if you stay in a busy city, hostel or hotel with paper thin walls. Ear plugs will make the difference between a night of rest and a night of noise.
4. Bring a scarf or sarong
A scarf or sarong is a must-have item in your pack for both guys and girls. Both can serve multiple purposes. They can be a fashion statement, insulator, train or plane pillow, shawl, head wrap and cover-up.
The best part? They are compact and will take up barely any space in your bag.
5. Pack a multi-purpose jacket
A key to packing light is bringing items that can be used for various purposes. Bring a jacket that can be used as a rain jacket, a wind breaker and a layer of warmth to avoid packing too much.
6. Buy a multi-plug and voltage adapter for your electronics
Did you know that there are 15 different plug and socket configurations in use today around the world? Rather than buying a specific adapter for each country you intend to visit, you can now purchase an adapter that has multiple different plug and socket set-ups.
7. Purchase an international phone plan
Some cell phone companies offer an option to purchase an international plan to use while overseas in order to avoid astronomical roaming fees.
Another easy option is to have your cell phone unlocked. Then purchase a SIM card and data in the country that you are in. While a lot of places have Wi-Fi, it is incredibly helpful to be able to access the internet and your apps while on the move and out of Wi-Fi range.
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Use These Safety and Security Tips for International Travel
8. Check your passport
Many countries will not accept your passport if it expires within six months of your entry date. Prior to booking any international trip, it is imperative to double check the expiration date on your passport.
You also need to have at least two blank pages in your passport for entry and exit stamps.
9. Make copies of your passport
It is a complete buzzkill if you lose your passport or have it stolen while abroad. The steps you will need to take to get a new passport will definitely eat up some of your valuable vacation days.
Instead of carrying around your actual passport when you are out and about, you should carry a copy of it and keep your actual passport locked up in a safe place.
10. Enroll in STEP
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service offered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs to all U.S. citizens.
By enrolling, you will receive up-to-date safety and security information for the country or countries you intend to visit on your trip.
You will be notified of any travel advisories or alerts during your international journey. It is also a way for the U.S. Embassy to get in touch with you in case of an emergency.
11. Read up on visa requirements, laws and customs
If you are a citizen of a Western nation, you might expect to simply purchase a visa at the border of the country you visit.
While this can be the case, certain countries require visitors to buy visas before arrival. Also, the laws are always changing, so it’s good to double-check.
To avoid being denied access to your desired destination, research the visa requirements beforehand.
To avoid embarrassment and even potential incarceration, while you are looking up visa requirements, research the local laws and customs, too.
12. Share your itinerary with loved ones
Even if you don’t have a set-in-stone itinerary, it is a wise idea to let someone know your general plan. The more specific you can be, the better.
13. Lock and label your luggage
Use a TSA-approved lock to secure all your checked luggage. It is also a good idea to have a lock for your carry-on bags so that you can secure your belongings when you leave them at your accommodation.
Always have a baggage tag on the outside of your luggage. Write your name and contact information on a piece of paper inside of your luggage, too, just in case the outside tag is torn off accidentally or purposefully.
14. Be aware, but not afraid
Unfortunately, the media often portrays certain places and cultures in a negative light. Do not believe everything you see on the television or internet.
While we do live in a volatile world where unexpected travesties occur, and it is possible to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, we should not let the perception and opinions of others become our own.
The majority of the world is filled with kind and fascinating people. As long as you use common sense, trust your instincts and stay aware of your surroundings, your international trip should be terrific.
Take Care of Your Health While on an International Trip
15. Get the required and recommended vaccinations
Don’t mess around with international bugs, diseases or viruses! Prior to leaving for that exotic paradise you have your heart set on, make sure you have taken all of the necessary precautions regarding your health.
Some countries require you to prove that you have received certain vaccinations, while other places just come with a pretty clear warning label reading, “You probably should get that X vaccination.”
Remember, without your health, there is no amazing adventure.
16. Put together a personal medical pack
Sure, it is likely that you will have access to a pharmacy abroad. But save yourself the trouble of trying to locate one in the middle of the night when the local food starts taking a toll on your stomach and you are running low on toilet paper.
It is easy to put together a small medical pack of common medicines you might need while traveling internationally. Benadryl, Advil, Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol, Imodium, Tums, cough drops and even a prescription of ciprofloxacin can be game changers when you feel bad.
17. Consider buying travel insurance
You do not need insurance … until you do.
When you do need insurance, it is already too late if you do not have it. Travel insurance is actually very affordable compared to what a lot of us pay for our regular health insurance.
Travel insurance is not only beneficial when something major happens regarding your health and wellness. It can also save your neck if you get robbed or the airline loses your baggage. Or maybe you miss a flight, have to cancel your trip due to a natural disaster or have a personal emergency.
18. Check if the water is safe to drink
Especially in third world and developing countries, the water is typically not safe to drink from the tap.
You will regret with such unimaginable severity if you drink the tap water in a place that is deemed unsafe.
The same goes for food. Know what you should and should not eat while in a particular destination.
19. Listen to your body
It is exciting being in a new destination and bouncing around from place to place. But remember to give your body ample time to rest, fuel up with nourishing foods and stay hydrated while on the go internationally.
It is totally fine to take a nap or have a down day. Treat yourself to a super healthy meal and a vitamin-packed fresh pressed juice.
Follow These Easy Ways to Avoid Financial Stress
20. Notify your bank and credit card providers of your international travel dates
As a fraud precaution, many banks and credit card companies will freeze your account if they notice international charges being made. Avoid this hassle by letting them know your plans to travel.
Most banks and credit card companies have an automated service where you can lock in your international dates on the phone in a matter of minutes.
21. Know the local exchange rate
Successfully manage your travel budget and avoid getting ripped off by looking up the exchange rate in the country that you are visiting prior to your first in-country purchase.
22. Take out local currency from an ATM in the country that you are exploring
The best exchange rate that you will get is actually from the ATM. Places that advertise currency exchange typically charge a fee and do not always have the fairest exchange rates.
23. Stash cash in multiple places
When traveling internationally, make sure you always have cash and keep that cash in more than one place.
You never know when your credit card will not work or a place only accepts cash or, heaven forbid, someone steals your wallet.
Check Out These Tips for Making the Most of Your Trip
24. Learn at least some basic greetings and salutations
It is polite, respectful and highly appreciated when you make an effort to communicate in the native tongue of the place you are exploring.
25. Slow down and take it all in
There is no time like the present.
Savor every second of your journey. Take notice of the small details. Pay attention to the sounds, smells, views, tastes and feel of the country you are in.
26. Take photographs and travel notes
Remember to snap some photos and jot down some things you would like to remember years from now. Photographs and travel notes are two of the best souvenirs you can bring back from your journey.
27. Plan, but don’t plan too much
Everyone has different travel personalities. Some like to plan every part of every day, while others leave the plans to fate.
There is no right or wrong way, though. If you are a major organizer, allow yourself to throw the plans right out the window when the moment for spontaneity arises. Sometimes the best parts of a trip are the completely unexpected parts.
28. Say “yes” more often
Life happens when you say “yes.” There are endless possibilities for life-changing experiences while traveling internationally.
You never know who you will meet, what you will encounter or what opportunities you will have unless you say “yes.” Think hard before you refuse an invitation that might prove to be the most extraordinary chance happening of your life.
29. Go with the flow
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, said, “For me, when everything goes wrong—that’s when the adventure starts.”
Nothing productive comes from panicking, stressing out and getting your feathers all ruffled up. Take a deep breath and flow with the things that are out of your control.
By following these international travel tips, you are now far better prepared to have an escapade that would make Saint Augustine himself want to read your book.
The world is full of page-worthy places, cultures, people and experiences just waiting for you to get out there and be a part of it all.
Jenn Parker is a native Floridian who has been living in Costa Rica since 2010. She is an avid surfer, writer, traveler and nature lover on a mission to surf the earth and share her stories. Check out some of her published work on her website Jenn Parker.
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