If you plan on traveling internationally, plan on reading this as well!
These are our top 10 tips from the expert travel agents here at Group Tours, extremely helpful tips to follow while preparing for a trip abroad, whether you are crossing the border into your neighboring country or you are hopping on a plane to travel across the world. Read up, wise up, and pack up!
Update and Copy Passport.
Before you plan on traveling over any international borders you must ensure that your passport is both up to date and properly photocopied. Most passport books are valid for 10 years, so just check your expiration date well before your trip. If you do not have a passport, plan on spending about 150 for a 10-page book. Also be sure to schedule getting your book at least 6 weeks prior to your trip.
As far as photocopies go, you are going to want to have a copy of your passport information page in a separate location with you during your travels, as well as a copy back home, just in case.
Be sure to call or check in person to person at your bank and let them know the details your location and time frame of the trip. Oftentimes your card will get automatically frozen if used very far from home, especially over international borders. Even if you do let your bank know ahead of time, be sure to bring cash as well, because there are sometimes caps on international spending limits within a short period of time. This means even if you tell your bank and are approved for international debit/credit card usage, if you spend over a certain amount in a short period of time (usually around $500), your card will be frozen and/or declined regardless of the amount of money on it.
Change Phone Plan
Call your cell phone provider prior to your trip and ask about a week long, month long, or even permanent upgrade on your international data and calling plan. Oftentimes there is only a small charge to upgrade your plan and not worry about roaming internationally, whether it is service or data/wifi related. If you do happen to forget, turn off the mobile data roaming on your phone and try not to send any messages or calls while traveling, this will run your bill up very quickly if not covered.
Thoroughly Research Location.
This point seems like a given when making an international trip, however, we still see many cases of travelers not being properly aware of their surroundings in a foreign place. We understand, you've never been there before and it's all so new and exciting, trust us, we've done it too. If you want to have a successful and safe trip, however, you need to know where to go when you get there, where to stay, where to eat, and most importantly, where to try to avoid. Just remember, you are not at home and things may not work the same here, be aware of your travel destination's ins and outs!
Bring Cash & Learn Conversion Rates.
As mentioned before, be sure to carry sufficient cash when traveling internationally. Swiping cards will not work for you everywhere you travel, and quite frankly, money talks. Be sure to stow your cash in a safe spot (not just your pocket), and keep some in separate areas at all times in case of pickpocketing/ robbery. Leaving some in your hotel room safe or even your shoe is oftentimes recommended as well. If you are traveling to a country in which you are not sure about the monetary supplement used or the conversion rate, do your research beforehand. You do not want to get hassled in a foreign country simply because you don't know how much something is worth. Be smart and be prepared.
Don’t be Flashy & Try to Blend In.
Unless you are a particularly wealthy person traveling for business purposes (and even usually not in that case), you probably don't want to be flashing around any expensive jewelry, clothing, or cars in certain areas. This makes you a quick target in tourist areas and may even turn off some of the locals in the area you are visiting. Try to be humble about your wealth if you have an excess of it and respect the locals way of living. If possible be a fly on the wall and try to blend into the fashion, monetary, and other customs of the people surrounding you. This will make your trip more authentic and culturally enlightening anyway.
Meet New People.
This is a common travel tip we like to give, because what travel experience isn't fully complete without meeting a new friend or two from the place you are visiting, or perhaps from your travel process in general. Connecting on a cultural level is highly important while traveling, especially internationally. So open up and try to be friendly to everyone you see, it will help you immensely in the long run!
Notify Others Back Home of Whereabouts.
This one is short and sweet: CALL YOUR PARENTS. If you are older, call your children, your friends, or even your coworkers. Let someone know where you are once a day or once every other day, just to keep your wellbeing known to someone besides yourself. You really never know when something may go wrong health or travel-wise, so someone somewhere needs to be up to date on your location while away from home.
Pack Light and Carry On.
We've seen it a thousand times; you pack for days, you try not to forget anything, you get to the airport, and your luggage is too heavy to comfortably tote and/or check for free. Bags weighing over 50 pounds will likely need additional payment to get through the travel process at the airport. If possible travel light and don't carry more than you can handle. Take advantage of your carry-on bag opportunity and stow away an extra outfit, a pair of shoes, medicines, snacks, and shower/makeup toiletries. This way you will have your luggage weight well dispersed and easily accessible in the case of a luggage-lose emergency.
Be Familiar With Customs.
The process of getting back home through customs is sometimes a shock for a lot of people, especially those who have tried to come home with any sort of souvenir from a foreign country. Just remember the basics of traveling back to your home country: fruits and vegetables of any kind will not be allowed back, nor will most natural components (rocks, animal life, natural settings). Alcohol, tobacco, medications, and similar substances are hard to get back also and/or only allowed in small quantities clearly meant for personal use and not for sale. Any hunting trophies or meat acquired internationally will not be allowed back through customs either.
Bonus Tip from Group Tours: Be Sickness Prepared/ Bring Pills.
Listen, not all foods are going to agree with you while you are traveling internationally, nor are the car rides, the boat rides, or the airplane rides. Be prepared to not be feeling 100% the entire time you are traveling, it rarely happens that you will feel great and chipper your entire time abroad.
Pack common medicines you use like Tylenol or Aleve, as well as stomach medications like Pepto, Immodium, and Tums. Vitamins and Dramamine are always a good idea as well. Remember, if you go to Mexico, don't drink the water, you will regret it later!
Read our last 10 Tips Blog here! 10 Tips for Fearless Solo Travel.