Your trip is booked, but are you really ready to leave? Check out this list of travel tips and hacks to do before you go on your next international vacation. These will help you save time, money, and most importantly – stress!
Learn Local Phrases
You don’t want to commit one of the 7 deadly sins of travel, do you? If you’re visiting somewhere with a different language, learn a few key phrases. Things like “Where is the bathroom”, “Help!”, “How Much”, and “My rental car is on fire” may just save your trip. Just kidding on that last one, but you never know.
Learn Local Customs
In Thailand, it’s against the law to step on cash. Why? It has the King’s face on it, and he is highly respected by the Thai people. You also can’t talk badly about him or his family. There are many examples like this where it will be key to learn local customs as not to offend.
Above you’ll see where we got our stick and poke tattoos in Thailand! This is a traditional form of tattooing started by Buddhist monks.
Make Your “Must-Do” List
Everyone has something they DEFINITELY want to do in each city! Pick one thing that you want to do in each city and make plans to go see that thing. Buy the ticket, book the tour, or do whatever you need to do to make it happen. Make sure you check for local events before you go to really take advantage of your destination’s culture. Also, check out these free travel apps that are perfect for traveling internationally.
Get Your Shots
Some countries require or recommend certain vaccinations to enter. Travelers from America can see the CDC recommended vaccines or ask their primary care doctor. For example, no vaccines are required to enter Thailand but if you’re visiting the jungle you may want to get the Malaria shot.
Fill Your Prescriptions
You’ll want to make sure you bring anything that could be hard to get in a foreign country. This includes glasses, medical prescriptions, medical equipment, etc.
Save On Booking Everything
You’ll always spend money when traveling, and I like to make money while spending that money. Learn how you can use Ebates to book hotels, flights, tours, and more and actually get cash back with no strings attached.
Learn how you can make your money last while traveling here!
Tell Your Bank
The last thing you want is to arrive in your country and have all your cards get declined. Tell your bank about your travel before you go! You usually just need to tell them where you’re going and when. That way they won’t flag your spending as fraud. You can usually do this online within 90 days of your trip – look for a “travel” setting.
Pick A Credit Card to Use
Figure Out How You’ll Get Cash
My recommendation is to open a Schwab Checking Account because they will refund you foreign transaction and ATM fees. You’ll get a debit card which has no minimum required balance. Use this card at any ATM around the world and get local cash out.
Another option is to get cash before you leave. You can usually do this at the mall, a currency exchange, your bank, or the airport. The airport tends to be the most expensive so avoid this if possible!
Figure Out WiFi & Texting
Chances are, you’re going to want Wi-Fi. We typically get global data by using an unlocked iPhone and then buying a SIM card at the airport of our destination country.
Alternatively, most cell phone companies have plans that are usually like $10+ a day. Personally, I recommend just using the Wi-Fi at the hotel and downloading an offline map of the areas you’re traveling in. Don’t forget you can usually text over Wi-Fi for free.
Decide What Gear You’re Bringing
We usually bring our iPhones, GoPro Hero 7, and Canon M50 on our trips. Plus accessories, power bricks, and more misc. items.Find out exactly what we bring here.
Check the Local Voltage
Don’t fry your electronics because the voltage is different! Be sure to check this list of voltage info in different countries before you pack. Consider bringing a power strip with a surge protector plus a plug converter if you have more than 5 things to plug in.
Double Check Your Passport/Visa
Some countries won’t let you in if your passport or visa expires within 6 months of your travel date. Make sure your documents are valid and won’t expire soon. Also, double check what that country’s entrance requirements are. For example, visiting Cuba requires you to have a specific listed reason to visit as of 2019.
Pro Tip: consider getting TSA PreCheck and Global Entry to speed through airport security lines!
This is one of my favorite travel hacks! Print a small, laminated copy (at any office supply store) of your passport that’s business-card sized. When you get to the hotel, put your passport in the safe and your new mini-passport in your wallet. This way, if you lose your mini-passport or it gets stolen, you won’t be missing the real passport!
Register Your Trip
This is great for a cautious traveler. Americans can enroll in the STEP program which registers your trip with the US government. This way they can keep you informed of weather advisories, travel warnings, and more. It can also help you if you ever need to visit your country’s embassy during your vacation.
Pro Tip: Share your trip itinerary with a close friend or family member just in case they need to get in touch with you while you lay on a beach in Cancun.
Pack An Extra Outfit
It was Oktoberfest 2014. My roommate Hannah’s bag did not make it from Los Angeles to Germany, and she was stuck wearing the same t-shirt and yoga pants for three days straight. Moral of the story: just bring an extra outfit, or at the minimum, a change of underwear and socks.
To Check A Bag Or Not To Check A Bag?
Since almost all airlines charge for checking a bag now, you will want to reconsider whether you can just bring a carry-on. For bigger trips, this can be difficult! Make sure you look up your airlines’ rules and also consider whether you WANT to bring a big bag. It’s harder to carry around, heavier and may be difficult to use on certain trips. For example, rolling a 50-pound bag on cobblestone streets in Europe just sucks.
Check out my favorite travel backpack above from EBags.
Pack Then Take Out Half Your Stuff!
I don’t know where I read this, but it’s been immensely helpful. Pack everything you think you need and then take half the stuff out. Consider whether you really need that item. Does it go with everything? Does it get dirty easily? Is it a treasured possession that you might lose or damage? Better to ask yourself now than to regret bringing it later.
You’re Ready To Go!
Now that you’re well-versed in international travel, you’re ready to go! If you have a favorite international travel hack, tell us in the comments below.