what to know before traveling abroad

Tips For First-Time International Travelers

tips for first time international travelers

If you're headed abroad for the first time, you're in for the adventure of a lifetime! I'd argue that international travel is one of the most life-enriching experiences in the world for countless reasons (which I won't get into right now). And while you have so much to look forward to, there are also some things you should plan on before you go to ensure a trip without hiccups.  

 

1. NOTIFY YOUR BANK + CREDIT CARDS

Always call the number on the back of your debit and credit cards to notify them of your travel destinations and dates. Sometimes if they see charges in another country without notice, they'll assume it's fraudulent and freeze your account. Also, be sure to ask if any of your cards offer no foreign transaction fees (there are lots of cards that do and all of those little fees can rack up quickly). 

 

 

2. KNOW YOUR INSURANCE COVERAGE

Call your insurance to see if your policy applies overseas for emergencies. If it doesn’t, you can consider supplemental insurance. And be sure that you've renewed all essential prescriptions so you don't run out while you're gone! 

 

 

3. MAKE COPIES OF YOUR PASSPORT

If your passport is lost or stolen on a trip, the last thing you want is to be stuck at the border or denied re-entry. To avoid this issue, simply make sure to have some copies of your passport (I take photos of all my travel documents and credit cards to keep in a secure album on my phone). You can also make a scanned hard copy to give to someone you trust back home so they have it if you need it for any reason. If for some reason you do lose your passport, immediately contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate so they can assist you. 

 

 

4. GET CASH FROM AN ATM IN THE COUNTRY YOU'RE VISITING

Skip those rip-off conversion centers in the airport or around the city and just get your cash from an ATM when you arrive in the country you're visiting. You won’t get charged as many fees this way, and the conversion will be exact. If you really want to avoid fees, you can open an account with Charles Schwab (who offers no international ATM fees or conversion rates). I did this, but only because I was gone for quite a while- it may not be worth the trouble otherwise. 

 

 

5. PACK THE PROPER CONVERTER

All electrical outlets are not created equal in this world. So before you head overseas, be sure you have the proper converter for all of your electronics. It’s unlikely you’ll need to plug-in every single device at once, but also that you’ll only need to use one at a time. So pack a number that makes sense based on your individual needs. But my biggest piece of advice? Don’t factor the one you’d need for a wand or straightener. Regardless of how they’re advertised, I’ve heard countless stories from travelers of converters frying hair tools overseas (my best friend even burned off a chunk of her hair while we were in Paris). If you want to curl your hair, buy a cheap wand once you get there (you can easily find one under €30) to protect both your tools + your locks.

 

 

6. GET A GLOBAL PHONE PLAN

In today’s world of having our phones practically glued to our hands, feeling limited to when we have data or service can feel suffocating. And while that comment may make me sound like a millennial you want roll your eyes at, I’m not just talking about being able to post on Instagram or Snapchat. You try navigating a foreign country without maps or Google, and then let’s talk. 

While most restaurants and public establishments overseas have wi-fi, it’s leaps and bounds easier to have international data on your phone whenever you need it. Depending on your phone plan and provider, these rates can be astronomical- but there are other options. Check to see if your device is unlocked (aka- able to read other SIM cards). T-mobile offers plans for as low as $50 a month that include unlimited data and texting (if you bring your own device). Simply purchase the sim card (~$20) from them or any carrier overseas and pay for each month you’ll be abroad. Voila. 

If you decide to skip this part and rely on wi-fi, be sure to turn off your data roaming to avoid charges. 

 

 

7. REGISTER WITH YOUR EMBASSY

Registering with your embassy when traveling abroad gives you an extra sense of security. It ensures that you receive information relevant to your trip (like warnings about severe weather or civil unrest) and it also makes it easier for people back home to contact you in case of an emergency. 

 

 

8. ENSURE YOU HAVE PROPER VISAS + VACCINATIONS

While lots of places require neither, be sure to check the visa requirements and vaccination requirements (if any) for the country you're visiting. 

 

All in all, going abroad is much easier than it may sound so don't let this laundry list of items scare you! And when you've done these things once, they'll all seem so easy to do again the next time you go. 

Have some other tips that have been helpful when you've gone abroad? Let me know in the comments below!

I'm off to load up my car because I'm hitting the road for 6 weeks tomorrow! Be sure to follow along in real time on Instagram and Snapchat (blonde_atlas). Hope everyone has a great Friday and a fun weekend! 

xx

Whitney