You’re a travel novice. Sure, you’ve taken a cruise to The Bahamas with the family a few years back. But let’s be honest. There’s a difference between boarding a floating party boat for a few days and bartering with a Moroccan taxi driver in a crowded market with mopeds zooming past you.
You know you need a passport and you know to check the weather before starting to pack. But here are a few more things to do while planning an international trip.
Call your bank
Let your bank know when and where you will be traveling. Using a credit card in a foreign country often sets off fraud alarms with your bank. Some banks will even freeze your card if they think it got into the wrong hands. While you’re on the phone with the bank representative, find out if there are any fees for using the card outside of your country. Some don’t have any fees. Some can charge 5 to 7 percent of whatever you are buying. You should also ask how much it will cost to use an ATM. Write down whatever the bank tells you and put a sticky note on the individual card.
Look for the worst
Every time I fly outside of the country, I learn about an airline that I didn’t even know existed. It’s hard to find good deals with smaller airlines if you don’t know their names. So if you really are looking for a bargain flight, look for the worst.
RyanAir and Spirit consistently make the lists of “worst airlines” but they are so cheap! Yes, the flight may be delayed or you don’t get a meal in the air, but that’s okay for some travelers. Personally, I have more time than money. I would rather be delayed a few hours in an airport Chile’s with an extra couple of hundred bucks in my pocket. (More money for 2 for 1 margaritas.)
Pack like your luggage is going to get lost
If your checked luggage gets lost, will you be able to have a fabulous trip with only the stuff in your carry-on? You should. Everyone knows to put the phone, keys and wallet in the carry-on. But do you have at least two pairs of underwear? What about an extra bra or two more outfits? Airlines don’t let you use a massive carry-on bag, but it should be packed in a way that you can still have a great, stress-free trip even if your checked bag never makes it to your destination. Also, always put a jacket in your carry-on because it can act as a pillow, blanket or even a towel.
Your passport is your everything. Many hotels or hostels don’t even let you stay there if you don’t have that little stamp book. Make at least three copies of your passport. Put one copy in your carry-on, one in your checked luggage (if you have any) and leave the last copy with someone at home. You should also scan a copy and email it to yourself and someone else.
Tell the embassy
The State Department allows you to register your trip. You tell them where and when you are going and they keep a record of it. It may seem overcautious, but if something major happens in the country I’m traveling in, I want the U.S. embassy to know that I’m still in the country and I might need help getting out. It only takes a few minutes and you can do it online.
Browse around Pinterest
It’s not just a website for learning how to make a headboard from old pallets or how to construct that perfect fall wreath. Pinterest allows you to make virtual bulletin boards to help you organize and plan your trip. The search option lets you find pictures, blogs and itineraries for almost any country and pin them so you can reference them later.
I knew I was going to Portugal, but I had no idea what to see in Portugal. A quick search on Pinterest revealed the beautiful city of Sintra, complete with colorful castles and cobblestone streets. I immediately knew I had to include Sintra in my Portugal itinerary.
Copy the travel agencies
Even if you’re not planning on using a travel agency or a packaged tour, look on their website anyway. Many of them have itineraries posted with exciting things to do. There’s a reason they are taking their customers to certain cities: that’s where everyone wants to go! See what all the hype is about and determine if it’s something you would be interested in, too.
Get your charge on
Not every country has the outlets you, or your electronics, are use to. Do some research and try to figure out what kind of outlets you will be dealing with before you arrive. Electronic stores offer converters for a pretty cheap price. I always travel with a few different ones. If you’re still out of luck once you arrive to the country, many stores located near tourist spots carry converters.
Planning your first international trip can be intimidating, but don’t let that stop you! Is there something you wish you knew before your first big trip? Leave a comment below.