International Travel Tips: How to Make the Most of Your Next Global Adventure
Planning an international trip can get overwhelming. From hotels to flights to trains, there are a million little details you need to consider. On top of that, you have to be ready for anything when you arrive in a new country. Luckily, you’re not the first person to leave their comfort zone for the excitement of an international adventure, and you can learn from the wisdom of those who have gone before you. Here are our top tried-and-true international travel tips to help you make the most of your trip.
Be Money Smart
You can’t get anywhere if you don’t have money. Of course, it’s important to consider that you may be traveling somewhere with different currency than your own. While travel-friendly credit cards are convenient, it’s important to always carry some physical cash on you. If your credit card gets stolen or just doesn’t work, you don’t want to be stranded with no money.
Carry a few hundred dollars worth of cash with you, but don’t keep it all in one place in case any of it gets stolen. Money belts are a great option for keeping money safe and close by. Other spots to stash your cash include sewn in inserts, around the frame of your backpack, in a toiletry bag, and even in your sock.
Socialize with Locals and Travelers
Even if you’re traveling solo, you don’t have to be all by yourself. Take the opportunity to socialize as much as you can. Talking to locals is an especially great way to get to know a place. Chances are, they’ll introduce you to restaurants and destinations that are off of the usual tourist radar. There’s no better way to experience the authentic culture of a place than by engaging with the people who actually live there.
If you’re staying in a hostel, strike up a conversation with your temporary roommates. You’ll meet people from all over the world, and you may find a travel buddy who also wants to see that art exhibit with you.
Prepare for Any Emergency
No one wants to consider all the things that could go wrong while they travel, but unfortunately, a lot of things can and may go wrong. An important part of international travel tips include ways to prepare yourself for any potential pitfalls.
The most important things to have while you’re traveling internationally are your documents, like your passport, ID, visa, etc. But what happens if one of these documents get stolen or lost? Always make sure you have digital copies of all your documents in addition to your physical ones. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with lost passport procedures, which you can find on the U.S. Passports and International Travel website.
The same advice should apply to your phone. You keep all of your important contact information in there, but if your phone is lost or stolen, you can be stranded. Store important phone numbers in a physical document and somewhere online like Google Drive than can be accessed anywhere. That way, you’ll still be able to get in touch with the people who matter.
In addition to theft, be prepared for health emergencies. Carrying a basic first aid kit is always best practice, and know how to contact local emergency services. Even if you don’t have any known allergies, bring along an emergency antihistamine in case you have any unexpected allergic reactions. Since you’ll likely be eating new foods, you never know what can happen! If you have any serious medical conditions, make sure you carry medical identification information, just in case.
Travel insurance is pretty much always a good idea, so look into options before you go. You can find a plan that covers all the emergencies that might occur, from stolen stuff to hospitalization. If an emergency does happen, you’ll have one less thing to worry about knowing that you’re covered.
Experience Local Culture
When you visit a popular tourist destination, there are always those tourist traps that everyone goes to (for example, Big Ben in London and the Empire State Building in New York). Don’t get us wrong — there’s a reason why people go to these places, but they aren’t the only things to see. While you should definitely make time to see those ever-popular destinations, you should also prioritize visiting places off the beaten path.
If you want to experience what living in a place is really like, don’t look for the popular tourist spots. Look for the places that the locals go to. You can ask your hotel concierge, scour the internet, or just chat with some locals you meet on the street.
Food is one of the best ways to really experience a place. If you’re in a new place, don’t go to a chain restaurant. Find a locally-owned spot with authentic food, and get ready to get out of your comfort zone. Keep an open mind and try some new cuisines.
If you’re in a country where the people speak a different language than you, brush up on your foreign language skills. Buy a dictionary or phrasebook, and try to communicate with locals using their native tongue. While a lot of people abroad do speak English, you’re the visitor in their country, so why not try to use their language? Often, locals will appreciate the effort you’re making, even if your language skills are rusty at best.
Keep a Journal
It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but a really helpful international travel tip is to start keeping a travel journal. Journaling is a great way to track where you visited and when, and you can record your thoughts and feelings about the place if you so please. You can use a physical journal or a digital note taking service depending on what suits you.
For some, it can be hard to carve out time to journal while you’re focused on seeing a new place. However, the result is worth it. You don’t want to get home and find that you completely forgot the name of that amazing Thai restaurant you visited! If you make a point to at least record where you went and when, it’ll go a long way.
Leave Room for Spontaneity
Some people love to plan, and they’ll plan the schedule of their trip down to the very last detail. It may be comforting to have a set schedule, but that doesn’t leave any room for impromptu plans. Try not to get too strict with your scheduling. If you get too stressed out by trying to meet your agenda down to the minute, you could miss out on a fun new destination that you just stumbled upon.
We’re not saying that you shouldn’t plan for your trip at all; we’re saying that there’s a balance to be struck between planning and being spontaneous. Give yourself one or two big things that you want to experience that day, and leave the rest of your time open to explore. That way, you’ll still hit all of your must-see spots, but you’ll still leave time to visit that cool restaurant someone recommended to you.
Balance Budgeting and Splurging
The key to making the most of your trip abroad is balance, and that applies to your spending as well. Learning when to budget and when to splurge is a skill that will make your trip way more manageable, financially.
If you’re traveling on a budget, you may feel reluctant to drop a lot of cash on any one thing. However, every trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and sometimes, you’ll find some things you just can’t pass up. Maybe you have the chance to eat at one of the best restaurants in the world, but you’re hesitating at the price tag. Go for the splurge! As long as your budgeting in other areas, it allows for those moments when you need to spend a bit more money.
Of course, the opposite is true too. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy hotel to have a great trip. In fact, you probably won’t even be spending much time in your hotel room. Save money by booking a bed at a hostel or seeking a more basic but cheaper hotel. That way you can use your money on more important things like scuba diving.
Travel Smart Today
There’s no doubt that traveling internationally is exciting, but it can also be daunting. The best way to alleviate any of those pre-travel jitters is through preparation. If you go into your journey with a plan of attack, you’ll feel way more confident about tackling life in a new country. Now that you’re armed with our best international travel tips, pick up your Cabeau travel pillow and travel accessories and embark on your adventure!