10 Things Every First-Time International Traveler Should Do Before Their Trip
Imagine walking down ancient, narrow cobblestone streets, temple hopping, feasting on a bowl of rice noodles, or photographing centuries-old ruins. Immersing yourself in a different language and culture by traveling internationally is thrilling, whether it is your first time or your 100th time abroad.
From go-to emergency kits to double checking your arrival date, there are certainly a few things that a first-time international traveler should know for a smooth and memorable first trip abroad.
1. Don’t over pack your checked luggage
There is nothing worse than arriving at your destination and schlepping multiple heavy bags to your accommodation, especially if you are traveling solo or with friends who packed light.
If you are traveling with checked luggage, be careful not to over pack and end up with a suitcase too large or heavy to carry yourself. Accommodations might be located on pedestrian-only streets or on cobblestone streets (or both), and if you over pack, you might end up a sweaty, tired mess by the time you arrive; packing light is key.
2. Prepare Your Travel Documents
When outside of the country, your passport is the most important document you could have. Prior to your trip, I suggest making a photocopy of your passport to stash in a safe place. While losing your passport isn’t the end of the world, having this photocopy will certainly help ease your stress.
3. Contact your bank
Banks in the US have really amazing security to prevent fraud, yet this can also block you from accessing money using your ATM card or credit card if in a different country. Simply notifying your bank of your travel plans prior to your trip will prevent your bank from blocking your transaction. Setting up online banking is also key, so you can check in on your account balance, especially if you are taking an extended trip.
4. Get a paper map
I know, I know, everyone uses digital maps now, but data plans and cell service is different outside of the US, so having a paper map will save you from getting lost if you can’t load a digital map. You can often pick up a map in the airport or accommodation upon arrival.
5. Double check your arrival time and date
International flights, especially to Europe and Asia, sometimes arrive on the next day due to time differences. Keep this in mind when booking accommodations and tours.
6. Don’t forget a go-to emergency kit
A small, go-to kit filled with emergency necessities is a lifesaver no matter where you are traveling. I always pack my favorite over-the-counter pain killer, Band-Aids, Tums, and anti-diarrheals. It is also a good idea to stash some extra money
7. Bring along a plug converter
To charge any electronics, you’ll likely need a plug converter. My favorite converters are multi-country converters that can work for multiple destinations on the same trip. I’d even suggest throwing this in your carry-on bag just in case. However, leave the hair blow dryer and straightener at home so you don’t blow the electricity in your accommodation (been there, done that!).
8. Stave off jet lag
After arrival, you’ll likely be tired yet anxious to explore a new destination. Use your precious vacation time wisely by staving off jet lag from the get-go. Set your watch to local time during the flight, and if you arrive during the day, walk around when you arrive to re-set your internal clock with a bit of sun.
When you do finally crash, set an alarm clock for the next morning—you don’t want to sleep the day away—and grab a cup of coffee to banish any yawning.
9. Pack your carry-on luggage wisely
Lost luggage is a big bummer, but it doesn’t have to be. Packing your carry-on luggage carefully, with a change of clothes, essential medicine, and limited liquid products, can make this annoyance much less of a disaster. A clean set of clothes and basic make-up products will help you feel ready for the second day of your trip.
Also, your carry-on should also be well-stocked with entertainment for the flight—I’ve lost count of how many times my TV on the flight didn’t work—whether that be a book, magazine, electronics (or all three!). Add an extra battery pack or charger for your electronics plus a plug converter and you’ll be packed like a frequent traveler.
10. Learn a bit of the language
Learning four simple words—hello, thank you, excuse me, and goodbye—can make a huge difference in your interactions with locals, creating a positive cultural exchange.