International Travel Tips or: Things I’ve learned on Vacation
Adam and I recently returned from a (mostly) wonderful trip to Brazil — Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro — and Argentina — Iguazu Falls and Buenos Aires. And while the memories are still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way — both in past wanderings and also on this particular time abroad.
While some of these suggestions are timeless, there are of course others that will not stand the test of time due to natural shifts in technology, economy, etc. That said, if this post helps even just a few people plan for and enjoy their vacations more thoroughly, it will be worth my time and effort.
14 Tips for Traveling Smarter Internationally
- Visas: If you’re going to a country that requires a visa, be sure to start the process of acquiring it ASAP — it can be lengthy. In our case, we had to pay a company to actually go to the Brazilian Embassy in Houston to get the visa for us; it was both expensive and relatively time-intensive.
- Kosher Reservations: Growing up, kosher meals used to be the best food you could get on a plane ride, so we would order them when we booked international flights, even though we don’t keep kosher. I learned through our experience on this trip that it’s not a foolproof strategy anymore. Unless you keep kosher, you’re better off taking chances with the regular meals — that way you have at least two choices.
- Makin’ Copies: Scan all of your important documents and information and email them to yourself and also to someone you trust at home in case you need to cancel/replace them.
- Don’t get Denied: Contact your credit card and banking providers to let them know that you will be traveling abroad, and consider asking your bank to raise the limit you can take out daily. This can save you money in that it will allow you to limit the number of withdrawals you’ll need to make, as well as minimize the associated fees.
- Confirm, then Reconfirm: Confirm hotel and flight reservations before you leave for your trip, and maybe again while traveling. I learned this the hard way after booking (I thought) flights on a foreign airline. Since I had received a confirmation code, and felt confident that the flights were booked. I didn’t learn until we arrived at the airport that this was not the case. That was an expensive (and stressful) lesson to learn, but we were lucky that there were extra seats on the flight and that we could afford to buy tickets on the spot.
- Leave the Family Jewels at Home: Leave any jewelry that has monetary or personal value at home. Even a simple gold band can make you a target in some countries.
- Pack Extra: Throw a fresh pair (or two) of contact lenses in your bag if you wear them, and take a backup pair of glasses too; bringing prescriptions for any medications you take isn’t a bad idea either.
- Plugging In: Check to see what kind of adaptor plugs you’ll need and the voltage for the countries you are visiting so that you can charge your smartphone, camera, razor, hair dryer, etc.
- Memories: Consider buying a larger memory card, or extra memory cards, for your camera. If you forget to do that before you leave, you can buy a new one on the road, albeit at a markup (most likely).
- Plane Travel: Bring layers of clothing, snacks, charging cords, important medications, and an extra change of underwear and socks. It’s also a good idea to invest in a backpack instead of a shoulder bag to ease the burden (to you, or in my case, to your husband) of lugging carry-ons between terminals during layovers.
- Smartphones: I personally recommend using your smartphone abroad and have dedicated an entire post to ways your smartphone can be worth the trouble of navigating international plans. That said, there are two words that can’t be stressed enough when it comes to using your smartphone internationally: Airplane Mode.
- TimeOut: Find out if there’s a TimeOut guide for the cities you’ll be visiting. We found the website and app invaluable for finding live music options.
- Foreign ATMs: When taking out money from an ATM, make sure you get your card back after the transaction ends. If you forget to grab it, the machine will suck it back in and then shred it, leaving you without an easy way to get local currency.
- Minimize the Damage: There is always a chance of being a victim of theft while traveling abroad (or even in your home country) no matter how careful or savvy you are. Here’s a tip from my cousin Julie, who has traveled extensively. Leave your passport and bank card in the hotel room safe and just carry cash (and maybe your credit card) to cover your needs for the day. That way, if you get pick pocketed, you only lose the cash you have (and your credit card if you brought it), and not your access to cash for the rest of the trip.
I hope you found these tips to be useful; I’ll continue to add to this list as I pick up more tips along the way. I’ve also written a post with tips on using your smartphone internationally, including step-by-step instructions on using your iPhone internationally without racking up a huge bill from AT&T.
I’d love to hear your recommendations for international travel — I know that I have a lot of really smart, savvy, and widely traveled readers, and I hope you’ll weigh in and share your hard-earned wisdom!Tags: Argentina, Brazil, international, kosher, TimeOut, tips, travel