Whether you’re considering planning a vacation for you and your partner or looking for some respite for yourself with some solo travel, you must be able to check off several important tasks off your international travel to-do list first. For some of the most crucial and important aspects to take into consideration when traveling abroad, check out our three-part series about how to make your trip one to remember- and not because of stressful planning.
Part I: Prepping and Planning for Your International Adventure
Figuring out foreign currencies, proper paperwork, astronomical international phone bills, and bizarre-looking electrical outlets can seem overwhelming, so we composed a cheat-sheet.
Funding: Planning out your budget for your trip is one of the first and most important tasks to tackle, but when traveling internationally, there are a few more things to consider. For one, you’ll want to make sure your credit and/or debit cards work while you are in another country. For some banks, if you use your normal credit card in another country, they will charge you astronomical fees, on top of the exchange rate. For example, when traveling in London or other large European culture hubs, your bank might require you to get a special “traveler’s card”. This allows you to have the ease and convenience of a credit card without any extra international fees. In addition, make sure you plan out when to use your debit card to hit the ATM while traveling internationally. Your card should work at most machines, but chances are it will give you a bad exchange rate and charge you a fee, which will add up and end up costing you more in the long run. For this reason, if you need to use your debit card to get cash, it’s better to get a larger sum of it and keep the extra bills in your hotel room safe or another secure location.
Speaking of cash… make sure you always have some on hand, and make sure it is the right currency for whatever country you’re in! While credit cards are convenient, many shops, restaurants, or other attractions may not accept them, so make sure to keep a small amount on you so that you won’t have to pass up an opportunity because of the currency!
Paperwork: One of the most important things you must do if you are traveling internationally is make sure your passport and other travel documents are up to date. A passport is single-handedly one of the most important things you’ll bring with you on your trip, and they are often part of a slow process. Check to make sure your passport will be valid for at least 3 months after your trip several months in advance in case you need to renew it or get a new one. Make sure to make copies of all your important paperwork, such as your passport, credit and debit cards, and any travel paperwork, such as visas or bank statements, which are sometimes required if you are traveling internationally for an extended period of time. Keep these in a safe place, such as a safe or locked cabinet, as you might need them if some of your information gets stolen or you lose any of your documents. This is especially important for travel documents such as bank statements or tickets that could get lost in the shuffle easily.
Cell phones + Transatlantic Communication: Between flights, accommodations, attractions, and food expenditures, international vacations already will cost you a pretty penny. However, one of the easiest ways to burn through your vacation budget is through your cell phone.
Cell phones are a key part of going on vacation. Whether your phone doubles as your camera, GPS, or is simply a way for you to stay in contact with friends and family back home, they are one of the most important tools in your travel arsenal. Cell phone companies know this, and will charge you absurd amounts for making international calls or using data while you’re in another country. In fact, Verizon will charge you $1.79 for every minute you talk on the phone, and upwards of 50 cents for every text you receive. That means a 20-minute call to tell your family about your trip will cost you over 35 dollars!
While astronomical fees may seem frustrating, there are several different ways to keep in touch without breaking the bank. For one, if you are only going to be traveling for a short period of time, you might think it is worth it to purchase a limited international plan from your phone company, which will often just charge you a flat rate for every day you use your phone. In fact, if you are traveling for business, your employer might even cover the cost for you to use international data and roaming charges while you are away.
Another way to save major money if you will not be traveling for that long is to keep your phone on airplane mode. While on airplane mode, your smartphone will still be able to connect to wifi hotspots, so you will still be able to text (if your messages can be sent through internet, such as iPhone’s iMessage), browse social media, and check emails without racking up a huge bill. By keeping your phone on airplane mode, your device will stop automatically looking for cellular data signals, and you will not be able to make calls, which will save you lots of money later. Besides, since smartphones are used all around the world, many cafes, restaurants, and other public hubs will have open wifi hotspots for you to connect to.
However, if you are planning on traveling for more than a week or two, or you plan on making a lot of calls while on your trip, you could also consider buying a cheap, prepaid phone while you are there. A prepaid phone will allow you to have a certain amount of pre-loaded calling minutes, texts, data, or a combination of the three while you are traveling. Cell phones and data packages are significantly cheaper in Europe, so you could buy a cheap phone and basic plan for a low cost.
Whatever you choose, be sure to do the research on the different plans your cell phone carrier offers, and think about how dependent you will need to be on your cell while you are away.
Charging your Electronics Internationally: Chances are, your smartphone, laptop, and other chargers won’t work in another country. Be sure to shop ahead of time for a charging device that will be compatible to the outlets for wherever you are going. Some models offer adapters with several different extensions that you can use in multiple different places. In addition, you should also definitely consider purchasing a portable charger. Whether you are on a plane, on a bus, or simply find yourself with a phone on low battery and no outlets nearby, a portable charger that you can keep in your bag can come in handy on multiple occasions.
Planning an international adventure is no easy feat, but by checking off all the components of items to prepare an research before you take off, you’ll be on your way in no time.
What else do you think are important steps to prepping for a trip abroad? We’d love to hear your story about international travel. Share with Through Wolf’s Eyes and Submit Your Story.
Be sure to stay tuned for the second part of our international travel series as we tackle safety, security, and social tips to keep in mind while you explore!
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