In just under a week I’ll be heading to Europe for the third time this year. I’m in the middle of finalizing my itinerary and creating a packing list when I got thinking about all the things one should do before traveling internationally.
Sometimes our holidays may not always go as planned, but one thing is for certain: good planning is key to a good trip, especially when visiting a new country.
Whether it’s your first trip abroad or you just need a quick reminder, here are 20 essential things to do before traveling internationally!
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1. Make copies of your travel documents
We don’t plan on losing our passport while on holidays, but it’s a good idea to make some backup copies just in case: one to bring with you and one to leave at home.
2. Print out hard copies of your itinerary and confirmations
Don’t assume that WiFi will always be available to pull up your itinerary or travel confirmations – always bring a hard copy with you just in case.
I cannot tell you how many times hotels have made a mistake in my reservations and tried to overcharge me. Having a hard copy handy will be in your favor.
I also like to put a copy of my contact information and itinerary in my luggage just in case it gets lost, so the person who retrieves it will know how to contact me. You can also include this information on your luggage tag.
3. Check for travel advisories / register your trip
Depending on where you travel to, there may be unexpected travel advisories that you should be aware of. Sometimes your travel or health insurance may not be valid if there is a current travel advisory.
You can also register your trip with your country’s embassy so they’ll know where you’ll be just in case of an emergency.
4. Call your bank
Before you leave, it’s important to call your bank (the number on the back of your bank card) to let them know that you’ll be traveling. This allows you to use your card to make purchases while abroad.
5. Have some emergency cash on hand
Just because you have your bank cards available, doesn’t mean that they will be accepted at every establishment. It’s good to have some extra cash on hand in the local currency, especially for smaller purchases.
6. Determine what documents you need to enter the country
Most countries require a passport that is valid for six months or more after your return date. You may also require a visa or special documents to enter the country as well.
For example, I needed to purchase a visa in order to enter Turkey earlier this year.
7. Check with your doctor or insurance provider
Before traveling, it’s best to check with your doctor or insurance provider to see if you will require any prescription medications or vaccines before your trip.
You may also require a note from your doctor to allow you to bring certain prescription medications into the country.
8. Research what you can / cannot bring inside the country
The last thing you want to do is to arrive at your destination and find out that some of the items you packed are not allowed into the country. This could be seeds or certain food. Check ahead to avoid any unnecessary disruptions.
9. Check the weather forecast before leaving
I like to do this about a week before, then just a day before to make sure that I pack appropriately. If it’s cold at home but you’re traveling to a warm climate, chances are you don’t need to bring a heavy jacket.
Also, rain may pop up in the forecast which means you’ll need an umbrella. Check ahead so you can pack accordingly.
10. Research local customs and etiquette where you’re visiting
It’s always a good idea to read up a little on the local customs, culture and etiquette so you will know what to expect while traveling internationally.
Sometimes a hand gesture in one country may carry a different meaning in another country; you may need to dress more conservatively than you would back home; tipping policies may vary too – either way, you don’t want to do something silly that could have been avoided if you did your research beforehand.
11. Research events and festivals happening while you’re in town
Knowing if there are any major events happening while you’re in town is good to know. You may want to attend a concert, a festival or just in general, be aware of what’s taking place in the city.
12. Flip through guide books
I know some travelers prefer not to consult with travel books, but I always like to flip through them to get tips, see what sights or attractions are worth visiting, etc.
Many of them also include maps of the different neighborhoods in the city, so it gives you a better understanding of the layout of the city. If you don’t want to invest in a guidebook, you can borrow one for free from your local library.
13. Get adapters / converters for your electronic devices
This should be self-explanatory, but not every country has the same voltage. You can always pick one up from the airport if you forget, but you will pay more there. Instead, I recommend picking up a world travel adapter before your trip.
14. Learn a few key phrases in the local language
One of the best things you can do is to learn at least one keyword or phrase in the local language. Even if you don’t sound like a native, the locals will still appreciate your efforts.
I noticed that this was especially true while I was in Paris. Even though I could only say a few words, I could tell they appreciated that I tried to communicate with them in French first before switching to English.
Also, don’t assume that everyone knows English, because this is not the case. Once you step outside of the main tourist spots, fewer and fewer people speak English.
15. Watch a video on how to use the city’s public transit system
Most metropolitan cities are equipped with a decent public transit system. Instead of paying the high price for taxis, try learning how to use the city’s public transit. You’ll save money and get around town quicker than by car.
If you do decide to hire a car, check ahead to see if you require an international driver’s license.
16. Determine a plan for your mobile phone
Whenever I leave the country, I always turn off my mobile data and switch to airplane mode. I use the city’s WiFi to make calls and text using apps like Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger.
If you require data, talk with your phone provider ahead of time to determine the right plan for you.
17. Buy tickets for places you want to visit / see before you leave
Sometimes you can get a discount when you buy your tickets in advance. This also allows you to skip the ticket line and save time while you’re on holidays.
18. Research how to get to your hotel from the airport
To avoid paying high taxi prices it’s a good idea to research the best way to get to your hotel from the airport. Sometimes taxis offer a flat rate which you should know beforehand in case they try to rip you off.
Most options include taking a shuttle, private car or using the city’s public transit.
By knowing how much each option costs and how long each option will take, you’ll be able to make a choice that fits your budget and needs.
19. Research local tourist scams where you will be visiting
Chances are you’ll be able to spot a scam, but unfortunately this is not always the case. Understanding what to look for is a smart idea so you can prevent being a victim of a scam.
Always keep your wits about you and your personal bags in sight at all times.
20. Pack some over-the-counter medication and toiletries with you
I understand some people want to pack lightly by leaving their toiletries at home, thinking that they’ll be able to buy them at their destination.
Keep in mind however that some items might be hard to find in other countries. If you are traveling to Korea, it will be hard to find deodorant there, so make sure to bring some with you when you visit.