Travel Tips

International Travel Tips & Checklist

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My friends are taking their first trip to Europe next week and I’m very excited for them! They’ve traveled to the Caribbean but this will be their first truly international trip, so they asked for tips as well as a packing suggestions.

Would you find this helpful when traveling for the first time? What advice would you add?

Download a printable checklist here.

Prepping for the Trip

  • As soon as you book the trip, determine if you’ll need any vaccinations
  • Determine whether you’ll need power outlet converters to power your electronics
  • Hold your mail
  • Figure out how to turn off data roaming on your cell phone
  • For iPhone: Settings->General->Cellular, turn Data Roaming to OFF
  • For Android: Settings->Mobile Network->Data Roaming
  • Scan your passport and email yourself an electronic version, print a copy and tuck into whatever luggage is not on your person, should something happen to your passport, this will make things a little bit easier
  • Print out a copy of your plane itinerary and all reservations. Having written confirmations can help bridge the language barrier if you run into trouble
  • Call your bank and credit card companies and let them know what countries you’ll be traveling in.
  • Bring copies of any prescriptions
  • Apply for a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees if you don’t have one


(you may not need any of this, but if you do, you’ll be glad you don’t have to find a pharmacy!)


Feeling Better In-Flight:

  • Inflatable travel pillow
  • Amenity Kit with face moisturizer, hand moisturizer, eye drops, toothpaste or mouthwash, face towelettes, and a comb


Foreign Currency

  • Bring $100-$200 in cash, just in case something happens to your credit/debit card
  • If you have a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transactions fees, use that for every purchase possible to get the best exchange rate.
  • To get foreign cash, use your debit card to withdraw money from an ATM rather than traveler’s checks which can be a pain. You’ll pay the ATM fee, but get the million dollar exchange rate, far better than what the airport or hotel will offer.
  • If you have excess currency at the end of the trip, don’t bring it home (where the exchange rate will be even worse) put it towards your last hotel bill or other large expense.



  • Automatic Back Up – if you’re taking pictures with your phone or wifi enabled camera, make use of one of the many free options to automatically back your photos up when connected to wifi – Dropbox, Google Photos, iStream, and more.
  • Bring a flash drive and make copies of all your photos each day so if your camera falls into the water you don’t lose everything.


Phone Calls

  • If you get service in the country, your cell phone will ring. You will only be charged if you pick it up or make an outgoing call.
  • Text messages usually run $.05 for each text received and $.50 per text sent (depending on your plan)
  • Download an app like Viber or Skype to make cheap phone calls while traveling, if you’ll have access to wifi. I prefer Viber which is easy to use and has excellent clarity. Calling another Viber user is free, calling a cell or landline in the US is a reasonable 2 cents a minute. Calling other countries isn’t much more. It makes coordinating that tour, calling the hotel, etc much easier.


Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!

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  1. Jared

    July 19, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Get your PIN number from your credit card company (which most of us have NEVER used in the states). You never know when you might get stuck and need it. (Buying train tickets in Italy)

    Set your lock on your phone. Don’t want it to get stolen and them to have access. Also set the “erase after 10 tries”

    Don’t carry your ATM card with your credit card. Plan when to get money and then seperate them either in a safe place or money belt. Don’t want to get both stolen at the same time.

  2. Lea

    July 19, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Get a Charles Schwab checking account. There’s no fee and they don’t charge nor do they pass along ATM fees anywhere in the world. A few days ahead of time you can just transfer in as much cash as you might need for the trip and then withdraw some or all of it at your destination. This way even if your card was stolen they’d only get as much money as was in the account, not your main account elsewhere.

  3. Beck

    July 19, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    I was just in France with my kids and one absolutely indispensable item was a multi-outlet (American) plug (plugged into an adaptor) to expand charging opps. You know, one of those things you plug into an outlet to give you more outlets. We were charging so many phones, computers, etc, that the multiple outlet was in high use!

    I’d also recommend a rain coat. We were two days walking in the rain and every minute I was grateful for the parkas I packed. They were small and wadded up well. Easy peasy.

  4. Allison

    July 19, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    I would recommend for first time international travelers to read Rick Steve’s Theft and Scams.

  5. icicle

    July 20, 2014 at 4:18 am

    1) Know the address to the American, Canadian, British, and Australian embassies. Know how to get to them. For worst case scenarios only. One never knows.

    2) Know where to locate an English speaking Hospital wherever they go. Once again worst case scenarios- but I broke my foot in France, so trust me when I say that the only language you’ll comprehend is English when one is in pain. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve spoken that or this language. When in pain and needing a doctor, your mother tongue is the only one you’ll be comprehending at that time.

    3) Know the language of the countries they’ll be visiting. Get some 3×5 index cards. Write common and/or needed phrases down in those languages. I.E.: where’s the bathroom? How much? Well-done, please. Do you know where _ is?

    4) Know your sizes in European measurements. Those shoes are awesome, but unless you can find it in your size…it’s staying in the store! LOL

    People in Europe love to help you BUT only if they understand whatever it is you need. Make it easy.

    P.S. I agree with Allison- find out about the current scams. DO NOT take with you or wear something that you can not afford to lose. In other words, take the hat bought at Target. Leave the heirloom necklace at home. Take the watch bought at Walmart; leave the Movado at home.

    And whatever else happens, remember to Enjoy! We stress out about so much that we forget to actually “stop and smell the roses”!!

  6. Jennifer

    July 20, 2014 at 8:44 am

    As someone who constantly travels internationally for work or to visit family (currently even working overseas!), I think this list covers my usual list for international travel. However, I would add the following:
    1. Check visa requirements. As Americans, we’re pretty lucky that we have very good agreements between countries so this is *usually* not an issue. But you never know. (Mainland) China and Brazil are two countries that come to min that require visas for US citizens.
    2. Check *passport* requirements. Some countries may require that your passport be valid for up to a certain amount of time *after* your intended visit.
    3. You’ve mentioned both but it’s worth reiterating. Bring *both* plug adapters and voltage converters. They are NOT the same thing and don’t assume that the country you are visiting uses the same voltage as in the US.
    4. Beck’s suggestion of a multi-outlet plug is also worth repeating. If you’re traveling as a family (or even as a couple), it’s amazing how many electronics you’ll need to charge at one time and hotel rooms always notoriously have very few outlets. However, be wary of plugging in something such as a surge protector or multi-outlet (especially if you need voltage conversion). The outlet and the converter don’t always play nice and you might fry your electronics. I have found that an extension cord with a few outlets at the end works very well.
    5. Check with your bank to see if they have agreements with other banks overseas. For example, with Bank of America, I can use any Barclays ATM in the UK without being charged ATM fees.
    6. Turn your phone to airplane mode and then turn on Wi-Fi. This automatically prevents data or voice or text usage on your phone.
    7. Pack a small umbrella.
    8. Download TripAdvisor’s city-specific app and database info before you go. You can sync it with your account prior to traveling. And it does not require internet to work. So if you’re somewhere and need to look up a restaurant, you can still locate restaurants nearby (since GPS does not require internet, duh).
    9. If needed, download a translation app (one that does not require internet). Note: google translate is an awesome app and I use it all the time when traveling for translations (especially since I can draw in Chinese or Japanese characters) but it only works with internet.
    10. And if you’re like me and really can’t live without internet, look into renting a portable Wi-Fi hotspot. We did this in Japan and it was awesome (only about $10 per day). It made life so much easier having internet at our disposal. If you do this well in advance, you can usually pick it up at the airport when you arrive.

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