I’m leaving for a trip to Italy next week, and this will be my 4th time to Europe. I’ve learned a few things along the way, so check out my list of the 5 things everyone forgets to do when traveling internationally. This list is geared towards Americans traveling, but applies to all travelers!
- Tell your bank! Even if you never use your cards while overseas (if you do use them, see #2) your bank will probably be alarmed and turn off usage of your card if they see that your card is being used in a foreign country. You can usually do this up to 6 weeks before your trip and it can usually be done online or by calling the number on the back of your card. Let them know the dates you’ll be gone, and what countries you are going to.
- Make copies of your passport, ID cards, and credit cards! If you lose your cards overseas (or they are stolen), you will probably not have enough information to report that your card is gone and it will make the process of cancelling the card more complicated. When you make copies, you will have your card info as well as copies of your passport/ID to carry around while walking around different countries.
- Pack extra clothes in your carry-on! Last time I went to Germany, my friend’s bag was lost and all she had was a jacket and the clothes on her back. Prepare for a lost bag/stained clothes situation. It took several days to get her bag back and was a real pain. You can always buy extra clothes, but why bother when you can just pack a spare outfit?
- Check the currency conversion and get cash before you leave! Frequent travelers know that the conversions between currency changes daily. You can get cash in the local currency before you leave at your local bank or currency exchange. The airport often sells currency, but at a much higher rate. Be sure to call your bank at least two weeks before your trip to see how to get the money (go in to a bank or order) and what fees they charge to get it (flat rate or a percentage).
- Pack every medicine you might need! On my trip to Germany I got the “Contiki Cough”, named after the travel group we were with. It spread throughout the hotel, and made me miserable for part of the trip. It was a struggle finding a pharmacy that was nearby, open, and sold cough medicine (or at least what I could tell was cough medicine in German). I never planned on getting sick during the trip, so I didn’t bring cough medicine. I would recommend bringing extras of your prescription meds as well as meds for everything else- stomach, cough, headaches, flu, etc.
- Buy tickets and book tours before you go! If you’re the planning type and you know you’re going to a certain museum or attraction, see if you can buy the tickets before you go. Tickets are usually cheaper online and it means you can skip the ticket line at the attraction. If you want to book a tour, it may require reservations or fill up before you can get there. Planning ahead is always recommended!
BONUS TIP: Don’t ever assume anything! This is a good rule in life as well as travel. For example, that overnight train might not have sleeper cars, and might actually stop in a sketchy town in the middle of the night for a 4-hour layover. Your hotel might not actually have an ice machine for when you sprain your ankle. It’s best to prepare for every situation, however unlikely. The trick to traveling is to prepare for the worst without overpacking.
So there you have it-international travel tips from someone who found out the hard way!