If there is one thing that should be on every person’s bucket list, it’s international travel. Whether you’re going to a neighboring country or you’re planning a trip halfway around the world – there is so much to see, and you don’t want to miss out.
Traveling has completely changed my life. It has opened up my eyes to so many different, beautiful and amazing things that I wouldn’t have seen if I had never ventured abroad.
I know that it can be scary to take your first international trip, and it requires a lot of preparation. But, don’t worry! It’s easier than you might think.
Here’s everything that you need to know about international travel!
Apply for a Passport
When you are traveling internationally, your passport is your most prized possession. Your number one goal is to keep that little blue book safe and ready to go.
If you need a new passport, plan well in advance. At the moment, most United States passport applications are processed in six weeks, but it’s better to give yourself as much time as possible. You don’t want to be stalking the postman days before your trip if there are any unexpected delays.
You might also want to consider budgeting for the Global Entry program.
For $100, you can get fast-tracked through customs. You’ll be able to avoid the lines, skip the paperwork, and get to where you are going faster. It’s been my lifesaver over the past year!
Read More: How to Expedite Your U.S. Passport Renewal
Research Your Dream Destination
Not sure where to go? Get on Pinterest! Whenever I’m struck by wanderlust, I dig around Pinterest until I find my dream destination.
Don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path.
If a place catches your eye, start researching. Read about other travelers’ experiences and drool over their pics. It won’t take long for you to have a must-visit list that’s a mile long.
Read More: How to Use Pinterest to Plan Your Next Trip
Check for Visas & Travel Requirements
Before you start booking tickets and accommodation, check the travel requirements for your nationality. Ultimately, you can show up with no reservations and make it work, but not having the right visa will stop you in your tracks.
Checking for recommended or required vaccinations is also very important. I ALWAYS check the Center for Disease Control‘s website to confirm which vaccinations I need.
Consider Your Budget
When you travel, spend your cash on what you love. Don’t feel like you have to go to all of the hyped-up tourist attractions.
Save your money so that you can splurge on things that you’ll always remember.
Get one night in a fancy hotel or go out for an incredible meal rather than shelling out cash for Starbucks or other forgettable expenses. Once you have a “splurge versus save” list for your destination, you can start planning.
Read More: 6 Travel Budget Busters to Avoid
Apply for a Travel Credit Card
Want to earn miles on all your travel-related expenses? Sign up for a travel rewards credit card!
There are plenty of options on the market to meet your requirements and a lot of them come with an excellent sign-up bonus that you cash in for discounts on airfare, accommodation and car rentals around the world.
Be sure to check out my travel credit cards guide where I break down some of the best options for all kinds of travelers.
Read More: The Best Travel Reward Credit Cards
Cape Town, South Africa
Plan an Itinerary
Ready to make your dream a reality? It is time to start planning your itinerary. While you want to leave some wiggle room for spontaneous adventures, it’s handy to have a list of things you want to do and see.
It’s important to decide how long you can travel and where you want to go. If you are planning to visit a few different places, figure out how easy it’ll be to get from one place to the next.
Operating hours vary from country to country, and some activities are seasonal so dig around online to get all of the details. For personal experience, I can’t tell you how important this is!
While in Paris for a few days, I didn’t realize that the Louvre was closed on Tuesdays, and missed my chance to go. It’s also important to know that some destinations completely shut down in certain seasons.
Book Your Flight
The person sitting next to you may very well have paid double for their airline tickets. Or worse yet, your seatmate might have paid half the price you did!
Not all travel websites are created equal so do your homework before you hand over your hard-earned cash.
Read More: Top Tips for Finding Cheap Flights
Book Your Accommodation
Depending on your location, you might not need reservations. I would always recommend booking at least the first night, but you can leave the rest of the nights open if you’d prefer.
If you’re traveling to a city, it’s usually easy to find the perfect spot to spend the night.
As always, do what works best for you! If it stresses you out to not have your room booked, get everything set in stone. If you’d rather play it by ear, go for it, but have some knowledge about your destination first.
So many things can affect your ability to get a room, like festivals, events, local holidays, and business conferences, so make sure you know what to expect before you arrive.
Here are some of my favorite places to find accommodation options around the world:
If you’re traveling solo, I recommend staying in a hostel. It’s a great way to meet other travelers, you’ll save a ton of money and you can always get a cheap private room if you’re a light sleeper.
Buy Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is one of the most important things you need for an international trip. Whether you’re going abroad for a week or six months, you need a plan that will cover you for any unforeseen accidents or missed flights along the way.
I always take out policies with World Nomads Insurance. They offer a bunch of different packages that can be tailored to your needs, which is especially useful if you’re planning on doing any extreme sports while abroad.
Generally, their policies will cover you for personal loss, theft, damages (including car rental), any medical expenses, lost luggage or canceled flights.
The Galapagos Islands
Get The Right Luggage
As a general rule, passengers are allowed one bag carry-on bag and one personal item onto the flight. The bag needs to meet specific requirements for that airline, but for the most part, if it can fit in the cabin overhead locker and isn’t overweight, it will be allowed on the plane.
Personal items include things like a small handbag, a briefcase or a laptop bag that can easily fit under your seat.
Before even getting to the airport, go onto the airline’s website and read their luggage rules. It will give you the exact dimensions all your bags need to be (including your checked-in luggage) as well as the weight requirements.
If your bags are overweight at the airport, you’ll need to take things out or pay extra for overweight luggage. To avoid this, I highly recommend buying a personal luggage scale.
It’s also a good idea to invest in a good quality bag that’s going to last your entire trip. If you’re backpacking, you need a bag that has decent back support to help you comfortably carry the load.
For suitcases, I recommend hardshell cases that have wheels. It will protect all your stuff, and you can easily move it around to the check-in counters without having to find a giant luggage trolley at the airport.
How to Survive Your Flight
While long flights are exciting, 8-10 hours on a plane can get boring and take a toll on your body. I keep myself entertained by watching any Harry Potter movies on the in-flight entertainment system, but by also downloading my favorite shows on Netflix.
You can also line up a couple of podcast episodes, read a few chapters of a book or play games on your phone.
But you also need to make time for yourself. During long-haul flights, it’s important to stay hydrated and to walk around every couple of hours, so you’re ankles don’t swell.
Be sure to check out my Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide for a complete list of everything I bring on my trips!
Basic Flight Etiquette
Being trapped on a plane with a couple of hundred people for a few hours means it’s easy to annoy strangers. Here are some basic airline etiquette rules to help you have a happy flight:
- Don’t stand up before your boarding class is called.
- Don’t crowd the luggage belt once you’re flight has landed, it won’t make your bag come out any faster.
- The person sitting in the middle seat gets both interior armrests.
- Wear headphones if you want to listen to music on your phone.
- Place your bag in the cabin over your seat, not one row ahead of where you’re sitting.
- Your bag should be wheeled in with the handle facing out.
- Your handbag should go under your seat.
- Don’t put your jacket in the overhead bins.
- When boarding your flight, put your bags away as quickly as possible, so you’re not clogging up the aisle.
Read More: Five Things to Do Before Every Flight
Marina Bay Singapore
I’ve met so many people who have their dream trip completely planned out but are always waiting for a better time to go. It’s time to get moving, guys. There will always be distractions so GO!
I promise you; you’ll never regret it.
Your adventure will be one of the greatest experiences of your life. Wherever you go and whatever you do, it’ll be one of the most liberating and exciting adventures you’ll ever have.
The more you see of the world, the less scary it is. Formerly distant, mysterious places can quickly start to feel like a second home. As long as you keep your head on straight and do a bit of research, you can safely navigate any country in the world.
Read More: Ten Solo Female Travel Safety Tips
Do you have tips for international travel? Let me know in the comments below!