Travel Tips

10 Things You Should Do Before Every International Trip

Your ultimate checklist of pre-trip necessities. (This post may include affiliate links.)

When you’re preparing for an international trip, it can be hard to remember everything you need to check off your list. Between packing, taking vacation time, and running errands, it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks. To help you out, these are a few of the critical things you should do before heading abroad.

1. Notify your credit and debit card providers

Your bank and credit card providers need to know when you are traveling so that they can accurately detect fraudulent expenditures on your accounts. Most banks and credit cards have an online reporting function for international travel. However, if you can’t find it, it’s best to notify your card providers via phone.

2. Pack an electrical converter/adapter

Many foreign countries do not have the same electrical current or outlet shape. Therefore, in order to charge your devices, you’ll need to bring a converter/adapter. You can buy a universal adapter (for all regions of the world) at most department stores, or on Amazon.

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Photo Credit: Hamza Butt (Flickr)

3. Take a photo of your passport and any visas

It’s always a good idea to make sure someone you trust back at home has a copy of your passport and visa paperwork. This way, if you lose or damage your passport, you have a backup image to prove who you are. Of course, do not distribute this information widely, but make sure an “emergency contact” has access to it.

4. Get cash

No matter where in the world you’re going, you should always bring some cash in American dollars. Many countries are still cash-heavy economies, so you can’t expect that anywhere will take credit or debit cards. Plus, for emergencies, it’s always a good idea to be carrying some cash on you. For security purposes, split up your cash, putting some in your bag, some in your wallet, and some on your person.

5. Contact your phone company

If you’re going to a foreign country and want to use your phone, you’ll need to make sure it is activated for use internationally. Otherwise, your bill may be very high. Some providers like T-Mobile in the US offer free international data and texting, while others, like AT&T, require you to purchase an additional package for use internationally. In some cases, it may make sense not to use phone service at all. Before your trip, make sure you read your provider’s policies carefully and decide what’s best for you.

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6. Learn basic phrases (and pronunciation) in the local language

Don’t be that person who arrives in a foreign country and doesn’t even know how to say hello. Spend a few minutes before you take off learning a few simple phrases in the local language, and you’ll be well-suited to hit the ground running when you arrive. A few useful phrases to learn in your destination’s language include:

  • Hello
  • Goodbye
  • Nice to meet you
  • Thank you
  • How much does this cost?
  • Where is…?
  • I need help
  • Can we be friends?
  • Do you speak English?
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Not only does knowing a few phrases help you get around, but it also makes you look more polite, and displays a genuine interest in the country you’re visiting. Locals will like that you’re trying, even if it’s not perfect.

7. Research local customs

Did you know that you can’t point your feet at anyone in Myanmar? Or that the “OK” hand symbol means something else entirely in Brazil? Make sure you research cultural norms before you head out, so you know what the local etiquette and dress code is. Even things like tipping your waiter differ from country to country, so make sure you do a bit of research on cultural things you should know and respect.

8. Write down your flight information and hotel addresses

In certain areas of the world, it can be hard to find Wifi to research your travel information. Don’t risk it. I recommend purchasing a small notebook to record all of your important information. You’ll want to write down your hotel address and contact information, your flight numbers and times, and any emergency contacts in case you lose connectivity.

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Photo Credit: Hamza Butt (Flickr)

9. Download all of your necessary apps/music/podcasts/etc.

You never know what your connectivity situation will be like once you touch down in another country, so make sure you download everything you will need. At a minimum, it’s usually good to have a currency conversion app, a maps app, and a translator app. Whatever apps you like to use, make sure you’ve downloaded them before you board your flight.

10. Buy travel insurance

I can’t stress enough to you the importance of purchasing travel insurance. I’m a big fan ofΒ WorldNomads, which saved my life a few years ago in an unfortunate health situation in Thailand. Travel insurance may be an additional expense in your already tight budget, but it covers many things from health issues to evacuation, flight cancellations to theft. Even if you end up not having to file a claim, travel insurance is worth every penny for the security it provides.

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Kay is a full-time media professional located in Washington DC who takes every spare day of time to travel the world. In the last year alone, she’s visited over 10 different countries and taken a dozen short trips in between. You can typically find her wandering the streets of a city, taking ridiculous self portraits, or hiking a mountain somewhere. Connect with Kay: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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