On Key’s Top 10 Tips for International Travel
If you are new to traveling, you will probably over-prepare or under-prepare for your upcoming trip. What is important and what can you do without? Here are my top tips for international travel.
1. Eat before you leave
Things may not go as you planned. There may be delays, or you could get stuck in customs. I have personally experienced a ton of the many things that could possibly go wrong. My advice? Always eat before you go. You don’t want to spoil the trip by getting hangry!
2. Pack a snack for the trip
Food again? Well, you never know what could happen. Always pack a snack that could actually fill you up a bit.
I was once on, what was supposed to be a 3-hour flight. Three hours turned into eight due to heavy weather. Consequently, we had to be rerouted for gas, was stuck on the plane for an hour before taking off again. Worse of all, there was no food being served on board. In the US, any flight shorter than three hours only sell snack packs. Needless to say, if you can’t afford it, it’s not an option.
3. Always, always… carry cash
You may be scared to carry too much cash around. But what if, for some reason, you can’t draw money in the country you’re visiting? I would recommend carrying at least enough money to pay for food and transport during the trip. Also, keep in mind that if you’re eating off-the-grid at local restaurants, they often only accept cash. Get a money pouch you can carry under your shirt or a “fanny-pack”. That way, you know the money is safe and you don’t have to worry about the necessities.
Read my blog on Cuba, and you will understand why this tip is super important.
4. Get an External battery for your phone
Nowadays we use our phones for everything. When you are traveling, your phone serves as your contact with the world, your map, your camera, and more. You don’t know when your next opportunity will be to charge your phone. Get an external battery and make sure it’s fully charged as a backup.
Being detained in Qatar airport taught me this lesson. They confiscated my passport and I was desperately trying to get people to help.
5. Invest in a Universal plug
6. Download offline maps
Before you leave, be sure to go to google maps and download offline maps of the areas you will be traveling. You may not always have the internet and, in a strange country, it is easy to get lost.
Have you ever visited Cuba? There is practically no internet and if you don’t speak a bit of Spanish, it is hard to get around. Luckily, we booked our accommodation in advance, but explaining to a taxi driver where to go is much easier if you have a map.
7. Double-check your visas requirements
This is a lesson I learned the hard way – on many occasions. You can’t always trust the internet. Pages may be outdated and you may think you don’t need a visa (or can get one when you check-in), but that’s not always the case. Being turned away at check-in puts could put a damper on your trip or stop it before it even started.
You may not be aware, but if you are taking multiple flights to reach your destinations, some stops require a transit visa. Check if the countries you are flying through require a transit visa before booking your flight. If they do, you should consider booking a different route or apply for the visa in advance.
8. Book and pay for your accommodation before leaving
Most visa applications require that you have your travel itinerary and accommodations confirmed. Unless you are planning to make it up as you go, book and pay for your accommodation in advance. I usually use booking.com or Airbnb to arrange my stay. If you book and pay for your accommodation in advance, it’s just one less thing to worry about.
9. Have a printout of your itinerary
Technology sometimes fails you. Having all your travel information on your phone is not a great idea. What if you lose your phone, it gets stolen, or you run out of battery? Make sure you have a printout of your itinerary, accommodation addresses, and important phone numbers. I usually make a calendar of where I will be, stay, and contact information. Give a copy to a friend or family member, so they know where to find you in emergencies.
10. What to pack?
Don’t pack too much clothing
It’s no fun dragging around heavy luggage – especially if you are backpacking or have a few destinations during your trip. My advice? Depending on the weather, you really don’t need that much.
- A clean shirt and underwear for each day.
- One pair of jeans
- A couple of shorts
- Sandals / Flip-flops
- Comfortable closed shoes like sneakers or hiking boots
- A warm jacket (Preferably waterproof)
Don’t pack too much. Most places have laundromats. Hand in your laundry and go enjoy the day.
Leave space in your luggage and limit your shopping
If you’re anything like me, you would want to bring back a souvenir or two. Leave a bit of space in your luggage and limit your souvenir shopping so it fits. Most of the stuff ends up in drawers anyway. Only get a souvenir if you absolutely love it or cannot live without it.
Get travel-sized bottles for your toiletries
Travel-sized bottles help to cut down on luggage weight and gets you through airports effortlessly. Do you really need a full bottle of shampoo or body wash? A travel bottle should hold 3.4 ounces (100ml) to pass through airport customs in your hand luggage. The average person washes hair every third day. I have found that one travel-sized bottle of shampoo can last me up to two weeks.
You may think that you need facewash or a loofah, but you really don’t. Replace facewash with soap and the loofah with a washcloth (or your hands 😊). You also don’t need a hairdryer. Most hotels supply a dryer or you can just go natural for the duration of your trip. Some of the items on my list may not apply to you, but here are a few necessities I would pack.
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Body wash or a small bar of soap.
- Toothpaste and a toothbrush. Get a travel-sized tube of paste and a foldable travel toothbrush to save space.
- SPF 15 moisturizer
- A towel
All of these items can fit into a small travel bag. Make sure your toiletry bag is clear/transparent if you plan to take it in your hand luggage.
I hope these tips were helpful. Do you have a few tips for new travelers? Please comment on this post and share your wisdom.