After I posted, “Plan Your Escape,” providing tips on how to book affordable international travel, I was surprised at the overwhelmingly positive response and the number of people who appreciated advice on international travel. Traveling provides a priceless wealth of education regarding other cultures and traditions. I encourage anyone desiring to travel to take the leap and invest in a trip to another country. Before you embark on this life-changing journey, I want to give you a list of essentials that you will need for successful and enjoyable international travel.
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This should go without saying but I want to be thorough. You will need a passport to travel to any country outside of the USA. You can use a passport card to travel to Canada, Mexico, and some Caribbean islands. The application process can take a few months so I would recommend having your passport in hand before booking any international travel.
When you do make it to your destination, make sure you keep your passport with you at all times. Do not leave it in your hotel room, even if it is locked away. You never know if you will be in a situation where you will need to provide proof of your US citizenship and you also don’t want to lose it. I have had travel companions who have lost their passports abroad and it is a pain to obtain another one. This could also delay your departure travel plans.
2. Carry-on Bag
I know your instinct is to pack at least two different outfits for each day you plan to travel but packing light will make travel so much easier. Additionally, if you plan to travel within Europe, many of the European budget airlines have strict carry-on bag requirements that limit luggage weight to as little as 20 pounds. I recommend packing pieces that you can easily mix and match. I also employ a folding method which involves rolling my lightweight clothing fit in more items in a smaller amount of space.
Here are my picks for a stylish carry-on bag:
If you go through the trouble of traveling to another country, you want to properly document your memories. That means investing in a quality camera. Don’t get me wrong, smartphone cameras’ capabilities have vastly improved over the past few years and I have taken some amazing travel photos on my iPhone but there is nothing like capturing images on a quality camera. I recently invested in a DSLR camera and I was amazed at the sharpness of the images and how my pictures looked professional without any filters or editing. Don’t let these cameras intimidate you, if you are a novice, you can put it on auto mode, point and shoot and take awe-inspiring photos.
If you are not ready to jump into the photography world with a DSLR camera, then I recommend getting a digital camera. There are many quality cameras on the market that cost less than $100.
4. Cross-body Bag
One of my major concerns when traveling abroad is theft. Many tourist attractions are teaming with pickpockets who take advantage of distracted tourist with bags that are susceptible to roving fingers. I have found that having a small cross-body bag has been effective in protecting my belongings from theft. I usually make sure it is positioned in front of me and if I am moving through a crowd I can easily place my hand over the zipper or clasp to make sure that it is not opened without my knowledge. When worn as you would expect with the strap crossing from the shoulder to the opposite hip, the is less chance of the bag being pulled away from you or falling accidentally.
Within my cross-body bag, I generally carry my passport, some local currency, my ID, a credit card, sunglasses, and keys. That is really all you need to carry when exploring, so you do not need a large bag. Cross-body bags are also convenient because they can easily fit down into larger handbags when traveling and will not be counted as your personal item in addition to your carry-on bag.
Shop below for the perfect carry-on bag!
5. Smartphone Apps
- Google Translate: This is helpful when shopping and trying to navigate in order to have a translator in hand.
- Currency Converter: It is hard to keep track of how much money you are spending when you are using a different currency so I like to keep track by using a currency converter to see how much I am spending in US dollars.
- Map of local public transportation: I am a huge fan of using the local public transportation to get around because it is inexpensive and gives you exposure to how the locals live. Having a map on your phone will help you navigate easier. Plus carrying around a paper map will just make you look like a lost tourist. 🙁
- Viator: This app highlights day trips and local tours centralized in most major cities. You can explore the possible tours and book them directly on the app.
- Uber: Believe it or not, Uber is widely used worldwide and it was a life saver when I needed transportation in Paris. It can be pricey but if you need reliable transportation, it is a nice option to have.
- Mobile Passport: Use this app to fly through the lines at customs upon your return to the US
6. Universal Outlet Adaptor
Don’t forget to get an outlet adaptor prior to travel outside of the US. Most countries use outlets that are not compatible with our electronics. Additionally, most also have USB adaptors. If you plan to use any electronics during your travels, an adaptor is a must.
7. Travel Insurance
Unfortunately, bad things can happen when you travel. No matter how well you plan, unforeseen circumstances can make a dream trip a nightmare. Travel insurance covers medical expenses if you become ill or have an accident during your travels. It also covers you in case of flight cancellations or delays that prevent you from catching a connecting flight. The piece of mind of having travel insurance while traveling in a foreign country is invaluable.
Money can’t buy the most important thing you should bring with you when you travel internationally. You will likely get lost and the language barrier will sometimes make it difficult to get directions. You will have to wait in lines at tourist attractions and deal with crying children and pushy fellow tourists. These inconveniences should not ruin your trip. My best advice is to go with the flow. No one ever has a trip that goes completely according to plan but if you are flexible and able to take everything in stride you will be able to have a trip of a lifetime.
I hope that this was helpful for those planning to travel internationally for the first time or inspires someone to take the first steps toward international travel.
Let me know if there is anything that you thought I should have included in this list. Feel free to share and subscribe!
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