Traveling for the first time can be thrilling, scary, and emotional. To help you have the best trip, we have complied 16 tips for first time international travelers.
View our travel infographic and tips below to ensure you’re ready for you international vacation.
- Make sure your passport is valid: Passports are good until their expiration date; however, most countries require passports to be valid for 6 months after entering their country. If your passport is getting close to expiration, do yourself a favor and renew it at least 3 months prior to your international trip.
- Check to see if you need a Visa: Not every country requires a visa, but some do. You will want to take care of this well in advance of your trip. Check the US Department of State website to see if you need a visa for the country you want to travel to.
NOTE: Visas can take some time to get approved!
- Make copies of everything: Be sure to let your family and friends know you are traveling abroad and give them copies of your itinerary. Make separate copies of your passport, visa and any other important documents you have. Keep those with you in a different spot than the originals.
NOTE: Register for STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) , so the government knows when you will be out of the country and for how long. This is especially helpful should there be any natural disasters, terrorism, etc.
- Tell your banks: Contact your banks and let them know exactly where and when you will be traveling. If you have a credit card with a chip, make sure you know the pin number to authorize transactions!
Reminder: Find out about any international transaction fees while you are talking with them!
- Get international travel insurance: You never know when you will get sick or hurt, and having international travel insurance is strongly recommended! Look into the policy you have to make sure you will be covered where you are traveling. If you are not, take on international coverage from another provider.
NOTE: Some credit cards offer international travel insurance, check with yours to see if you are covered!
- Consider your phone plan: Most phone plans don’t cover international data or calling. Be aware of what your plan covers, as international data charges are not cheap. Decide if getting an international plan is something you want. If you are not, be sure to turn your data off before you travel!
NOTE: Consider using a Wi-Fi friendly texting app. Apps like Skype and WhatsApp are great for those who don’t want to pay for an international calling or data plan.
- Pack a small medical bag: Make up a small bag that fits in your carry-on to hold essentials like Band-Aids, painkillers, sanitary wipes, etc. If you are traveling with prescriptions keep them in their original containers.
Reminder: Liquid carry-ons cannot exceed 3 oz!
NOTE: Double check that your prescription medication is legal where you are going, not all countries allow all FDA approved prescriptions; check here for further information.
- Pack light: You will be responsible for moving your own luggage around. Do your best to pack light; a carry-on and personal bag are great lightweight packing options.
Reminder: Many countries have cobble stone roads and in cities like Venice you will be walking everywhere.
- Research where you are going: Get to know the countries you are going to be visiting. Learn about their cultural differences and language basics to help make your trip smooth. Research cultural differences: for instance, do they bow to say hello? Do they greet and say goodbyes with a kiss on each cheek? Knowing common greetings can make meeting locals a little more fun! Now that you know the culture, get to know the language. Basics can get you far in almost any country, “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Where is the bathroom”, are great phrases to know. Most locals will appreciate you asking a question in their language even if the question is “Do you speak English?”.
- Don’t plan every minute: Look into the attractions you want to visit, know the location and hours, but leave some free time. You never know when a local festival will happen where you would want time to explore on your own. Having a free day allows you to experience the unexpected!
- Eat and sleep on destination time: As you are traveling, help prevent jet lag by altering your schedule to match where you are going. Many airlines will have everyone close their blinds, dim the lights, and keep the cabin quiet to help people sleep.
Once You Arrive:
- Stay safe: Every country has their scams and hopefully you don’t get caught in one. Do your best to be aware of your surroundings and act like a traveler, not a tourist. To minimize the possibility of theft, wear your backpack on your chest and keep your wallet in your front pocket. Keep an eye out for some common tourist scams.
- Mind your manners: Although you may not speak the language, basic manners go far in any country.
- Splurge when it feels right: This is your trip, so enjoy it! Don’t go home wishing you would have done something additional. Spend the extra money and don’t leave with regrets!
- Eat local: Stop by restaurants, bakeries, and cafes to get a taste of the local cuisine. Not sure what to order? Ask your waiter; they can recommend their best dishes.
- Have fun: Smile and have some fun! You are on the trip that you have been dreaming about!
Use these 16 tips to help make your first, and every, international trip a success.
What tips do you have for first time international travelers?