A busy street in Rome, Italy on a sunny day
These tips will help you avoid hurdles for easier overseas travel.
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / eva-katalin

Have a Smooth Adventure with These Essential Tips for International Travel

Here’s to a Successful Trip

Whether you travel overseas frequently or are getting ready to head out on your first trip, international travel requires a good amount of planning along with an adventurous spirit that’s willing to go with the flow and adapt to unfamiliar conditions.

Of course, too many bumps in the road can make things stressful, but these international travel tips will help you avoid those hurdles for easier overseas travel.

Get a Credit Card with No Foreign Transaction Fees

If you don’t have one already, be sure to get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees as those fees can add up quickly. Many banks will charge you a 1-3% foreign transaction fee when you use their cards overseas.

Even if you’re earning miles, the cost tends to negate the value.

A quick Google search will turn up a number of cards that waive those fees, such as Chase Sapphire Preferred, Bank of America Travel Rewards and Capital One Venture Rewards.

Notify Your Credit Card Companies and Banks That You’ll Be Traveling

The more attention you pay to the finances side of your trip beforehand, the more smoothly things are bound to go. Don’t shrug off money advice as there may be aspects of the financial side of travel you haven’t considered.

Be sure to notify all of your credit card companies and banks (at least of those you’ll be using overseas) that you’ll be traveling, or you could end up getting your transaction denied due to suspicious activity. Many banks automatically decline transactions when they take place in a foreign country (sometimes even just another state), if they haven’t been notified ahead of time.

Oftentimes you can simply fill out a form online indicating the dates you’ll be gone and where you’re going.

Get Some Foreign Cash and Learn the Currency Conversions

While you don’t want to get a lot of foreign cash before you go, it is a good idea to exchange a small amount just to avoid the stress of looking for an ATM when you first arrive, fatigued and jet lagged. Afterward, using your debit card to get cash at an ATM is typically the most convenient and the least expensive option.

Once you have a bit of foreign money in hand, get familiar with what it looks like and find out what the rough exchange rate is so that you’re more comfortable with the local currency before you arrive. It can also be helpful to get a smartphone app for real-time conversions.

Pay Your Bills Ahead of Time or Set up Automatic Payments

You don’t want to have to worry about paying your bills while you’re on vacation. Try to pay as many as you can ahead of time.

For those you can’t, look into setting up automatic payments. That way you can forget all about them and enjoy a good time without concern over late payments and high interest rates.

Check Your Passport

While the United States will allow you to use your passport up to the date on the inside cover, many countries will deny you entry if it expires in less than six months, as they don’t want you to end up stuck there on an expired passport. Double check yours and renew your passport if necessary.

Scan All Your Important Documents

Scan all of your important documents and then email copies to yourself so you can always access them should the originals get lost. That includes items like your passport, driver’s license, health insurance card, travel insurance and visa.

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Pack Carefully

Proper packing can make traveling a whole lot easier. Always think less is more, as lugging around heavy bags will literally drag you down.

Research the weather of the area you’re visiting beforehand and try to choose garments you can layer so you’ll be prepared for temperature variations. Don’t bring items you’ve never worn; bring things you know you feel comfortable in, including shoes.

Depending on your destination, you may want to do a little research on the culture. In some places, for example, women’s shoulders and legs need to remain covered, no matter how hot it might be.

You can make the most out of the space you have by rolling your clothes instead of folding them. You’ll be surprised to find how much room you can save.

Make even more good use of space by rolling your underwear and socks and tucking them inside your shoes or hats. Don’t forget to leave a little extra room for those souvenirs you’re going to want to bring back, too.

Taking along a laundry bag or even a trash bag for dirty clothes is a good way to keep them separated from the clean ones.

Electronic Devices

You’ll probably want your camera, memory card, necessary chargers and perhaps other electronic devices while on your trip. When you’re traveling overseas, you’re also likely to need a power adapter in order to keep all of those electronics charged.

There are different types of electrical wall outlets all over the world, so unless your destination country has the same outlet configuration as your home country, you’ll need an adapter.

Adapter plugs do not convert electricity, they simply allow your device’s plug to fit into the foreign outlet. The good news is that they’re inexpensive and easy to find on places such as Amazon.

Contact Your Cell Phone Carrier

Are you planning to use a cell phone while overseas? The majority of the major cell phone carriers offer international roaming plans these days that can save you money on calling as well as data while you’re overseas.

Some even provide unlimited global roaming that can really be helpful, as you can use your phone for GPS as well as other useful apps.

Contact your carrier to find out what’s available to you, and be sure to inquire about all possible fees that could be incurred. If it’s too pricey, in many places you can pick up an inexpensive prepaid phone at the airport when you arrive.

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