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 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 to 3% foreign transaction fee when you use their cards overseas, and 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
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. Afterwards, 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, and 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 U.S. 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. You'll also need a blank page available for every country you visit - if you're running low or you run out completely you can't simply add pages, you'll have to pay for a renewal. Double check yours and renew if necessary.
Scan all your important documents
Scan all of your important documents and then email copies to yourself so that you can always access them should the originals get lost. That includes items like your passport, driver’s license, health insurance card and visa.
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 that 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, as for example, in some, 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 of your shoes or hats. Don’t forget to leave a little extra room for those souvenirs you’re going to want to bring back either. 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.
You’ll probably want your camera, memory card, necessary chargers and perhaps other electronic devices too. When you’re traveling overseas, you’re also likely to need a power adaptor in order to keep all of those electronics charged. All over the world, there are different types of electrical wall outlets. Unless you’re visiting a destination that 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. Fortunately, they’re cheap and easy to find at online and brick-and-mortar stores.
Contact your cell phone carrier
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, and of course, access all of its other features too. 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.