International Travel: What to Know Before You Go
We love to travel, but sometimes it feels nearly impossible with limited time off of work and a tight budget. Earlier this year, we made the decision to take one big trip in 2018. Four months ago, we landed on Italy. With help from my world traveler brother, we decided to fly into Florence, spend a few days in Tuscany and then travel down to the Amalfi Coast. You guys know I’m a thrifty gal when it comes to my home, and the same goes for our travels. With one day left before we board our international flight, I’m scrambling with last minute details.
Get a Passport
If you plan to travel internationally, you need a Passport! Obvious, I know, but sometimes it can take awhile for your passport to come in (6-8 weeks) depending on the season, so plan accordingly. If you are really in a pinch, you can pay extra to have it expedited in 2-3 weeks. The United States Post Office will have everything you need to apply for a passport or renew an expired one. You can get all the details here.
Book your Flights
Flights are often one of the most expensive items when it comes to international travel. I always book them first and then work my trip around where we fly in and out of. I am a loyal Kayak fan. Kayak will let you search multiple airlines and booking sites all at once, while also letting you see flexible date ranges. Moreover, you can set price alerts to hit your email inbox. If you set price alerts, be ready to snag flights if you see a great price! After feedback, I am updating this bullet point and adding a new travel website to my list. I’m hearing great things about Scott’s Cheap Flights! Thank you @hardknockblythe & I’ve also heard Hopper is amazing & super affordable.
Book your Accommodations
Once we book flights, I start to look at accommodations. I always look at Hotels and Airbnbs to compare value. Lately, I have been booking strictly Airbnbs because they are so unique and allow you to truly immerse yourself in the country’s culture. Not to mention, they are usually crazy affordable!
Book your Excursions
After I book where we are staying, then I look into excursions close by. Where should we go? What should we see? Do we need to book in advance or can we just show up day of? With Italy, my parents urged us to book wine tours ahead of time. They were expecting to just show up and go on a tour, but they quickly learned that most people book their tours months in advance! I snagged us two spots for an organic wine tour while we are in Tuscany.
Figure Out Transportation
Transportation can be a huge bear when traveling internationally. We’ve always been a huge fan of renting cars when we travel. Having a car gives you pure freedom to explore as you please! However, if public transportation is widely available that can be the way to go. It all depends on where you are staying and what you plan to do while there. With our Italy trip, we planned on using the train and bus system, but after reaching out to our Airbnb host, they let us know that we have to have a car to reach where we are staying. Lean on your hosts or the hotel to answer your transportation questions! Some resorts will even arrange a private driver for you to get from airport to resort.
Get an International Data Plan
An international data plan is a must. We use the Verizon Travel Pass when traveling out of the United States, Canada or Mexico (these are included in our regular phone plan). Our plan is $10/day, and we only get charged if we actually use data. Check with your wireless carrier. We are able to update our plan with a few clicks online. Yes, it’s great to be able to update your Facebook status and post Instagram stories, but more importantly, having a phone is a safety measure.
Purchase an International Adapter
This completely slipped my mind! We leave tomorrow, and I just picked up an international adapter last night at Best Buy. The European electrical outlets vary, so we purchased a three way adapter so we can use it in the future regardless of where we travel. Electricity in Italy, as in the rest of Europe, comes out of the wall socket at 220 volts alternating at 50 cycles per second. In the US, electricity comes out of the wall socket at 110 volts, alternating at 60 cycles per second. Not only the voltages and frequencies but the sockets themselves are different, hence, the need for an adapter! If you want to plug anything in, curling iron, hairdryer, phone charger, you will need an adapter.
Check the Weather & Pack
I am the worlds lightest packer. I hate checking a suitcase, and I don’t want to lug 100lbs around the airport. A few days before we leave, I stalk the weather. Andrew literally asked me 50 times yesterday what the weather was looking like for our trip. Pack layers, comfortable shoes, and of course a couple “going out” outfits. And NEVER forget a swimsuit! Even if you are going somewhere cold, there might be a chance to take a dip somewhere. For toiletries, I pack everything I need in under 3 ounce increments. You can’t go through security with more liquid than fits in a quart size bag. Get the full TSA scoop here. PS: Don’t forget your camera!
Notify your Bank
Some banks are really good about stopping fraudulent charges, but you don’t want them to stop YOU from purchasing things you need when traveling internationally. We use Chase Bank and a credit union and both allow you to note that you are traveling through their apps or online portals.
Print All of Your Paperwork
I NEVER print paperwork for domestic travel. I use apps for all of my flights, and I utilize the mobile boarding pass feature inside of Apple Wallet. That said, when traveling internationally, I like to have paperwork with details and confirmation numbers to fall back on. For this trip, I’m printing all of our travel itineraries, boarding passes, rental car info, and Airbnb bookings. What happens if your phone dies, or breaks, or gets stolen? You will need these papers!
Whew, I wish I would have checked a few of these items off of my list days before, but thankfully I’m feeling more prepared now. I can’t wait to share our experience with you when we return! Any other last minute travel tips for us? Leave them in the comments!