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10 Tips for Your First International Trip

by Bonnie Conrad

Traveling internationally is an amazing adventure, but when you are doing it for the first time, it can feel a bit intimidating as well. As with most things in life, however, the right preparation can make a world of difference, and here are 10 smart tips to help you out. 

1. Request your passport long before you think you have to.

No matter where you are traveling, you will need a valid passport to get there, and getting one could take longer than you realize. With the government overwhelmed, passport processing times are longer than usual, so get your request in long before your planned excursion.   

2. Sign up for a credit card that offers travel protection.

Travel insurance and trip interruption insurance is more important when you venture overseas. (World Nomads is a popular option). Check your current credit card to see if they have those protections in place. If you are signing up for a new card, ask the issuer about the specific travel protections they offer.   

Learn to plan your first international trip

Learn how to plan your first international trip

Lauren from Indie Travel Guru offers an online travel planning class several times a year. This live online class covers finding flight deals, choosing lodging, planning ground transportation, safety and health topics, and packing light. There’s time for all your questions, too.

3. Ask the credit card company and your bank about foreign ATM fees.

Carrying too much cash can be risky, so you will likely be relying on a foreign ATM network from time to time. Making sure your debit or credit card does not charge excessive fees will make your first international trip easier and less costly.   

4. Let your credit card issuers know about your travel plans.

Banks and credit card issuers have robust fraud protection algorithms in place, and they likely will flag charges made in a new location. If you want to avoid potential problems, call your credit card issuers and let them know about your international travel plans.   

5. Pack as light as possible.

Nothing will ruin your long-awaited trip more quickly than dragging an overloaded suitcase through a foreign city. Packing light is important, so take only what you need and look for clothes that can do double (and triple) duty

6. Research local transportation options.

Compared to the United States, international travel destinations tend to have much more robust transportation options, including not only taxis and ride-sharing services but excellent buses, trains, and subways as well. Researching those ground transportation options and downloading transit maps to your phone will make getting around a lot easier and much less stressful.  (Editor’s note: We love Busbud for booking bus travel all over the world.)

7. Learn about the local culture.

International travel is not just about monuments and museums — the really rewarding part of traveling the globe is learning about the local culture. You can get a head start on that adventure by learning about the local culture and language before you hop on the plane.   

8. Download an instant translation app and learn how to use it.

The language barrier can be a huge impediment to successful travel, but thanks to technology, you can still communicate with the locals. Downloading a real-time translation app and learning to use it before you leave will give you extra confidence once you arrive on those foreign shores.   

9. Leave for the airport earlier than you think you should.

Even if you are used to the vagaries of modern air travel, your first international trip is something else entirely. No matter what time you think you need to be at the airport, show up an hour before that. 

10. Make copies of passports and other travel documents.

The passport you worked so hard to obtain deserves protection — and a legible copy. It is always a good idea to keep copies of your travel documents in various places, including at home with a trusted friend and in the hotel safe when you travel. 

Preparation Makes Your First International Trip Way Easier

Traveling outside your home country can be deeply satisfying, but the right preparation is essential. If you will be traveling internationally for the first time, the 10 tips above will help you focus on the fun while minimizing the worry.