How exciting!! Your first international trip is scheduled and you cannot wait to pack and go. Love that feeling of the open adventure that awaits you.
Here is my list of tips for what you would want to do before boarding your plane to vacation.
1. Check-in with your doctor to make sure you have all your vaccinations in order.
Some places may require that you are up to date or have malaria, tetanus and some, up to date. This government page can assist you. Renew all your essential medications. Bring the original box with the pharmacy name all the information pertaining to you and your medication. Some countries may question some medications.
2. Inquire with your medical insurance for coverage.
If none exist you may want to consider supplemental insurance.
3. Make a copy of your passport.
I always make two copies. One that I hide in my computer bag. One that I leave at home with a trusted friend. Crazy as it may sound I also upload a copy on my laptop. In case of a loss, all the information is at your fingertips and you will be able to get your passport faster through our Embassy or Consulates.
4. Register with your embassy.
If traveling in areas where there may be a problem in the country, it will make it easier to be contacted and get to safety if the need arises.
5. Make 2 copies of all your front and back of your credit cards.
One to take with you, one to leave at home with a trusted family member or friend. Any loss or theft can be reported immediately with all the phone numbers in the back of your card.
6. Call your credit card company and let them know you will be traveling and give them your verbal itinerary.
During the summer vacation, credit card theft is high. By sharing the information you will not find yourself into an embarrassing situation of a declined charge. In some instances, it can take up to three days to have the fraud alert cleared.
7. Remove all not needed customer value cards, credit cards, receipts or business cards from your wallet.
If you can, transfer to a small wallet. What is not needed should be removed. Furthermore, some airlines will consider your personal purse as a carry on luggage, therefore you need it small that you can fit it inside another bag.
8. Would your credit card work in the country you will be visiting? and how much are the Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees?
In Europe, some merchants will not accept American Express. All cards must now have a chip reader or you will not be able to use them at all. Check with your credit card company for foreign transaction fees, up to 2%, and maybe change card before leaving. Those fees can add up to a hefty amount.
9. Bring enough cash with you and where to exchange.
Outside of the USA banks will not change foreign money therefore you will have to use an exchange kiosk. Make sure you know your rate so you can shop around. Most hotels will change too but at a much higher rate.
10. Buy all attractions tickets in advance
Lines to attractions, museums in the summertime can be exhaustingly long. Buy your tickets in advance can, in most cases save you money, and definitely time on the never-ending line to get in. Speaking from experience as we waited three hours under the Roman July sun to visit the Vatican. Trust me you do not want to do that twice. Did I mention no cooling misters?
11. If traveling with children have them do a search for all the attractions, festivals to see at your destinations
Not only they will have a fun time doing that, but they will get so excited to be the tour guide for the day.
12. Hotels concierges.
I love them. When traveling throughout Asia, most hotels hire history major tour guides. Nothing like learning from someone that really loves their city. We visited the Taj Mahal a couple of years ago and to this day I am still in contact with the guide. The knowledge and resources were out of this world.
13. Stay at a reputable hotel your first trip to anywhere in the world.
Sometimes it does not pay to skim on the hotel room. Yes, I know it is room to sleep, but a 4 star in China is not the same as in Europe or the USA. We stay always at the Intercontinental chain and we love them. Outstanding service and absolutely clean. Stay there for a couple of nights until you get the lay of the land and then switch hotel if you prefer. Safety and cleanliness are so important to me.
14. Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on bag.
Clean undies and a shirt is all you need but if in case your luggage took a different trip than you, you are not stuck with the same shirt and undies for three days.
15. Pack light.
If you need to ask yourself “would I wear this?” then the answer is “leave it home”. Pack light as every airline has strict rules on weight and you will end up paying more for your luggage than the trip. What I usually do is: 2 pants + 5 tops = 10 ensembles or 10 days worth of clothing. One dress and one skirt.
Bring like colors so you can get the most of it. A splash of color. Simple and easy to dress up or down. Neutral color sweater, light parka jacket that can bundle up into a nothing pouch. And, please, no more than 3 pairs, including the one that you are wearing, of shoes. A small purse that can go cross-body and be perfect for the evening.
16. Skincare, makeup, and personal hygiene.
Your skin care regimen can be either purchased on small travel sizes or transferred on small containers. Make friends with your cosmetic girl counter and ask for samples. The same goes for the fragrance, ask for as many samples as you can. Consequently, no need to travel with a huge bottle of your favorite and running the risk of breaking or leaking due to the altitude.
All hotels have shampoo, bath gels, body lotions, and blow driers, leave yours at home.
Buy your personal pads and tampons at home and bring along. Tampax™ brand is all over the world, but if you are in a remote area or need them on a Sunday and everything is closed, you are in trouble.
17. Check the voltage of where you are going.
Most of the world is on a different voltage and different size wall plugs. Make sure that all your electronics, have one or get a charger strip so you can charge more than one electronic at once.
18. Buy batteries at home.
I have paid three times more than I should have for batteries that now it is my #1 priority before leaving to ensure that I have extra and a spare.
19. Camera bags and computer bags.
I love to take pictures, this one is the hardest one for me. Choose a lens that can do it all. Remember to buy extra compact flash drives. Bring the attachments to download your pictures every day and extra batteries. Remove any items that are not needed from your camera bag and computer bag, extra weight.
20. Cell phone.
A trip to your cell phone carrier is in order and a must. There are so many phone plans for travelers to choose from. Therefore choose one that suits all of you. Turn off all notifications, those can add up to hundreds of dollars. Always use wi-fi and turn off you receiving emails on your phone. Unless you are working and someone else is demanding you to be on 24/7 you do not need the download and roaming fees. Games, off too. Those all are on roaming and your phone can be blocked by your carrier or you will be having a heart attack when the phone bill will be more than your trip. From my experience, if I use my iPhone to take pictures, once I am leaving the comfort of wi-fi, I turn my phone on airplane mode. No risks there.