After having a lot of experience traveling and learning several lessons along the way, I wanted to share a few international travel tips and tricks that you might want to consider before grabbing your bag and hopping on a plane.
1. Bring Earplugs
Since traveling is hard on your body and your immune system, one of the most important things you need, is getting plenty of GOOD rest along the way. Learning from personal experience, I can’t tell you how many times by having a set of earplugs on me, I was able get a good night’s rest. I don’t recommend earphones or hard industrial earplugs because they hurt your ears after a while. The inexpensive soft earplugs are the way to go. Here’s an example of why earplugs might come in handy at 3’oclock in the morning while this is going off.
Whether you’re stuck in a busy airport for a few hours or laying your head down at night in the middle of a city with some guy praying into a megaphone, earplugs will help drown out all the noises around you.
2. Check Your Camera
If you’re still one of the few people that actually use handheld cameras these days and not their cellphone for everything, then make sure you check your camera for the battery and the SD card before leaving on your trip. First, the battery, make sure you have it of course, it’s charged and that you have the charger with you.
If your camera doesn’t have a rechargeable battery then make sure you bring extra batteries. Second, the SD card, again, make sure you have it and that you have enough free space for your new photos. If you forget this, you can always pick one up along the way, but if you forget the rechargeable battery or the charger, your camera makes for a great paper weight.
3. Familiarize Yourself With the Language
Having even the slightest knowledge of the local language in the country you plan on visiting, will help you in the long run. You don’t need to be fluent, just the basics will do. Butcher the language if you have to and don’t be embarrassed. Many of the locals appreciate the effort and will usually help you with the pronunciation as well. Purchasing a little phrase book will also help, because they give you a wide variety of situations you may encounter along the way. I recommend the Lonely Planet phrasebook series because it is compact and very inexpensive. You can purchase them on Amazon for around $10.00.
If you feel like immersing yourself in the language a little but more, you can also practice with Duolingo. It is a great free language program that offers extensive lessons with several different languages to choose from.
Just remember “you’re not in Kansas anymore,” not everybody speaks English and speaking slowly doesn’t help them understand. Having even the basics will help you limit the finger pointing and acting out what you’re trying to say in most situations.
4. Flip Flops
After walking all day in the hot summer, it’s a wonderful feeling to take off your shoes and give your feet some breathing time. Whether you’re exploring abroad or going camping for the night, you might want to consider flip flops as a nice alternative to a second pair of shoes while traveling. They’re light, easy to store and don’t take up much room in your luggage. They keep the bottoms of your feet clean, free of debris, allow your feet to breathe and save you from fungi that might be lurking around waiting for a host.
Traveling internationally, I’ve encountered many showers, if you can even call some of them showers, which I didn’t trust and spared my feet from being exposed to the shower floor.
Flip flops are pretty common worldwide and you can probably pick up a pair along the way if you decided not to pack them. However, if you always have them with you, then you don’t have to stress about finding a local market.
5. Essential Oils
Different environments are hard on your immune system and it is possible that you might get sick along the way. If you’re into alternative medicine like me, or even if you’re not, you might want to consider having a supply of a few essential oils with you. They offer several different benefits ranging from bug repellent to bacterial infections, motion sickness to sinus congestion. No matter what the problem is there is usually an oil to help and they may start to become your best friend during your travels.
I myself suffer from motion sickness, so by having Peppermint Oil on me at all times, helps out tremendously. Some of the other oils that I prefer are Tea Tree, Wintergreen, Eucalyptus and Oregano. There are hundreds of different oils out there and each of them target different health issues. I personally like DoTerra or Young Living oils because of the high quality and the specialty blends, but some of them can get pretty pricey. When I can’t afford them I usually try to find some in a local health food store which can be a little easier on the wallet and still work great. Be aware that even though these oils are cheaper and still work, the quality and pureness of the oil might not compare to the higher end companies.
If you would like more information about which oils I like to use, please check out my post “Essential Oils for Traveling – What I like to use.”
6. Check Your Electronic Devices
One important thing to consider when bringing electronic equipment with you, is knowing what kind of voltage the device can handle. Most of the portable equipment such as laptops, cameras, cell phone chargers, etc., are compatible worldwide. You don’t need a power converter before plugging them into the wall, although you still might need an outlet adapter plug, which is inexpensive and can be found anywhere.
Now things such as blow dryers, curling irons, coffee makers, electric toothbrushes, some electric razors, etc., are most likely not compatible to handle the electrical outlets outside of the range stated on the device. If you plug these into the wall without a power converter, you might as well sit back and get ready for the fireworks show. They will burn out, blow up, cause an electrical short in your room and possibly catch on fire when plugging a 110v device into a 220v electrical socket.
If the device is designed to run 220v and you plug it into 110v, it won’t blow up, but will still be completely useless. I’ll never forget the first time I figured this out the hard way. It was during one of my first trips to Israel (powers 220v) and I had a heating pad that was only compatible up to 110v. Plugged that bad boy into the wall and BOOM, the whole face plate blew off and the electrical insides were chard to a crisp.
The only way to avoid this is to either purchase a power converter which is completely different from an outlet adapter plug, or specifically, buy travel designed equipment that already have converters built inside them and give the ability to switch between voltages.
Every electronic device has an information tab directly on it, stating what kind of electricity it is designed for. Just to be safe, you should always check everything before you leave.
If you’re not a regular traveler, chances are you probably won’t need a cell phone. You can free yourself for that short amount of time from the enslavement of having to check your cell phone every twenty minutes or so. Just make sure it’s always in Airplane Mode for the duration of the trip, to avoid any super expensive international roaming charges on your next bill.
If you need to call your loved ones back home, I recommend downloading the Talkatone app and calling them that way. This wonderful app runs only off an internet connection only, giving you the ability to call any US or Canadian phone number, no matter where you are in the world. So you don’t have to worry about limited minutes. You also get a customized phone number to choose from and your loved ones can call you on that number anytime you’re connected to the internet. The best part about all of it is, the app is completely free!
If you’re planning on traveling for a longer period of time, you can always purchase inexpensive prepaid phone cards along the way, if you already have a GSM internationally unlocked cell phone. Once you reach your destination, go pick up a prepaid card at the local market, pop it in your phone and there you go, you are all set. If don’t have an unlocked cell phone, you can always pick up a cheap one along the way, but keep in mind that just because you bought one in that country, doesn’t mean it will work in other countries as well.
If you are not sure if your phone is unlocked you can either call your service provider and ask or switch the chip with others to see if your phone still works. If your phone doesn’t have the option of putting a chip in it, then most likely it’s running off the CDMA network and will not work with most cell phone companies worldwide.
The best option that I have found, is to buy a used international GSM unlocked phone before you leave because it will enable you to have a worldwide working phone. You can find cheap refurbished phones from trusted companies on Ebay or Amazon and will better your chances in the countries you’re visiting. You can even sell your old phone, to help with the costs and you won’t have to worry about carrying around two phones.
8. Pack Light
It is very burdensome when you find yourself with too much luggage while you are traveling. You start to run into problems such as not enough trunk space in taxis or vehicles, nowhere to put it on the bus, there are no elevators or escalators for all the stairs you have to climb and even in a lot of international places there are no paved roads or sidewalks anywhere. Sometimes, you might have a long connecting flight in an airport and the airlines won’t let you recheck your baggage if it’s before a certain amount of time. Then you find yourself having to haul it around like a ball in chain everywhere you go. If you have a little bird bladder like me, that means having to go to the bathroom every hour while dragging your luggage with you due to the fact you can never leave it unattended, especially in an airport.
So, if you don’t think you need it, don’t bring it. Chances are, most of the time if you do run into something you need, you can always pick it up along the way.
9. Overcome Your Fear
We, as humans, like to create all types of scenarios in our own heads when a situation arises that might have us breaking out of our own comfort zone. On top of that, we start to come up with the MacGyver fixes to counteract the original thoughts and by the end of it all, you’re losing an exhausting imaginary battle in your mind that was all in vain in the first place. Most of the time what we fear will never come to pass and the only way to know that for sure is to overcome that fear. Let life be your best teacher, take courage of these situations, have faith, release the seeds of doubt, overcome and don’t let negativity hold you back. Sure the world is a scary place, that’s what the media wants you to think. Once you bravely step out you will realize that it’s not as bad as you thought. Just use common sense, avoid situations that don’t feel right, learn from the locals, pray often and you’ll be okay.
To live a life of uncertainties is better than to live a life of regrets. Don’t let fear hold you back from some of the most amazing experiences that you could encounter in your life.
How do you know if you can walk on water if you don’t get out of the boat first?
10. Have an Idea Instead of a Detailed Plan
No matter how well planned out your trip may be, you have to expect the unexpected. Things come up or things happen, that’s life and there is nothing we can do to fix that. Have patience and think of these unexpected curve balls as divine interventions. Take advantageous of the situations to see something you might have missed along the way.
Don’t get angry or lose your temper because that will only make things worse. If you need to ask for help, be respectful to the locals. Remember you’re a foreigner in a strange land and nobody wants to help a grown child throwing a temper tantrum because things aren’t going their way. I believe it’s always best not to plan too much, just have an idea and go for it. That way you won’t get disappointed when things don’t go as planned because it wasn’t scheduled anyway.
If you lower your expectations, then you’ll most certainly exceed your expectations.
I hope you enjoyed my travel tips and found them very useful for your own coming trips in the future. If you have any questions or additional tips you would like to add, I encourage you to please leave a comment below.
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