I’m finally getting around to sharing my international travel tips with you!
Some of you know that last fall we took a trip to Italy. And it was absolutely amazing! It was our first big international trip where we had to deal with crazy travel, different cultures, and not staying in “Americanized” places. (I say “big international trip” because we’ve done the Caribbean and Mexico, but we always do all-inclusive resorts that aren’t very different than a hotel here in the US.) There was a lot more planning and researching that went into this Italy trip, and we learned so many tips and trick along the way. So I, of course, wanted to share some of those big takeaways with you in case you’ll be taking a trip soon! And even if you’re not traveling in the next few months, you can still bookmark this page or pin it for future reference!
For the next month or so, I’m going to do a little “travel series” with anything and everything regarding our Italy trip. First up is obviously this post sharing our international travel tips, but stay tuned for posts on planning tips (choosing where to stay, transportation tips, narrowing down the best tours, etc); city guides for Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Milan; and a printable international packing list (just like this weekend getaway packing list)!
|| International Travel Tips ||
Although we traveled internationally to Italy, I’m keeping these travel tips broad enough that they’ll fit with any international destination! For Italy specific tips, keep an eye out for my Italy Planning post coming later this month!
Honestly, a lot of these tips come from a “worst case scenario” mindset, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. In fact, as you’ll see in some of my explanations below, the worst case did happen to us in a few instances. So I hope to share some of these tips that we learned to help you avoid any unfortunate circumstances that may come your way!
1 || Make copies of your passport.
Bringing your passport with you isn’t enough. Make two copies of it and give one to a friend or family member and keep the other copy packed separate from your original. That way, you’re safe in case you lose your original or have it stolen.
2 || Keep all of your travel info in the Cloud.
You want to make sure all of your travel info (copies of your passport, flight info, hotel info, transportation info, and itinerary) are all kept in the Cloud where you can always access it. There’s a always a possibility a document might get deleted or you may lose a hard copy, so cover all of your bases by backing it all up!
3 || Email someone a copy of your itinerary.
This one’s just smart for safety reasons and emergencies. Make sure someone knows where you are and how to reach you in case they need to!
4 || Notify your credit card company of your travel plans.
I don’t know about y’all, but our credit card company is super on top of fraud alerts. While this is a good thing, it wouldn’t be so good if we traveled abroad and forgot to tell them. With my luck, I can definitely see our cards being canceled while we were out of the country. So don’t let that be you! Notify your company of your travel plans so nothing crazy happens.
5 || Have a plan for local currency.
This may take a little research ahead of time, but it’s worth it. After our research, we found that the exchange rates here are crazy and it’s definitely better to find an ATM at the airport once you arrive (assuming you land in a popular airport) or an ATM outside a bank in your destination.
There’s so much info out there surrounding this topic, so for brevity’s sake, here’s what we did based on our research: We went to our local bank and got about $100 in our destination’s currency just so we had it on-hand when we landed (maybe the ATM would’ve been broken, etc.). Once we landed in Rome, we found an ATM and withdrew a larger sum just to have on hand for places that don’t take cards. We chose to do a larger sum to avoid multiple withdrawal charges, but that depends on your card, so just check your card’s policies. Please keep in mind: You’ll need to check your card’s withdrawal limit to make sure you don’t go over and can withdraw the amount you want. Have a plan for keeping this money safe – It’s not a great idea to just carry tons of cash around! In general though, we used our card whenever possible, but we wanted some cash just in case!
6 || Check with your cell phone company about international calling and data.
This will depend on your carrier, so I can’t offer specific advice here. Simply call your cell phone company, tell them where you’re traveling, and ask what your options are. Nothing would be worse than getting to your destination to discover your phone/data doesn’t work OR getting a crazy-ridiculous data bill when you get back!
7 || Think ahead – Pay bills ahead of time and pick up your prescriptions.
Depending on when you’re traveling, you’ll need to look ahead at your calendar and check your responsibilities, like paying bills. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean your responsibilities are too! The same goes for prescriptions. If you’re going to be gone when you’re due to pick up a prescription, you may need to call your doctor’s office to pick up the prescription early from your pharmacy.
8 || Make a plan for your mail and packages.
If you’re super on top of things, there’s a way for you hold your mail with the post office and you could be responsible enough to not order any packages that may arrive while you’re gone. However, Jay and I didn’t do that (to be fair, I get packages ALL the time, so it’s hard to keep track!), so we just asked our friends and neighbors to pick up our mail while we were out.
9 || Research transportation ahead of time.
If you have a connecting flight, research the airport layout if you’re cutting it close with connecting flights. Jay and I really were really wishing we would’ve done this for our connecting flight as we were frantically running through the airport trying to read foreign signs to get to our flight that was leaving in 10 minutes!
It’s also a great idea to plan out any and all transportation you’ll need for the entire trip. If you need to take a train, see if it’s possible to get the tickets in advance and read about the system to see if there are assigned seats, etc. Also research their taxi system – What do the reviews online say? Is there a better alternative (Uber, Lyft, etc.)?
Something else we learned the hard way: Check to see if your destination has strikes. We had no idea Italy’s train workers went on strike fairly often, so we were super caught off-guard when we saw a train strike sign for the day we were planning on traveling. Thankfully, it was mostly the local trains that went on strike and not the regional trains, so we made it to our destination. But just to be sure, research ahead of time to see if things like that happen where you plan to stay. If they do, ask around when you get there (locals, hotel employees, etc.), keep an eye out for posted signs, and check the internet often for updates.
10 || Bring an outlet adapter and check the voltage.
We stayed in Airbnbs, so the outlets were Italian. Check where you’re staying to see if you’ll need an adapter. Once you know for sure if you need one, you’ll need to check the voltage of the outlets and your devices to make sure they’ll work together. Don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s all fine. I may or may not have fried my straightener in Florence because I didn’t check the voltage!
11 || Bring an external charger (or three!) for your phone.
External chargers are SO important. Everything we did was on our phones – photos, maps, social media, restaurant reviews. If you plan on using your phone like this, it’s crucial you have external chargers. Jay and I went on Amazon and bought 3 of these external chargers for our trip. It probably sounds excessive, but we were both using our phones very frequently throughout the day and would often be away from our adapter and chargers in our room from 7 in the morning until after dinner, so we weren’t about to have our phones die on us!
12 || Pack an extra set of clothes and toiletries in a carry-on.
Okay, I know – Duh. But guys, I didn’t take this one seriously and I paid the price. I’m an excellent packer, but when it came to separating my clothes/toiletries into my big suitcase and my carry-on, I had an “Eh, it’ll be okay” attitude. Yeah… remember how I said we were sprinting through the airport to catch our flight? Well, we made the flight but our bags didn’t. Which meant I didn’t have what I needed until the next night!
All of that to say, don’t assume it won’t happen to you. Because it might. I’d actually go with the mindset of assuming it will happen to you just to be safe. And if it doesn’t, then you can do a celebratory dance. Be sure to pack at least one full day’s necessities – something to sleep in, a full outfit for the next day, and some basic toiletries and makeup! We had to stop by a drug store to pick up some basic makeup for me because I wasn’t about to spend my first day in Italy looking like a hot mess.
13 || Pack light.
I know you’ll want to bring your whole closet so that you’ll look fabulous as a tourist, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Keep in mind that if you’re traveling to multiple cities, you’re going to be lugging your suitcases around. And it’s definitely not easy rolling two suitcases each through a busy train station. There’s no “right amount” of suitcases, but I’d say the lighter, the better! Less things to lose and worry about.
14 || Have a plan for keeping your items safe while walking around.
It depends on where you’re visiting, but I’m assuming you’ll probably hit up some popular touristy spots on your trip. But beware of those sneaky pickpockets! I hate to be a negative Nancy, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you’re carrying a purse, make sure it’s super secure (aka, not just a magnetic button or simple zipper that’s easy to undo). I bought this cute purse ahead of time because it’s a foldover, with a zipper, and had a button. No one was getting in that thing without me noticing! We kept Jay’s wallet, phone, and cash in it while we were in the super populated areas. I’ve also heard that money belts are a fantastic alternative to purses too!
15 || Pack some protein bars just in case.
Eating is super important to me and Jay, and we were not about to get stuck in a situation where we were starving and couldn’t eat. You never know – Your flight might get delayed and you may arrive at your hotel when all of the food places are closed. Or a tour might go extra long when you’re starving. I’ll stop with the worst-case-scenarios, but I’d recommend carrying a few bars with you everywhere you go just in case!
If you found this post helpful, would you be sure to pin it to your travel board on Pinterest? And if you’re interested in all things travel, I have a few more travel posts that you can check out too!
What about y’all? Do you have any must-know international travel tips? Share them in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!