Hello everyone! Well the time has arrived where I will be checking off a couple things off my bucket list!! We are headed to Amsterdam & Greece!! Greece has been on my bucket list for YEARSSS as well as holding a live octopus! Lol (so we shall see about the octopus) I hope you follow me on Instagram as I post amazing photos, IG stories and live videos from all the beautiful areas that I will be visiting. So next to fashion, I love talking about travel! I love sharing different tips and tricks I have learned through my travel experience with others and can probably talk your ear off too. Many of my readers and friends have told me how they benefited from tips so hopefully these next three posts will help you too! So lets get right to it! Below are my top tips whenever I travel internationally!
1. RESEARCH! – Before even booking a flight, check to see what travel documents are required. Some destinations require you to get a visa or even vaccination. If a visa is required, what is the turnaround time?? It would disastrous if you found a great deal to a destination that you have to book and travel within 2 months and you find out it takes 3 months to get approved for a travel visa due to delays. Best thing to do is google the country’s name and then add the word “tourism” after it. (i.e. Greece tourism). You should select only the site that states “Official website of….Tourism”. That site will keep information up to date.
2. The 6 Month Passport Rule – Did you know that some countries will not allow you to enter the country if your passport expires within 6 months? Though the U.S. lets you use your passport until it expires, some countries will deny travelers entry if the passport expires in less than six months. This is because if for some reason you are stuck in their country longer than planned, they want to be sure you have a valid passport to eventually travel back to the United States. You may want to try to renew 9-12 months prior in case there are delays with getting passports renewed which can sometimes happen.
3. Passport Copy – When traveling, the unexpected can happen- lost luggage, theft or other unforeseen occurrences. You should always make a copy of your passport, driver license or any other travel documents that you may carry such as a Green Card. I take an extra step and have it have it notarized. This means a notary (bound by the law) has witness you signing that passport copy and confirmed that you and the copy are the same person. I feel like that makes the copy more valid and no one should have a problem of accepting it. Bring the original notarized copieswith you in a safe dry place and then email a copy to yourself and a family member in case your copy gets lost too.
4. Travel Alerts – Unfortunately, we are living in scary times where there can be civil unrest in countries or terrorist attacks. It’s always a good idea to check the State Department’s Travel Warnings and Alerts before booking your flight and a few weeks before to see if anything has changed. It’s also smart to print out the addresses and contact information of all the local US embassy offices in the countries you will be visiting. We know when something big happens in the world, everyone is on their cellphones using data and the towers can get jammed. At least you have a printed copy of the address and the taxi driver can still manage to get you over there.
5. Foreign Currency – You should check with your current bank and see if there are any other sister banks in the countries that you will be traveling in where there will be little to no fees associated with withdrawing from a foreign ATM. I bank with Bank of America who is in a “global alliance” with other banks in Europe (Barclays in the UK, BNP Paribas in France, BNL in Italy, Deutsche Bank in Germany) that allows you to avoid a $5 fee when using their ATMs. In the recent years, Bank of America as well as other banks now charge a foreign transaction fee (B.A.C 3%). Sometimes you can get a better deal using credit card or using a card associated with a credit union. Also to get foreign currency, usually you get a better rate by ordering currency from your local bank. It can take 2-3 days to have it deliver to you or a local branch so be sure you do so ahead of time. This year I remembered to order early and saved $30 with my currency order vs getting currency from the airport.
6. Fraud Alerts – This is so very important! You should notify all the cards you will be using overseas before leaving your home country and using your card overseas. Many banks monitor your cards for unusual activity. If all of the sudden they see charges in Iceland, then Greece then Italy then Paris, they may flag your card and shut it off immediately and then get a hold of you. So you could be trying to check out of your hotel and find out your card doesn’t work. If your phone is off then you would have not known. When booking flights to Greece, Bank of America did not let the purchase go through until I confirmed it was me. Bank of America you can set up alerts online very easily. Select the card(s) and select all the countries and then in the comment box you can add the hotels, cities or any additional information that you want the bank to know if they flag your card. Don’t forget to include countries that you will have a layover at in case you make purchases while at the airport.
7. Cell Phone Data – I advise to buy a small international plan for emergencies and to make phone calls. Most cell phone companies offer small to big plans. I always get a plan every since my first trip to Italy I had to the call the airlines and a 10 minute call cost me soo much money. You have to remember to turn off Data Roaming while abroad! Even though you may not be using your phone, you are still roaming and can incur some hefty charges. Every time you get a text message, email or voicemail you are incurring data charges for roaming. I learned the hard way my first international trip! $400 BILL! I typically tell my friends to not text me and I turn off my automatic syncs of my emails too even if I get an international plan. Syncs eat up data plan too. For steps on how to turn off data roaming, click here for iPhones or click here for Android!
Another good thing to consider that we always do is to bring along an old cellphone. The reason is because you can have it “unlocked” and buy a small plan in the country of your destination. I always keep old cell phones. We do this all the time in Italy because a package for calls, text and internet is super cheap like 20 euros. We have friends and family in Italy and often make phone calls during our stay or for flight/hotel shuttle pick up situations. Many mall kiosks unlocks phones starting at $40 depending on the phone and it can go up from there. The one I have used the last two years is located at Grapevine Mills Mall (3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway, Grapevine, TX 76051; Rainforest Cafe entrance next to H&M, (214) 396-1879).
Unlocking Phone Tip: Try to only use an old phone and not a new phone that is under warranty or contract. Sometimes unlocking the phone affects/cancels warranty and/or insurance. Also get it unlocked while you are in the United States.
8. Unwanted Local Currency– Sometimes you may have leftover currency that you need to “get rid of”. Best practice is the last night of your trip, try to see how much money you need to get through the following day. Put that money aside. At checkout the next morning, take what is leftover and ask the hotel to apply it to your bill and then pay the remaining balance to your credit card. Also, never have a hotel or restaurant convert a charge into dollars first. It is usually a bad deal/exchange. Also if it is very minimal amount I have left over, we will leave the last restaurant a big tip! 🙂 Try to exchange it back in dollars usually will cause you to lose some of it.
9. Research Baggage Restrictions – Typically when flying out of the United States, they allow 23 kilos or 50lbs for weight of checked baggage. When you are in Europe, that weight varies. A good thing to do is when you print off your itinerary, write on the first page the weight requirement for that airline in both kilo and pounds and circle it. The day of travel check the weight of your luggage by using a luggage scale which this link is the one that I have been using for years and is one of my travel essentials I always bring along with me on EVERY international trip!
10. International Electricity – Whenever you travel overseas, not all electricity is the same. Also not all electrical outputs are the same either. You will need to electricity converter and an adaptor to plugin. I have used this converter/adaptor kit for the past 8 years and love it. It is from Walk About Travel who also carry alot of great products for travel. This kit converts the electricity so you do not short out your appliances. The adaptors are so that you can plug in. The holes in the outlets are different from country to country. Walk About Travel’s kit come with different adaptors for central Europe, UK, Australia, etc. Definitely buy this!
Electricity Tip: Never bring your own hair dryer from the states! Even with a converter you could cause a mini fire or electrical shortage! Invest in a curling iron that is good for both countries. Or if you know this will not be your last visit to Europe for an example, buy one there and bring it with you each trip like I do!
11. Hotel Business Cards – It is a good idea to pick up a hotel business card or brochure that has the hotel name on it and address. When traveling in a foreign country, sometimes you may get lost and need to ask for directions back to your hotel. If there is a language barrier or tough accents to deal with- whether they can’t understand you or vice versa, a least you have something to show someone in the local language and not having to access the internet on your phone.
12. Google Maps – Now in days we rely on our phones for everything including GPS. GPS does use data and you do not want to roam while overseas. A good thing you can do is using the Google Maps app that most phones already comes with. You can save an offline version the map offline or simply screenshot the directions. Here are the instructions to do so. You can also save the directions onto your cellphone’s clipboard as well so you have the turn by turn directions. Here are the instructions to do so.
I hope that you found these tips very useful as you plan your international travel!If you found these useful for your travel, leave me a comment because I would love to know. If you have tips that you know of that are not mentioned here, leave me a comment too because I am always love to learn more tips! Stay tuned for my next two posts – Finding International Airfare Deals & Travel Essentials.
Stay fresh & FIERCELY you!