Top Five Tips for International Travel

El Prat Barcelona International Airport

As I’ll be headed to Italy for two months, I feel it’s necessary that I refresh myself on some tips for traveling abroad. If you have any, please add your top international travel tips in the comments below, as I’m sure I’ll need to know them.

1.) Make your travel plans known

Tell your friends, your family, your credit card company and even the State Department if you feel so inclined. If anything should go wrong, they’ll be more prepared to help you out. With the exception of American Express, who says travel plans don’t need to be noted in advance, making known your travel plans to your credit card company will make your extravagant purchases on useless souvenirs (slightly) less suspicious.

2.) Educate yourself on the place you’re going to

Learn a bit of the language, the customs and the laws before heading to an unfamiliar country. It’s particularly helpful to research public transportation options prior to arrival, thus making it less likely you’ll be “that guy/girl” staring blankly at the train schedule. Knowing what hand gestures to avoid also helps if you’re, say, an “expressive speaker.” Additionally, everyday activities we often take for granted can be very different in other countries. For example, grocery shopping in Italy prohibits you from physically touching produce. It’s a good practice, now that I think of it.

3.) Keep the bling at home and your goods in front

This is fairly obvious, though a woman during my last trip had all her belongings stolen in the Vatican (yes, past admission and inside the basilica). Her pack was slung loosely around her shoulder and, though her valuables were packed deeply within, a thief had no problem taking out all her credit cards without her knowing it. In crowded places, keep your stuff in front of you and in your control. If you’re especially paranoid, certain companies, like Pacsafe, make theft-resistant bags. I picked one up for myself recently.

4.) Consider travel insurance and check your credit card benefits

A small one-time insurance payment can potentially save you from a huge headache should you ever (God forbid) need to cancel your flight during an emergency. Travel insurance also covers lost baggage due to negligence, as well as some medical issues. You should also check with your credit card companies to see what they cover, as many do at no additional charge (American Express is really good with this). Others, like the Capital One Venture Card, allow you to use your credit card without foreign transaction fees.

5.) Make some friends while you’re there

Befriend a few locals if you can, and you’ll instantly gain insider knowledge that no book or website can give you. New friends also provide you a local point of contact should you ever need help with anything. It also makes the trip infinitely more meaningful. ✈