Traveling for your first time can be pretty intimidating, especially if you are heading somewhere internationally. I’ll never forget the first time I was making my way through Cabo San Lucas in a rental car and needed to get gas… but had forgotten to notify my credit card of my travel plans so they declined the charge! #whoopsies. A new culture and language can be particularly daunting, especially if traveling for more than just a holiday such as a Cultural Care Au Pair. This can be even more daunting, but don’t fear, some of my tips might help make your integration slightly easier.
So today, I have rounded up my tried and true travel hacks I learned through my experiences to help you navigate your first time traveling abroad like a pro.
5 International Travel Hacks You Should Know Before You Go
Travel Hack No. 1 – Check the Weather
This should go without saying, but before you start packing, check the weather in the city you are visiting! All too often it can be easy to fill your suitcase with ‘cute’ items that are not at all practical. It can also be easy to assume that if you are traveling to a tropical place that the weather will be sunshine and rainbows, when in actuality weather can change at a moments notice.
If you are like me and pack a few days (or even a week) before your departure, make sure to double check that the weather hasn’t shifted. Afterall, you won’t want to pack a suitcase full of bikinis if the weather calls for a torrential downpour.
Travel Hack No. 2 – When Possible, Use a Carry-On
If you aren’t on a direct flight (and even if you are), try taking a minimalistic approach to packing and try fitting everything into a TSA approved carry-on bag.
A carry-on allows for you to side-step baggage claim, avoid additional fees, and helps you get through customs faster so you can make those connecting flights without having to lug a SmartCart full of luggage. This also helps you stay light on your feet as you travel to your destination, which sometimes requires public transit after you land.
For more minimalistic packing tips, check out my recent post for Bikini.com where I share my methods for packing like a minimalist regardless of the climate.
Travel Hack No. 3 – Do Your Homework
One of the reasons I LOVE to travel is because you get to see the way other people live. That being said, make sure to do your homework about the kinds of power adapters, currency and transit offered in the city (or cities) you will be traveling to. It’s also important to research in advance to get the best deals, for example, click here for great airport parking rates.
In France the plugs are not the same as in the States, so I carry an adapter with me to make sure I can plug in when necessary. I also like to have cash on hand so I plan ahead and exchange some of my spending money for the currency used in the country I am going to via my bank which often times has a cheaper exchange rate than the airport.
Be sure to call your credit card and cell phone carrier to notify them of your travel plans and to see what fees are associated with using them abroad. The last thing you want to do is get home to a bunch of hidden fees that triple your bill and drain your account.
Travel Hack No. 4 – Map It Out
Once your plane touches down in your desired destination your adventure is only beginning, so make like a Boy Scout and be prepared!
Unless you have a driver picking you up from the airport, chances are you are going to need to make a game plan to get to your hotel. Most airports have Wi-Fi but it doesn’t hurt to locate the nearest free Wi-Fi, just in case.
I use Google Maps to chart a course from the airport to where I am going then take screenshots of the step-by-step (in case WI-FI is scarce) so I have the directions and the address in my phone at all times. You can also download offline maps on Google Maps which you can access with or without internet.
I also like to have a contingency plan just in case, for example, even though I planed on using Uber when I arrived in Paris, I also mapped out public transportation via the metro system, just in case.
Travel Hack No. 5 – Make Like a Local
If you really want to experience life like a local, ask around for your friends advice via Facebook, take to Twitter or even seek out your favorite bloggers advice for the #411 on off-the-beaten-path places to hang out.
Chances are that the featured hotspots in magazines like Travel + Leisure will be crawling with tourists so it helps to have advice from a trusted source like your friends to get the low-down. If you are traveling alone be smart but don’t be afraid to ask questions and make friends with your local barista.