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Essential Travel Tips for Novice International Explorers

Updated: Feb 14

Rarely travel outside the U.S. but ready to leave your comfort zone?

Here are my Top 10 travel tips for newer global travelers: 
1. Download the Google Translate app!
It can help if you're in a place where no one speaks English. I've used it to communicate with: drivers to make sure they know where to take me, restaurant servers so I'm clear on what I'm ordering & with strangers when asking for walking directions. 

2. Research & Download Local Rideshare Apps
Some places in New Zealand have Uber. In Vietnam, it's Grab. In Laos, it's Loca. Often these apps are cheaper than taxis, plus it eliminates the need to carry around local currency or use it for rides. An added bonus: electronic records and receipts for everything!  

3. Screenshot all of your bookings
(flights, tours, hotel stays, etc). This is tremendously helpful in a pinch if you can't connect to wifi and pull up your email. I usually save these screenshots in my "favorites" folder so I can quickly pull it up for a driver, hotel staff or airline attendant when requested. Delete the screenshots when they're no longer needed to avoid confusion. You have the email for your records :) For some countries like Vietnam and Laos, it's helpful to have print outs.

4. I always carry a mini First Aid Kit in my backpack
Mine includes alcohol swabs, bandaids, Neosporin, Hand Sanitizer, wet wipes, Dramamine, Calm, Tylenol, Benadryl, DayQuil & NyQuil, and other essential meds for headache, diarrhea, & constipation. Admittedly, a lot of this stuff I never end up using, but as a retreat leader I always stay prepared for my groups. Small tissue packets come in handy for countries where it's not customary for restrooms to have toilet paper. 

5. In addition to a personal first aid kit
Always make note of the closest hospital and nearby pharmacies in case of emergency. Pharmacies in other countries are usually quite amazing!  Whether you're in need of antibiotics or personal care items that you run out of like toothpaste or tampons, you'll likely find what you need. (*Be sure to speak with the pharmacist about any prescription medication you already take before adding to the mix!) 

6. In addition to any adapter/ converter for your phone charger
I highly encourage purchasing a portable charger/ lightweight power bank and mobile hot spot device! When not needed, turn off your phone's bluetooth, wifi and slide your phone into airplane mode and lower power mode to save battery! There's nothing like running out of juice at a time when you need your phone. For extended travel, ditch the international phone plans in exchange for eSIMS. An eSIM is an industry-standard digital SIM that allows you to activate a cellular plan from your carrier without having to use a physical SIM card.

7. Take a photo of your hotel name and address
And also keep one of their business cards with you at all times in case you get lost or need help finding your way back. 

8. I only use my Chase United credit card when traveling abroad
Because there are no foreign transaction fees and using this card allows me to accumulate points/ miles for future travel/ airfare on United Airlines. (*Not an ad or sponsored- I've just used this card for several years now and despite an annual fee, I have had a good experience.) 

9. If you don't already have it, download WhatsApp.
It's a simple way to connect and communicate with fellow travelers and drivers, hotels and tour guides from many countries around the world. 

10. Pack Light!
For overall ease of travel, only bring what you feel you'll really need. Most hotels have great laundry services so you can mix and match outfits, wash and re-wear. Plus, the less you carry, the less likely you are to lose bags or pay added fees on foreign airlines as you move from city to city.

When visiting developing nations in particular, I pack clothes that I personally won't need or want anymore-- and I give them away to people in need as I go. There's a generous and sensitive way to do this. I wouldn't offer your fancy stilettos to some random woman in Cambodia. Just as I wouldn't necessarily offer my two-piece swimsuit to a village woman in Fiji. Culturally, that's tone deaf. Match your surroundings. Let's say you have gently used T-shirts, pajamas and flip flops that don't need to come home with you. You can put them in a small bag and offer them to your tour guide. Ask them to disperse to people in need or to give away to a church, to villagers, an orphanage (if sizes are appropriate for children) or whoever might like them. I've given away hats, sunglasses, headbands, dresses, water bottles... there are always people who can-- and will-- use what you might consider useless. Not only does this lighten your travel load, it opens up space in your bags for souvenirs, and most importantly, it's a gesture of loving kindness. For travel to developed countries, I bring along items that say "USA" or "Texas"-- as small gifts for tour guides, helpful hotel staffers, drivers or people I meet along the way as a token of my appreciation for their help and for our human connection. 


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