Five rookie travel mistakes made by international newbies
Planning an international trip, especially if it is your first one, is an exciting experience. You comb for hours through Pinterest and Instagram for travel inspiration, shop for the perfect vacation outfits, and hopefully spend some time comparing hotel prices ahead of time. But, preparing for a trip abroad takes a bit more time and effort than domestic travel. It is not something you rush into without being fully prepared.
To help you, here is a list of the top five rookie travel mistakes international newbies make and some great tips for how you can avoid them.
Mistake #1: Failing to Check Passport Dates
It is a terrible feeling when you have planned an entire international vacation to have it all crash down in chaos at the airline check-in counter when the agent directs you to the date of expiration on your passport.“But that date hasn’t passed yet!” You say in a panic, frantically searching the agent's face for what they see that you don’t.
Many countries, including the USA, require your passport to be valid for at least six months beyond the date of exit. This means, ultimately, you should deduct six months from the date of expiration on your passport to get its true “end of useful life” date.
It is essential, that you check the passport regulations for both your home country and your destination country well in advance of your trip as getting a renewed passport can take months.
The links below will take you to the Passport Renewal site for the 3 largest Countries in North America and the United Kingdom.
Mistake #2: Booking Tight Connections
When booking your flights for your first international vacation, beware of getting caught up in your eagerness to get to the destination as quickly as possible, by booking your connecting flights with less than an hour layover. Even before the turmoil of Airline strikes that began in the Summer of 2022, weather, machinery, and busy runways have been delaying and causing cancellations of both domestic and international flights for years.
To lessen the anxiety that begins to set in when a flight is delayed, select a connecting flight that has a 2-3 hour layover. This is definitely best practice if your connecting airport is outside of your home County. You will be required to go through passport control when you land on international soil. Depending on the airport and time of day, this process can take some time, so make sure you plan accordingly to accommodate any unforeseen delays.
If all goes smoothly and no delays take place, use the layover time to grab a bite to eat, take in some shopping, or stretch your legs. Research the airport in advance to become familiar with the terminals. Some international airports offer paid lounges that can be pre-booked. Many paid lounges offer beds, showers, and phone chargers.
Check out my post about Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 for information on how to make the most of your layover in London.
Mistake #3: Waiting to Exchange Currency until the Airport
To get the most bang for your buck, do not exchange currency at an airport kiosk. Typically, the service fees and exchange rates are much higher at the airport. As you are planning your trip, contact your bank to inquire about pre-ordering currency directly from your financial institution. Most banks now have online services where foreign currency can be ordered and delivered directly to your home. Find out your bank's fee for using foreign ATM machines, it is likely that the fee is minimal. If you need more cash when abroad, opting for an ATM machine withdrawal (if available) can be less expensive in fees than a local currency exchange shop. Lastly, remember that exchange rates change almost every day.
The links below will take you to the Exchange and Order Foreign Currency page for the 5 largest banks in the USA.
Mistake #4: Forgetting to Call your Bank
Due to the rise in identity theft and fraud, Financial institutions have put in place policies to monitor unusual activity on accounts. When a transaction is made outside of the “norm”, ie. you live in California and suddenly you have 2 transactions in Scotland, your account will be flagged and access to your money may be cut off. To avoid having your credit/debit cards frozen due to unusual activity on your bank account, call your bank at least 1 week prior to travel and inform them of your intended travel dates. Inquire about any foreign use fees for using your credit card or debit card abroad, and ask if they have any partner banks in your destination.
Bonus tip: consider using an RFid Protected Wallet or Purse to hold your bank & identity cards. This technology protects you from identity thrives that utilize digital readers to steal credit card information without ever holding your actual card. During my travels both domestically and internationally, I use this RFid-protected purse to carry my passport, green card, credit card, and driver’s license.
Mistake #5: Forgetting Travel Adapters & Converters
The electrical plugs that are standard in your home country are not the same in other countries. Nor is the electrical output in the outlets. Therefore, you will need to purchase a travel adapter and converter for the country you are visiting in order to utilize your appliances such as curling irons, electric razors, and hair dryers. Why do I need both? An adapter simply allows a device from one country to be plugged into the wall outlet of another country, however, this does not convert the electricity. For example: In the US, the standard AC outlets are 110 to 120 volts. In Australia, AC outlets can output anywhere from 220-240 volts. A converter will convert the voltage of the outlet to meet the requirements of your appliance. If you do not use a converter, in most cases you risk frying your electronics and appliances. I travel with this mini converter & adapter kit when I travel abroad.
I hope these travel tips help you and keep you stress-free during your first trip abroad! Please feel free to reach out to me via the comments or the contact page if you have any questions about Internation Travel, booking international vacations, and/or any travel-related concerns.
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