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10 Tips for First-Time International Travelers

think gypsy in helicopter
There is nothing more exciting than the idea of seeing the world! Whether you dream about eating a croissant under the Eiffel Tower in Paris or want to dance on the tropical beaches of Bali, everyone has a dream. So finally, after lots of back and forth with yourself, you have decided to pull the trigger and finally take that leap into international travel! Trust me, it is one that you won't regret. But as much fun as exploring the world overseas can be, it can also be a little nerve-racking the first time. With all of the things that you are trying to remember all at once, it is completely normal to feel a bit overwhelmed or confused. So if you are feeling those first-time traveler jitters, here is a little checklist that is guaranteed to make your international travels a breeze!

1. Apply for your passport

Okay so this one may seem like a no-brainer, but passports take up to 6-months to be processed so you absolutely have to be on top of this when you are planning a trip! You would not believe how easy it is to overlook something when it seems to be obvious.
think gypsy and nina edelsbacher holding passports

2. Understand Your Credit Cards

Nothing is worse than getting the alert that your credit card has been locked because you were trying to use it overseas! It is important to communicate with your bank and let them know ahead of time that you'll be traveling and where to! This will save you the pain of sitting on hold for hours in your hotel room trying to get your card activated again.

Bonus tip: Research the cards that are accepted in the country that you are traveling to! A lot of the countries that I have been to do not accept American Express and I have definitely made the mistake of not bringing a different card out to dinner.

3. Get Local Cash

Since we are talking about paying while out and about in a foreign country, you should always always always try to have some local currency in cash on hand! A lot of restaurants in smaller towns are cash only!

4. Be prepared for emergencies

GET A TRAVEL INSURANCE! I cannot stress this enough! I was in the Dominican Republic and had a severe allergic reaction to something that I ate while I was out at dinner. I have literally never been allergic to anything ever so I was super unprepared! I ended up having to go to the clinic at our resort and had to pay over $800 for a shot of Benedryl. It was RIDICULOUSLY overpriced and I could have avoided the whole situation if I had just gotten the travel insurance when I booked. Needless to say I now also carry a whole pharmacy with me when I travel.
think gypsy in punta cana

5. Bring the right chargers

Converters and surge protectors are a must!! Other countries have other outlets with other voltage! Avoid being that guest who short-circuits the building because you were trying to plug in your straightener without a surge protector. If you want to be over-prepared, I have a converter that has multiple different plugs for multiple different countries. Super handy! I'll link it here below!

Ultimate Travel Converter

6. Pack smart

Packing is fun… said no one ever! Aside from being able to cram everything you think you need into your suitcase and carry on, it is also super important to know what to pack where. Keep all your valuables with you at all times. This may just be the over-cautious side of me talking, but I put all heavy electronics in my carry-on and any jewelry or lighter equipment such as my camera, in my personal item or backpack! This way, if god forbid your luggage ever goes missing, at least it was just the clothes!

Bonus tip: pack the majority of your cosmetics in your suitcase and just bring a little travel pouch with essentials in your carry on. Also, throw some aspirin in that pouch so if you have a headache it is easily accessible!
think gypsy with canon eos 6d

7. Read up on your cellphone plan

If you don't want to come back home to a hefty phone bill, talk to your provider ahead of time for the international options. One year, I got some free texting and talking overseas and it was great. Unfortunately, it did not include a data plan and I forgot to turn off the data that keeps running in the background ALL DAY LONG! Yah… that was not a fun phone bill to come home to. Just make sure you understand your plan and what it includes ahead of time!

8. Write things down

I mean physically write things on a piece of paper! Okay so picture this. My family and I go on a trip to Iceland. After delayed flights and many sleepless hours, we are finally on the road to our Airbnb. The one thing I am in charge of, for once, is getting us to the house. Well, in case you didn't know this about Iceland, the cell service is not the best. So about 5 minutes away from the house, I try to load the Airbnb app to get the lockbox code to actually get into the house and of course nothing loads. I am sitting in the backseat, silently freaking out and just picturing how dead I am going to be if you are stuck in front of this house IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE with now way to get in. Thank the lord, once we got to the house the app miraculously loaded and I got to play it smooth like nothing ever happened. The point of this story is, write important details down. Addresses, phone numbers, codes… have it written somewhere!

9. Plan for bad weather

We all want our vacations to be filled with blue skies and sunshine but that is not always the case. Rain does come occasionally and you will kick yourself if you don't have a plan for bad weather. Do some research and have a backup plan for things to do inside. You'd be surprised by some of the crazy things you'll find!
think gypsy in zoo cafe

10. Learn about your destination

Read up on current events before you book a trip!!! The world is not what it once was. I know that is a sad reality but it is the truth. The world has become more packed and more stressful. I almost flew to Mexico during a very bad time simply because I wasn't aware of the travel warning that had been put out! S do yourself a favor and just be aware of your travel areas.

Traveling is a learning game. My parents have been hauling me around from country to country since I was little and I am still learning new tricks with every trip I take. This checklist is not some magical key and I can't promise that you wont make some mistakes along the way but that is just what makes international travel interesting. At the end of the day, you'll definitely come home with some great stories to tell!
think gypsy on international flight