Are you planning an international trip or have you booked one? Hooray for you. Although I am proud (most of the time) to call this beautiful land of America, home, I have been deeply humbled, inspired, and nourished by my international travels over the last three years.
I have had the great fortune to visit over 10 countries in the last three years, with five more coming up this Spring, as i explore the world for work, yoga teacher trainings, travel and tourism, or scouting for the next best retreat center. From the bright lights of Singapore, the quiet beaches of Fitzroy Island, Australia, the humble rice paddies of Ubud, Bali, or the eclectic landscapes of Portugal, I am feel blessed and that my experience of life has been made richer by these travels.
During these travels, however, I have developed a list of travel tips and reminders that will help me prepare and be prepared on my journey. I’m delighted to share them with you today.
1. Double check your flight details within 24 hours of booking.
So i recently book a flight home from Bangkok to New York City. I chose a flight with a long layover in Tokyo so i could explore the city. However, in doing so, it meant that I had to change airports from Haneda to Narita airport.
I have 12 hours to do it, mind you, but it is not the ideal scenario - having to switch airports is like faux-pas #1 of travel.
The reason this is rule #1 on my list is because I didn’t notice this until day 30 of booking my flight. Had I checked and called within 24 hour they would have gladly changed the flight and I could have avoided a $150 change fee.
Speaking of layover, do you have a layover in your future? This website is a great layover guide to airports around the world.
2. Buy travel insurance.
Now I will be the first person to tell you … I am really a sucker for insurance. Health insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, and travel insurance. I’d get pet insurance if I had a dog.
You have spent so much time planning for your travel, investing in flights, hotels, retreat accommodation, tours…why risk all that when you could pay a nominal fee to have it, and you, protected.
What does travel insurance cover? It can vary by policy but in general most travel insurance policies will cover things like:
Financial recovery for medical expenses that are incurred because of accidents and illnesses. Medical treatment is very costly in some countries, and those who sustain serious injuries may
Protection against trip cancellation and interruption.
Coverage for loss baggage or personal belongings.
Travel delay, tour operator default, personal liability, accidental death, legal expenses, repatriation, emergency reunion
Access to services like 24-hour emergency services
Like any insurance, it is always a good idea to compare travel insurance rates and services to find the right plan. Check out my Policies page for more information and contact information for travel insurance that I have used in the past.
How did travel insurance help me?
Before my retreat to Costa Rica in January, I had to travel to California for work and a family gathering. Due to the weather, the JetBlue flight I was supposed to take from San Francisco International Airport to San Jose, Costa Rica was delayed significantly. I would have missed my connecting flight in Ft. Lauderdale delaying my arrival in Costa Rica by a full day. When you have 20 people coming to join you in Costa Rica on a retreat, delays are significantly frowned upon. I was able to book a new flight with United and submit a claim to my insurance company for a refund for that expense.
If you do book travel insurance it is a good idea to give the information to someone back at home in case they need to provide it to a third party for you.
3. Take a copy of your passport & check the expiration date.
This step is often overlooked. After all, if you have your passport why do you need a copy of it. You don’t have a copy of your license hanging around?
As much we all probably hate our passport photos, aka mugshots, making us look like criminal masterminds, we want to get a spare copy of that baby in the hands of someone back home and to have a spare copy with us on our travels.
You should take precaution when traveling to keep your passport on you at all times or know that it is in a secure location. Most hotels today have a safe where you can store them or if you are looking for a great travel option, Safeco has a cute option to consider.
And while I never wish a stolen passport on anyone, having a copy of your passport with you can be a big help. And the US Department of State has a great website to access so you know the steps to take if you do lose your passport.
Speaking of passport … did you know your passport needs to have an expiration date of more than six months for entry in most foreign countries.
4. Install and Set up An International Calling App.
If you haven’t heard of WhatsApp in the last year it is possible you may have been living under a rock. Or maybe to just haven’t traveled internationally - YET. Every country I have been to in the last three years WhatsApp is tremendously popular and heavily utilized by hotels, tour companies and guides, restaurants and the like.
Here’s a link to download it.. The one caveat with WhatsApp, the other person must also be on WhatsApp - what a great business method for expanding your client base.
Another app that I like to use is Viber. Viber is a great option, sometime even better than WhatsApp because the person on the other doesn’t have to have the Viber App. I can make calls to anyone using Viber.
There are different subscriptions you can purchase depending on who or where you need to call. When you compare this cost to an international calling fees with a cell phone it can be more affordable.
5. Download the MobilePassport.
If you are like me, the thoughts of coming home from your vacation are the last thing on your mind, BUT it is a good idea to be prepared. The MobilePassport from the US Border & Customs can help expedite your reentry into the United States.
This app has saved me a significant amount of time on multiple occasions. Last year, when I was flying home from Costa Rica for a family emergency, I entered border control at Orlando airport and was shocked to see hundreds of people waiting in line for entry. Luckily for me, I had the MobilePassport app and was able to breeze through customs.
I am surprised the app hasn’t become more popular with travelers, and I’m sure once it does little pangs of regret will make me wish I never shared it with anyone, and I’ll be first in line for the Global Entry application!
6. Book Your Flight Home
Mostly the countries that I am traveling to like Bali and Costa Rica want to make sure this crazy American lady isn’t going to leave when she is supposed to. It so tempting to stay. If you need a last minute flight expedia or cheapoair.com are my go to.
When you travel outside the US, the country you are traveling to will want to know not only when you are arriving, but when you are leaving the country. It is so tempting to stay in places like New Zealand, Bali and Costa Rica, and the countries want to make sure this crazy American lady isn’t going to stay past her welcome.
The airlines checkin agent will require proof of your round trip or return flight in order to check you in for your trip. For example, when I was traveling to Costa Rica, even though it was a one way trip, they would not let me check in without showing when I was leaving Costa Rica. At that time, I was traveling to Guatemala for a kids yoga teacher training so it looked like I had a one way flight (tempting and aspirational for sure, a one way trip to Costa Rica). This happened when I went to New Zealand too and if you have never been to New Zealand, once you go there you will know why you never want to leave.
7. Print Your Travel Documents.
I am a pretty organized person. I usually have a detailed itinerary made up before my departure with copies to my partner and my children. I lead retreats for people all over the world so I know how important every detail can be.
And yet, I have stood at many check in counters and been left fumbling for travel documents because that neat little itinerary is not the same as proof of travel for situations like I describe in tip number six.
Mobile boarding passes are great for travel within the US, especially if you are traveling light, but if you are traveling anywhere outside the US the rules change. Instead of risking a tinge of anxiety or holding up another busy traveler, I have decided to resort to the age old method of printing out my itineraries and having them with me.
You know with that thing we call p-a-p-e-r and a p-r-i-n-t-e-r… insert sarcasm here.
8. Write down the phone numbers for your airline/hotel/shuttle.
I was printing out my travel details for my upcoming trip to Asia. I dawned on my that finding a phone number for the airlines is not the easiest thing in the world when you are reviewing your itinerary.
To avoid any hassle, stress or anxiety, I went to the website and found the toll free number for the airline and wrote it right at the top of my itinerary.
So simple and yet so helpful.
I recall sitting at the San Jose Airport in Costa Rica one night, waiting for a midnight flight, only to have it cancelled. And there we were 300 passengers waiting (but probably not WANTING) to leave and now we left wondering about flight options and yet very few travelers had the contact information for the airline. And with only three airline agents in attendance it was going to take a while to get through the line.
I had, thankfully, noted this on my travel documents and was able to connect to wifi, use WhatsApp and contact the airline
10. Download CurrencyPlus.
When you are traveling abroad, one of the last things you want to experience is being ripped off by an international purchase.
One of the bets apps I’ve discovered to track currency exchange rates and understand expenses is Currency-Plus.
You can enter several currencies to track at one time.
I wish I had this that Thursday night so long ago in Jaco, Costa Rica when I paid $17 for a taxi ride to go 1/4 mile. Shame on my for being less fluent in Spanish than I would have liked but, never again, never again.
11. Call your bank/credit card company.
I have a great bank and while I don’t believe in using credit cards, I do have two with nominal limits on them. Sometimes, especially when traveling internationally a credit card can go a long way.
My bank is extremely diligent when it comes to keeping tabs on my card. At even the slightest hint of potential fraud and both my credit card are set up to ping me for every charge on my card. These safety precautions are comforting to the health of my personal information.
Thanks for these security precautions though it can mean that my debit card or credit cards could be totally shut off if my bank or issuing company doesn’t know I’m boarding a plane for Thailand.
12. Reconfirm your seats and meal selection for your airline.
This last one is top of mind because I eat a plant based diet - ie. I’m a vegan. Yes, I survive. I have been on three flights in the last twelve months in which i requested a vegan meal and it was not provided.
If you have any kind of dietary or meal preferences or allergies such as vegan, gluten free, vegetarian, allergies, its worth the extra five minutes to call or get online to make sure they have your meal preference or that 16 hour flight to India is going to be long and you are going to be hungry.
If you are traveling with a mate, you may also want to reconfirm your seat selection. On some flights I have booked in the past seat selection was not immediately available when booking the ticket so if you have a preference - or a tight connection - it would behoove you to take the time to reserve the seats you can.
Interested in learning more about international travel with me? Check out my retreats page to find out all the fabulous places I travel to.