Travel tips

Find out what events are happening during your visit

This is one of those tips on international travel that will really come in handy later on. Perhaps your visit will coincide with a cool festival or ceremony that you won’t want to miss, such as a fall harvest in the Berkshires or an outdoor concert in Verona. Research what’s happening during the week or weekend of your trip using a simple Google search (i.e. “New England festivals in October“) That’s it. Hopefully some interesting events will be happening during your visit!

Read travel blogs and guidebooks

To help you plan your international trip, it’s a good idea to read guides and itineraries from travel bloggers and experts who know the destination best. I’ve always enjoyed reading guidebooks by Rick Steves and Lonely Planet. I write some guides too! Here are some of my most popular ones right now: – Long Weekend in Barcelona: 3 Day Travel Guide – The Ultimate Guide to Newport, Rhode Island – Yangtze River Cruise in 3 Days: Travel Guide + Itinerary – Best Day Trips from Bologna, Italy – The Ultimate New England Road Trip Itinerary More travel guides and itineraries can be found on my Travel Destinations page.

Purchase tickets for attractions in advance

This is definitely one of the most important international travel tips. Not only will this give you a head start in planning your itinerary, but it will also help you avoid long lines. I’ve made the mistake of not buying tickets beforehand for the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Needless to say, this lack of planning cost me valuable time in each city. Time is precious when you’re traveling!

Research places where the locals go

One of the best things about traveling is being able to immerse yourself in the local culture. Rather than eating at McDonalds or shopping at international chains, I recommend researching spots where you’ll find many locals. TripAdvisor reviews are particularly helpful with this. There are many other travel apps out there as well. Walking tours are also a great way to learn about the hidden gems and neighborhoods where the locals hang out.

Wear a money belt to protect your passport and valuables

I wish I had a penny for every time somebody tried to pickpocket me in Barcelona. Wearing a money belt in a foreign country is a great idea, especially if your hotel room doesn’t have a safe. I know many people who were pickpocketed without even knowing (be sure to never leave your wallet in a back pocket). If you’re vehemently against wearing a money belt (for style or other reasons), I recommend making copies of your passport and credit cards. Better safe than sorry!

Get local currency from an ATM in your destination (rather than at home)

Exchange rates tend to be more favorable in the destination than at home. As such, you should plan to go to a bank or ATM once you arrive in the country you’re visiting to get the best bang for your buck. Note: the exchange rates provided at airports (and even at currency conversion centers in the city), are typically a rip off. Instead, go to a bank or ATM, where there are no hidden fees beyond what your credit/debit card company may charge. That way, you’ll know you’re getting a fair conversion rate that’s in alignment with the market.

Look up the exchange rate before arriving in your destination

Before getting to your destination, be sure to familiarize yourself with the currency conversion or exchange rate. Whether you’re buying street food or souvenirs, it’s a good idea to have an understanding of the local currency so you won’t get ripped off. Doing so could even prevent a mini heart attack. For example, seeing 10,000 Icelandic Króna on my dinner bill sent a jolt through my body (thankfully it’s only $75). In addition to doing quick mental math, Travel apps like XE Currency can help with this. This is definitely one of the most important tips on international travel.

Always carry local cash

Though credit cards can cover most international expenses these days, you should still carry local cash when visiting a foreign country. Not all establishments take credit cards, particularly in off-the-beaten-path destinations.

Make sure your credit card works internationally

Before traveling to another country, there are two things you’ll want to do with your credit card. Firstly, make sure the card actually works abroad. Some countries in Europe, for example, require that you use a card with chip and PIN technology. If you’re using an outdated card with a magnetic strip, you’ll want to make sure establishments in your destination will accept it. Many European eateries and other businesses will accept a signature in lieu of a PIN/chip, but things are changing fast. It wouldn’t surprise me if magnetic strip cards stopped working over there in the near future. In addition, notify your credit card company about your international travel plans. This will ensure the card is “unlocked” so it works abroad and you won’t have to worry about it being declined due to a suspicious activity. To do this, either call your credit card company directly or set it up yourself on the company’s website or app.

Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees

This is definitely one of the top tips on international travel. Thanks to credit cards, the days of carrying copious amounts of local currency are over. I have the Chase Sapphire Card, which offers no foreign transaction fees, 2x points on travel and dining, and 25% additional value when redeeming travel expenses (airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises). I highly recommend getting a credit card like this, so you won’t have to worry about international transaction fees. It also allows you to rack up travel rewards that you can use for future trips!