Preparing for International Travel: A Step by Step Guide

Some people get excited over things like shopping and sports. Heck, some people even get excited over work and school. I, just like all my wanderlust inflicted friends get excited over travel. Yes, I’m talking about nervous hand sweats until you’ve scored that dirt cheap flight to your next getaway. Spending hours Googling what to see, and in my case, where to eat. Excitement aside, contrary to what a lot of people think, a lot of preparation goes into traveling. Especially if you are preparing for international travel. Coming from someone who now is trying to make a living while traveling full-time, here are some useful tips on how to prepare for international traveling.

Do Your Research

So, you’ve booked your flights, possibly even your accommodations and you have a rough route planned out, what’s next? Now as my fellow countrymen know, it is not so easy to travel with a third world passport-but it is doable! If I were to be honest, visas stress me out. Tom can attest my many rants about this but in reality, there is nothing we can do but be prepared. If you’re one of the lucky ones who can get a visa on arrival almost anywhere, good for you! Do your research. Find out if you need a visa to enter the country and if you do, find out how long it’s valid for and what you need in case you want to renew it. Aside from visas, find out if you need any other special requirements to enter a country. Apart from the obvious visa requirements, it might also be helpful to research on do’s & don’ts in certain countries. Aside from being polite and respectful about other people’s culture, you can also get into serious trouble if you don’t give a countries’ rules heed. In fact, back in 2010, a young British couple were jailed for kissing in public in Dubai.

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Prepare Your Travel Gear

For my first big around the world trip, I remember spending ages researching online for the perfect backpack. Remember, quality does matter! Your backpack is a crucial part of your trip and having one that is the right size and of good quality can change your level of comfort throughout your whole trip. Browse through sites like or pay a visit to your favorite sporting goods store like REI. Nowadays, although we simply just throw our gear in one bag, one thing we can’t live without is our Packing Cube. Seriously, we don’t know how we traveled without them before. Apart from those, look into the necessary travel adapters and always carry Ziploc bags. I still swear by them! They are useful to seal toiletries, carry snacks, and for many more reasons. Trust me. Also, don’t forget to research on the weather and look into taking the necessary clothes so you can avoid having to make unnecessary purchases, while you’re on your trip.

Read: Best Travel Cameras or Southeast Asia Packing List (sign up at the bottom to get a free packing checklist)

Close up of a backpack with a lighthouse behind

Sort out Your Finances

Sometimes, you can’t just pack up your bags and go! Especially if you’re going to a different country. Beforehand, call your bank and make sure they note down in your account that you are traveling (and to which countries). This will make sure your card works in every country you visit and avoid it being blocked soon as you try to use it. Ensure that you are able to make International withdrawals.

Insider Tip: Skip money changers and stick to ATM machines-they give you the best exchange rates!

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Apart from that, check that you have all your credit card security details. I always carry $100 (broken in small bills) stashed in different places for emergency. You never know when an ATM won’t dispense cash or even worse keep your card. Here in South East Asia certain places don’t even have ATM machines!

how to fund your gap year

Read: How to Save for Travel

✨The 1 Thing We Never Leave Home Without…

Travel Insurance

Coming from someone who has been traveling the world for the last 8 years AND has been in the hospital 2x, travel insurance is something everyone NEEDS to get. Get a quote below!

Fix Your Paperwork

Now, I can already see Tom cringing at this heading alone. Yes, it seems highly unnecessary but you always want to be on the side of caution, especially when in another foreign country. I keep a plastic envelope, which contains my passport, copies of my passport and a list of emergency contact numbers (P.S. I hope to God my parents are reading this as they would be proud!!) Always have backup copies of your passport and identification cards. In case they get stolen, having photocopies at hand can make your life a whole lot easier. I also keep soft copies of my passport and other government issued ID’s in a portable hard drive. Apart from this, carry a list of emergency contact numbers in your wallet and in your passport case.

visas for gap year

Get Travel Insurance

travel insurance

A lot of people think that traveling without insurance is no biggie. It’s not…until you get into an accident. By now, a lot of you already know I am the world’s clumsiest person. I literally trip on my own two feet! Being as accident-prone as I am, having insurance can save you a whole lot of money when things go wrong. At the tail end of my backpacking trip around the world, I flew to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam from the USA to begin my travels around Asia. I was staying at my best friend’s flat and on my very first day there, her glass shower door collapsed on me. Within seconds I was shaking, dripping with blood and completely bewildered as to what just happened. Shortly after, I was in an ambulance as I was being rushed to the ER to get stitches all over my arms and hands. Yes, freak accidents happen and the fact that it happened to me sucks…but it could have been worse if I was left to deal with the $500 medical bill. We can personally recommend World Nomad’s Travel Insurance as although they are quite pricey, they are really good with following claims and cover almost anything!

Although there seems to be a million and one things to do when preparing for international travel, remember the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the experience! The anticipation, planning, and preparation for any big trip is part of what makes it exciting. Just remember to leave all expectations at home and be willing to step out of your comfort zone as you experience everything in store for your next adventure!

How to Prepare to Travel to Europe for the First Time

first travel to europe

In the minds of millions of Americans, a trip to Europe is an unmissable experience to live at least once in a lifetime. There’s nothing quite like the old continent for many reasons.

Visitors will be able to learn about centuries if not millennia of history and culture while on holiday, stay at some of the finest hotels in the world and dine at traditional Italian and French restaurants (just to name a few European cuisines that have earned global prestige.) They will explore famous European cities that have always sparked the imagination of Americans and sunbathe on idyllic Mediterranean beaches.

But when it comes to planning the first trip to Europe, many may feel confused. After all, Europe is a large and diverse continent where you can find different climates, cultures, and landscapes. In this article, we’ll help you clear some of your doubts and you’ll learn about:

  • How to prepare for a trip to Europe in advance
  • Money facts you need to know about Europe
  • What to pack for Europe

How Far in Advance Should You Plan a Trip to Europe?

Booking a tour is much easier but many travelers appreciate how much more rewarding it can be to plan your European vacation independently. Of course, there are many factors that you will need to take into consideration when coming up with a timeline for your travel planning — how long you are planning to stay for, your budget, etc.

However, most agree that the most comfortable time to start thinking about your holiday is around 6 months in advance:

  • 6 months before leaving: Think of where you’d like to go, buy some guidebooks and read travel blogs. Look for a place to rent if you intend to spend more than a couple of weeks in the same location
  • 3 months before leaving: Book your flights (between 3-4 months in advance is the ideal time to find the best fares). Get your documents in order, since your European travel authorization will be directly linked to your passport. If you still don’t have one, draft your itinerary
  • 2 months before leaving: This is when you get serious about hotel and transport reservations. You don’t want the best prices to be gone
  • 1 month before leaving: Make a realistic assessment of your budget situation so that you will know exactly how much you will be able to spend per day. Get travel insurance and figure out how much luggage you will need
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Will I Need a Visa for Europe?

From November 2023, American citizens will need a travel authorization in order to visit Europe. Fortunately, this will not take the form of a traditional visa but rather an electronic travel permit called ETIAS (Electronic Travel Information and Authorization System) that will grant entry into the Schengen area.

The ETIAS visa waiver will allow American travelers to enter Europe visa-free. No need to visit a European embassy or consulate in person, since ETIAS can be obtained entirely online in minutes.

Applicants will need to submit some basic information, enter their passport details and answer a few questions on their travel plans, and pay for the ETIAS application fee. Within a few business days, they will receive their approved ETIAS visa waiver via email. Some applications may take longer, especially if the application form is lacking information.

That is why you will not need to worry about the European visa far in advance. As long as you allow for the processing time, the ETIAS authorization can be an item on your travel checklist for the last weeks.

How Much Cash Should I Bring to Europe?

Money is always a worry for travelers. You do not want to be left without it in a foreign country with weeks to go before your flight back.

The main currency within the European Union is the euro. However, some EU countries decided to keep their own currency other than the euro and some countries that are within the European continent are not part of the EU (and therefore, could not adopt the euro).

  • Countries that use the euro are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain
  • Countries in Europe that do not use the euro are: Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, FYR Macedonia, Moldova, Hungary, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Poland, Norway, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom

Travelers do not need to carry a lot of cash with them while in Europe. Most European establishments will accept cash and you will easily find ATM machines. Carrying cash with you is a much higher risk as it exposes you to robberies and pickpocketing. Withdrawing a lot of money before traveling is also not ideal — you’re almost guaranteed to find better rates locally than at home.

What Should I Buy for a Trip to Europe?

If you are an experienced traveler, you may already know what works for you. Here is some packing checklist advice for Europe:

  • Wheeled suitcase or travel backpack. Of course, one is lighter and better organized, the other is easier to carry around. It all depends on your travel style. If you plan to move much, remember that European cities almost always feature cobblestones and long-winded staircases
  • Clothes. Remember that European weather can be unpredictable so even if you go during the summer, make sure to bring a few long-sleeved shirts with you
  • Plug converters. Power outlets vary from country to country in Europe. Instead of buying a converter every time you change country, making sure to get a universal one while you’re still back at home will save you time and hassle
  • Safety padlocks and good wallets. Thieves are at work in major tourist destinations. Bringing a small padlock and investing in a good wallet or money bag will grant you peace of mind.
  • Medicines. In case you’ll need them, you’ll of course be able to visit a pharmacy in Europe. However, bringing your prescription medications, vitamins, and health-related products with you will make things easier

Christine D. Garey

Christine D. Garey is a journalist and content creator with years of experience in international relations and border regulations. As travel becomes increasingly frequent and democratized, particularly in the Schengen Area, Garey’s writing helps travelers make smart decisions when planning their trip to Europe.

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How to Prepare for a Trip to Europe


Before planning a trip outside the United States, it is crucial to check the status of your passport. Every U.S. passport expires ten years from the date issued (for adults). If your passport is expired, or if you do not have a passport, you must register for one at least four months before your trip. This precaution ensures you receive your passport on time.

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Attention: For safety reasons, it is important to stash a photocopy of all important travel documents at home.

More information can be found at the link below.

Step 2: Purchase Plane Tickets (3 1/2 – 4 Months Before Your Trip)

After choosing a destination, the next step is to purchase a flight to the nearest major airport from your destination.

WARNING: Prices are variable depending on location, time of purchase, and other factors beyond the typical person’s control.

According to the New York Times, it is best to score a cheap flight approximately 21 to 22 weeks in advance. Examples of ways to purchase a ticket are:
– Booking through a travel agent
– Purchasing tickets online from an Internet-based travel website (e.g. Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, etc.)
– Ordering directly through an airline (e.g. United, British Airways, Lufthansa, etc.)

It is important NOT to purchase fares last minute. Fares are double what they were listed as a month prior, if purchased a week before the flight.

Step 3: Arrange Accommodations (3 Months Before Your Trip)

After taking care of all necessary paperwork, selecting a destination, and purchasing a ticket, the next step is to decide where you will sleep over the duration of your stay. The quality and safety of a place to stay can drastically alter your travel experience.

Please note, accommodations may already be predetermined for some readers, but this is an important task.

Research – The best way to ensure a positive experience is to research. Guidebooks, hotel websites, and Internet-based travel websites that include traveler reviews are great tools to landing a great hotel.

Location – It is best to pick a hotel that is near areas of interest and in a safer neighborhood. Traveler reviews are helpful in aiding you in finding a good location.

Timing– Purchasing lodging arrangements, like flights, is best done sooner than later.

Step 4: Purchase Key Items (2 Months Before Your Trip)

A couple of months before your trip, it is best to make sure you have some items that will give your trip a chance of being “hassle-free.”

Proper luggage is must for any long distance trip. Confirm you are complying with rules for the airline on checked luggage and carry-on items. Depending on your airline, carry-on items may include:
-Smaller suitcase passing dimensions required by airport security
-Garment bags
-Computer bags

Quantities of bags and particular carry-on items depend on each airline. Be sure to clarify with your airline to confirm what luggage can be brought with you.
There are always new rules in airport security that prohibit particular items and quantities of – other items, including liquids.

A European power outlet adapter is a necessity for all American visitors to Europe. Be sure to purchase one from any electronics or department store before your trip.

Consider signing up for an international phone plan with your wireless provider. Communication in an unfamiliar place prevents a lot of unnecessary stress on a trip.

Step 5: Prepare Yourself for Travel (1 1/2 – 2 Months Before Your Trip)

Before packing any of your belongings, it is best to take care of the most important thing going on the trip, you!

-Be sure to call your bank and/or credit card company notifying them of your travel plans so your debit/credit cards will work while abroad. Also, ask about international use fees!
-Convert some U.S. dollars into Euros. The amount of money is dependent on you, but 200-300 Euros should suffice over your commute.
-Find out the location and phone number of the local American Embassy (just in case).
-Learn some phrases in the native language(s), and purchase a translation book if you would like.
-Hydrate with plenty of water to help prevent jet lag.

Step 6: Pack (1 Month Before Your Trip)

Finally, it is time to pack. Packing a month before helps in giving you enough time to make sure you are not forgetting any other items. A helpful tip is to write down everything you have packed, or make a checklist.

Important items to pack:
– Passport or Visa
– Wallet
– Driver’s License
– Credit/debit card (leave all other cards at home)
– Both American and European currency
– Car and house keys (leave all others at home)
– Clothes (dress for the season, check online for weather)
– European power outlet
– Phone Charger
– Toiletries (in appropriate sized containers)

Step 7: Research Places to Visit (1 Month Before Your Trip)

Great resources of researching points of interest can be found from such sources as:
-Your local library
-Travel review websites
-Tourist guidebooks

Step 8: Transportation Planning (3 Weeks – 1 Month Before Your Trip)

Based on the location of your hotel, points of interest, and airport, it is best to look into different modes of transportation available at your disposal. Some great ways of getting around may include:

Look into the public transportation websites of cities you plan on visiting to see fares of transportation that suits you and your needs over the duration of your trip.

Step 9: Prepare Your Home for Travel (1 Day – 2 Weeks Before Your Trip)

Before departing on your fun adventure, it is important to make sure your home is in the same condition it was when you left it. Examples of different tasks to be completed to keep your costs down, home secure, and quality of living unaffected are:

-Contact your local post office and put your mail and newspapers on hold over the duration of your trip. This prevents hinting strangers that you aren’t home.
-Turn down the thermostat to approximately 10 degrees lower than normal. WARNING: Do NOT turn off your heat in the winter to prevent pipes from freezing.
-Turn off computers and other home appliances unused over the duration of your trip.
-Throw out foods that will spoil while you are gone for several days
-Make arrangements for watering plants and taking care of pets

Step 10: Arrive Early for Your Flight (2-3 Hours Before Your Trip)

Everything should be prepared for your trip! Please be sure to arrive 2-3 hours before your flight departs.
Be aware of customs and security while making your way through the airport.




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