Traveling Tips

How to Prepare for Travel Overseas

Deciding on what to pack is always a challenge when traveling abroad. First, you have a per baggage weight limit as per airline restrictions. Secondly, you don’t want to pack unnecessary items because once you land you will have to carry your luggage by hand.

I recently traveled to Switzerland and Portugal. Here are some suggestions for you to consider for a trip that will require more than a six-hour plane ride.

Documents

Make sure that you have a passport and that it is current. Although your passport has an expiration date, please make sure you are at least six months out to the date of your return trip otherwise you’re likely to be denied when boarding by the airline. I have never understood the purpose of the expiration date, but it is always better to be safe than sorry! I would also take a photocopy of your document and keep it in a different location so that if your original passport gets lost or stolen you have a copy.

Map Out Key Locations

Before you arrive in the city you plan to visit, map out the key locations you want to visit. Typically, what I do is group things by location that I want to see so that I am not crisscrossing the city and spending much of my time commuting versus seeing the sights. I also try to plan things I want to see each day, although I do leave room for other things like shopping, coffee breaks, etc.

Reserved Airport Parking – Off Site

Parking your car at an off-site location can save you time and money if you must leave your car near the airport. The best way to go about finding the best deals is by making your reservation soon after you’ve booked your flight. One of the sites my husband uses to find the best per-day rate is: www.airportparking.com  as it offers many options including covered, not-covered and valet. Once a reservation is made, you will receive confirmation email which I suggest you print and take with you.

Luggage

Every time I travel I notice that so many bags look the same when coming off the luggage belt at the airport. I decided to find the most unusual colored and designed bag at TJ Maxx so that it would be easy to spot but still made of good quality. I always make sure the luggage has a good set of wheels and a sturdy handle.

Carry-On Bag

One mistake I made on this trip was bringing a carry-on bag that didn’t have wheels. Typically, you will be waiting in long lines for security, boarding and walking throughout airport customs. You don’t want to have a carry-on bag full of stuff that you have to carry on your shoulders. My carry-on bag was full of camera equipment, laptop, etc., that I didn’t want to check in and was a bit heavy. There are size limitations on the  carry-on bags so be sure to check with your airline. Remember that no liquids bigger than 4 oz will be allowed through security checkpoints.

Packing Cubes

I had my doubts of how well these cubes would work but have found them to be very convenient. These make packing easy as they keeping clothes organized and allow more space in your suitcase. Cubes usually come in different sizes, so I group things together such as socks, underwear, bras and PJ’s in one. I also roll all my items so that it reduces the amount of wrinkles and allows more space inside the cube. You can also group things in a cube such as electronics, camera equipment and accessories.

Items for the Plane Ride

A couple of items I recommend for the plane ride to make that 8-hour flight more comfortable.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

These headphones are fabulous. They enable you to tune out all noises allowing you to take a nap and these headphones. They will most certainly make your long airplane ride much more enjoyable.

Small notebook/sudoku

I like to write on the plane. Sometimes writing will clear my mind, as well as help me remember things for the trip. You can also use it to draw or play simple games like tic-tac-toe. Playing a few games of Sudoku is also something I like to do on the plane.

Kindle

Before my trip, I download books on my kindle to read on the plane so that I don’t have to use the expensive WIFI on the plane to do so.

Charging Cables

On some planes you’re able to plug in your phone or other electronics to keep them charged

Snacks

I always like to have gum, hard candy, and breakfast bars just in case I don’t like what they are serving on the plane.

Hygiene Items

I like to bring along a mini toothbrush and toothpaste just to have clean teeth and fresh breath. I also like to carry lip balm and hand lotion due to the dry air inside the plane’s cabin. I also carry Wet Wipes to keep my hands clean before and after consuming food.

Electrical Adaptors

Make sure to bring along adaptors for your hair dryer or any other items you may need to power-up. We simply bought a set from Amazon that is good for all sorts of electrical outlets.

Cell Phone

With today’s modern technology cell phones are used for maps, photography and internet browsing. Make sure you call your cell phone carrier to let them know you are traveling out of country and inquire about any special “international” plans to help reduce your Roaming expenses.

Mobile Wi-Fi

Your cell phone device is the best resource for maps, internet, places to eat, etc., Therefore access to the internet via WIFI is incredibly important. I purchased a Mobile Hotspot from Keepgo to enable me to use the internet in the countries I chose to travel. I buy enough data from Keepgo just to hold me over until I’m able to buy a local SIM Card which is likely to provide you a lot more data for a fraction of the price than if you were to buy it from Keepgo. As an example, I purchased 30 GB of data for about $20 in Portugal. Similar volume of data from Keepgo would’ve cost over $200.

Powerpack/Charger

We use our cell phones to access TripAdvisor, Google Maps, and other information while touring a city. You will need to be able to charge your Wi-Fi and your cell phone. When we first started traveling we took with us a small powerpack and it didn’t last long enough. This time we purchased a RAVpower 32,000 mAh from Amazon. This thing worked wonderfully. All of our devices stayed powered up all day.

Apps

When traveling, it is always good to be able to look at an app that can give you recommendations for places nearby or tours available in the area. I recommend TripAdvisor as it will give you information about the sights/restaurants, tours, contact information, cost, and reviews.

Google Translate is also helpful if you are traveling in a country where you don’t speak its language. It can quickly translate words or you can have someone speak into your phone and it will translate the message.

Google Maps is the most helpful app because it gives you not only driving directions but walking directions as well, bus & train schedules, and any other form of transportation offered in the area. Warning: Not all cities have updated their information with Google maps, so you may notice that schedules don’t match. Some cities may also require you to download an additional app that will link to Google maps for bus/tram information (in Portugal we downloaded Easy Bus).

Currency

Make sure that before you arrive in the country you plan to visit that you have some local currency. You need to visit your local bank at least a month ahead and ask them to provide you with the currency you need. You may also use the Currency Exchange kiosks at the airport to exchange dollars into another currency.

Also, you may want to call your credit card company to let them know you are traveling out of country so that you don’t have issues when using your card overseas.  

What to Wear

Deciding on what clothes to bring is always challenging for me. One thing I try to do is keep all the colors of my garments neutral so that I can mix and match them. For a seven day trip here are my recommendations:

Skinny/stretchy Jeans: These are good for any weather and can be rolled at the bottom to make them into capris or short jeans.

Leggings: I always take my black leggings because they match with anything and are very comfortable.

Capris: I typically bring a couple of black capris because they are very versatile and can be worn with either walking shoes or something a little dressier.

Walking Shorts: Bring a couple of shorts, black and beige, with pockets and made of nice fabric.

Workout shorts: I like to pack a pair of workout shorts just in case I just want to put something on while at the hotel.

Tops: I typically like tops that are loose fit. Depending on the climate pack short-sleeve or long sleeve.

Workout T-Shirts: I also like to bring a couple of casual T-shirts just in case we want to do some type of physical activity.

Jacket: Again this is going to depend on the season, but even if it is in the early fall, I would bring a jacket for late night walks.

Shoes: I always bring a pair of tennis shoes because my feet are much happier in them when we do 9 miles of walking per day! I also like to bring along a pair of sandals that can go with any outfit. I also bring with me a pair of flats or slip on type shoes just to have something different to wear in the evening.

Undergarments: Of course you want enough panties and socks for the week. I also like to bring along plenty of bras to change. Don’t forget your pajamas as well!

Laundry

If you really want to reduce the number of clothes you are packing, think about having your clothes laundered while overseas. My experience is that such a service is very inexpensive. It’s also easy to find a service that will launder all your clothes. If you stay at an Airbnb, they may have a washing machine that you can use and in that case all you need is some laundry pods. I brought laundry soap and washed out bras and shirts in the sink!

Miscellaneous

Sunglasses: Don’t forget to bring a pair of sunglasses.

Camera: Although this is one of my most important items to pack, I must share a few recommendations. Here is the equipment I bring along to capture all of our travels:

  • Digital SLR T5 camera with a wide lens.
  • Sony cyber-shot DSC-RX100
  • SMOVE

Of course, with all of this equipment, I make sure to bring extra batteries and memory cards.

Tablet: I also bring a Surface tablet so that I can download and edit pictures off the camera. Make sure you to bring the charging cable!

Backpack

Everyday, we carried a backpack which held items such as waters, snacks, our powerpack, cell phones, glasses, wet wipes, camera lenses and anything else we needed during the day. When we purchased items for souvenirs, it made it easy to carry them all back to our room at the end of the day.

Hopefully this packing list will make your experience overseas more enjoyable and reduce your stress of having to deal with issues that you really don’t want to spend your time dealing with while on vacation. Enjoy your trip and hope you have a wonderful time!

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