A couple weeks right before going abroad, things honestly start to get a little bit overwhelming.
When we booked our trip a couple of months ago for Europe, it felt like I had so much time to plan. Now we fly to Norway NEXT WEEK and it sure has crept up. I found myself wishing I had more time until takeoff, so making a list of logistics and things to do has really helped me break tasks down into manageable projects.
This list below is designed to walk you through the last lose ends to tie up before you head off into the wind for your next adventure.
Here’s what you need to know to do right before going abroad:
Having a credit card that does not charge transaction fees will make a big difference when you are pulling out cash on your trip overseas. Chase Sapphire and Capital One Travel are two popular credit cards that do not charge transaction fees when you are abroad. It is worth applying for a new card just for your trip alone to avoid paying percentages of the cash amount you withdraw just to be able to get around.
One thing to note about different credit cards is that Discover is not widely used in Europe, so I recommend using something else when you head across the pond.
If you are using cards other than these, it is suggested to give your bank a call so they don’t see a transaction in another country and then lock your account, leaving you stranded without a way to access your money!
When it comes to currency exchange, it should depend on whether or not ATMs are easily accessible in your destination. I have never exchanged currency ahead of time since you can usually do so even in the airport upon arrival.
For debit card use, you can check with your bank and see if they have alliances with banks abroad that would enable you to quickly and easily access your bank accounts and money (for example, Bank of America has alliance with Barkleys in London).
In Europe, there are ATMs all over the place so you can use a debit card to withdraw cash. You can also set up a pin for your credit card ahead of time so that in case of an emergency, you can use your credit card to withdraw cash.
Your two main options for your phone plan when you travel abroad are these:
- Get a SIM card upon arrival in your destination
- Accept that you will limit your communication via your mobile phone and put it on airplane mode
If you are going to spend more than a couple of weeks in your destination, you may want to look into getting a SIM card. First, check with your carrier to see if your phone is unlocked. If it is, you will be able to buy a SIM card when you arrive to your destination and buy one at a cell store. Some airports even have SIM cards available for purchase.
Once you are purchasing a SIM card, select the best plan that works for you, and put the SIM card in your mobile device. You can get extra support at the store, but this is all there is to it.
For the shorter trips that I take (about 10-12 days), I will simply put my phone on airplane mode right before going abroad and then access WiFi when it’s available. I do NOT take it off of airplane mode to avoid being able to receive calls or texts and then later get charged fees for them. But I do have an iPhone and when I’m on WiFi, I can receive iMessages and get most of the texts I receive.
Other options for communication while you’re abroad are Skype, FaceTime, Messenger (Facebook app), and Whatsapp, a very popular messaging app that you can use to speak to anyone, even if they have a phone number from a foreign country.
Not only will you have your long flight to get overseas, but you’ll likely spend some more time on trains, buses, shorter flights, and waiting in stations and airports.
Think ahead right before going abroad about some books you can download to your portable reading devices or books you can buy (lightweight books are preferred for your suitcase’s sake), magazines you would like to read, notebooks for documenting your travels, or shows you can download to your devices in advance that you’ve been meaning to watch.
We are all so busy in our daily lives, so embrace the forced downtime that comes with traveling. I find it very peaceful and look forward to traveling to get to sit down and indulge in an enticing story, write away any inspiration I’ve found in my new destination, or catch up on shows.
Empty Your Phone Storage
There are few things that frustrate me more than when I go to capture the gorgeous scenery I am viewing on my phone, or when I try to snap a hilarious moment on my travels, and get that irritating notification that my storage is too full and I cannot take a photo. It is THE. WORST.
Moments are missed and forgotten due to this unfortunate storage issue, so I always make sure to download my photos on my phone to my computer and back them up to then empty my storage and have as much available room as possible to capture my adventures on my phone.
Check the Weather
Once you’re about two weeks out right before going abroad, you can actually get a real idea of the weather you’ll have. This is very important to know what to pack, and to identify anything you are missing that would be critical for your protection from cold rain or blistering heat.
This is the point in time before your trip where you can be booking your activities, and you can plan around what the weather is expected to be like. For example, I’ll be in Amsterdam in April during the beautiful blooming of their world-famous tulips. I will definitely plan to see the tulip gardens on the sunniest and warmest day possible, and plan the indoor activities for cooler, overcast days.
Of course, weather changes, so it is important to keep in mind that things can change. Staying open minded is critical to enjoying your trip abroad. You’ll have traveled all the way to another country so don’t let a little bit of unpredictable weather ruin your day! Stay flexible.
Plan Your Activities
I always pick a couple of big must-sees that I would be devastated if I missed in a place, and plan those first. For example, in Rome, I knew I wanted to see the Coliseum and the Roman Forum. We book our tickets for those two sights and then left the rest of the time to explore different neighborhoods, experience local bites, and to just get a feel of the city.
Figure out what your must-sees are in your destination. I suggest starting with a “top 3” and prioritize them. Then, buy your tickets. That way you leave some room to wander, but if you do discover something else you desperately want to do upon arrival, you can do that. I’ve found that I learn about really neat things to see once I am actually there.
This has been my recipe for a perfect mix of spontaneity and ensuring I see what I want to in a new place.
Figure Out Your Travel Right Before Going Abroad – Not After
Do you have to take a long boat after a ferry in the islands of Thailand? Is there a train you have to catch in a far-off wing of a train station?
Google maps is ridiculous. It is so smart, and we should all use it to our traveling advantages. It is my main tool for mapping out how to get from the Airbnb to the train station that will take me to another train station, and how to get from that train station to my next Airbnb.
If you simply type in destinations in Google maps, and select either walking, car, or public transport, you’ll see the various stops and times per travel. It is very handy to know this information ahead of time so you aren’t overwhelmed trying to read signs and boards in train stations.
Lastly, but most importantly, putting the plan in motion and get prepared. If you feel overwhelmed at where to start, here’s a guide on how to pack lightly, what you need in your carry on, and how to make a long flight much more comfortable.
What do you do before your trips?