Travel Tips for Newbies
Welcome to my international travel tips for newbies! I learned most of these tricks from friends who are much more experienced with international travel than I am. Like, 20 countries and counting travelers.
I have an odd travel history: Aside from a couple trips to Mexico with my grandpa and cousins in high school, I’d never done any international travel until two years ago, when my grandma took my sister and I to Argentina to meet family for the first time. Then, I went to Iceland last year for a few days with a friend for my birthday. Fast forward to 2019, where I suddenly had travels in four different countries planned during the course of two trips in the span of just two months. This year, I’ve been to Israel, Jordan, London and Slovenia! That’s probably it for my international travels in 2019 since my bank account will take a while to recover.
All of my trips this year have been with the aforementioned savvy traveler friends and they’ve started to rub off on me. So behold, all of the wisdom I have gained over the last year when it comes to international travel.
Download Google Maps and Google Translate offline. Did you know you can do this? I didn’t until recently, and it seriously comes in handy.
Always have a backup power bank with you. As a very anxious person, I’m always worried my phone is going to die and I’ll be stranded somewhere. When I travel, I always have a backup power bank with me and make sure it’s fully charged. This one from Jackery is my favorite because it recharges itself and my phone quickly.
Research what kind of converter you need. For my trip to Israel, I took some international outlet plug-ins from a plastic baggie full of adapters my dad has had for decades and while they worked fine for charging my phone, I couldn’t use my curling iron. Let’s just say it was a full frizzy Jew-fro situation. I pledged not to make the same mistake for London and bought this combo adapter/converter. Not sure what the difference between an adapter and converter is? I wasn’t either and found this blog post super helpful.
Download Skyscanner! This site/app is perfect for booking cheap flights and accommodations. I’ve used it for both international and domestic trips and it’s always my first stop when planning a trip. By combining rentals, hostels, flights and more from across the internet, Skyscanner does most of the legwork for you. My friend even found our car rental for Iceland through this site.
Turn off cellular data on your phone… and go into airplane mode while out and about. Realistically, you probably don’t need an international SIM card or phone plan. Just turn off cellular data and then connect to Wifi when you can for email, Googling stuff, etc. You can also enjoy your exploration more because you won’t be randomly checking social media every 5 minutes.
Get a good neck pillow. For the airplane, train, or wherever you need to catch a nap. It’s also great to have a neck pillow if you end up at a hostel and the beds aren’t awesome. I have this one from Cabeau and it’s the best $30 I’ve ever spent.
Packing cubes change the game. I’m a recent convert to packing cubes, but they’re especially great for someone who overpacks as much as I do. Having packing cubes is also great when you’re taking a weekend detour and need to downsize from your suitcase to a backpack. When I was in London, we went to Slovenia for two days, so I just put all the clothing I needed in a packing cube in my backpack and it helped create extra space for the rest of my stuff. I left my suitcase behind, but still felt prepared to explore! You can find tons of options on Amazon.
Pack lots of layers. Even if you check the weather before you go, humidity, wind and other factors can make a 60 degree day different in different places. Layers will always (literally) have your back. Growing up in the Bay Area, I am very used to layers because depending on how close you are to the water, temperature can change dramatically. That really prepared me for traveling!
Research food establishments. Do some research of what food options are close to all the sites you want to hit. Food is super important to me when traveling because I’m literally always hungry and I’m a little bit picky. If you pre-save some good spots in your Google Maps, you can experience the best food the city has to offer instead of hitting a chain you can eat at anywhere, like Chipotle. Interrupting a fun travel day for a mediocre lunch always sucks.
Happy travels! Tell me your best travel tips in the comments.