A couple enjoys their first international vacation.

The excitement. The nervousness. The unknown. Your first international trip!

The first time you book an international vacation is certainly a memorable milestone in one’s life. Where was your first? Europe? Thailand? The Cook Islands?  Or are you getting ready to receive your first passport stamp? There are so many do’s and don’ts to think about when preparing for your first international trip. Here are 17 tips from jet-setting globetrotters, who were, once upon a time, in your new shoes. Even if you’ve traveled internationally before, brushing up on these tips can definitely come in handy.

Pack Lightly

Those giant suitcases where you can fit your entire wardrobe inside? If you have one, it’s time to garage-sale it. Sticking with one carry-on suitcase and a personal item, like a purse or messenger bag, can allow you to travel from place to place much more easily.

Check Your Documents

Give yourself plenty of time to get your first passport before your flight. Processing could take up to a few months. If you already have a passport, make sure it is still current. If your expiration date is less than 12 months away, you need to double check the requirements for the country to which you are traveling. Also, there might be Visa requirements and/or fees for certain countries. You might need to apply for a Visa ahead of time, or pick it up upon arrival. But don’t wait for panic to set in at the airportmake sure you are organized with your passport, Visa, and any vaccine paperwork you need to show upon arrival. Each country has different requirements. Extra Tip: Make a copy of everything.

Strong Carry-On Size Suitcase

Stick with a carry-on size suitcase that has strong swivel wheels. Many countries don’t have smooth concrete sidewalks, or any sidewalks at all. Picture rolling your suitcase over the cobblestone streets of Prague, Czech Republic, and “SNAP, CRUNCH!” Your suitcase wheels take a major misstep over the rocky road, and you are done for. Now you are stuck carrying your heavy bag all the way to your destination.

Phone Plan

Talk to your cell phone provider to make sure you have (or can add on) an international roaming plan. Otherwise, those #MyHGV posts you make on Instagram are going to cost you!

Vacationer uses international roaming plan to make a #MyHGV post on Instagram.

Get a Credit Card with No Foreign Transaction Fees

This might be one of the easiest ways to save money while traveling abroad. No one wants to give money away for free, so why put up with silly credit card fees?

Avoid ATM Fees

Oftentimes you can get a better exchange rate by using your ATM card overseas to get currency. But make sure you do your research. Does your ATM card charge a fee, and are the banks charging fees?

Don’t Forget The Bills

Just because you are leaving for an incredible international vacation, doesn’t mean your regular bills are too. Pay your bills ahead of time, or set up automatic payment so you aren’t stuck with late fees.

Notify Your Bank and Credit Card You Will be Traveling

So many banks and cards will immediately freeze your card the first time you run a transaction in another country. To avoid having to make phone calls to straighten everything out, call ahead of time to let them know where you will be traveling and the dates you will be away.

Woman uses credit card to make purchase while traveling internationally.

There’s an App for That!

From packing lists, to currency exchange, to navigating international traffic. Read our story here all about the best apps for the organized traveler. A must is the free XE Currency converter app that you can even use offline.

Put Your Mail On Hold

Not only do you cut the risk of having mail stolen, this is also a security precaution. Potential burglars can notice pretty quickly if you aren’t home since your mailbox has piled up.

Dress Accordingly On and Off the Plane

Since you are sticking with carry-on for this international trip (wink, wink), you can strategize by wearing some of your bulkier or layering pieces on the plane. Off the plane on arrival, make sure you have researched what is culturally accepted. For example, if you are going to Fiji and plan on visiting a local tribe, you will need to cover your shoulders to be respectful.

Learn How to Say Hello and Thank You

No you don’t need to become fluent in a new language, but learning how to greet someone and thank them goes a long way. After greeting someone in their own language, then ask if they speak your language.

Fly Through Customs

Travel experts know that U.S. and Customs lines can be a huge nightmare. So many international travelers are now carrying a Global Entry Card. If you are approved for the card, this can speed you through the process. Extra Tip: This is good to have if you plan on traveling to many countries.


Spend the extra money to purchase a good converter to keep your phone and other travel items charged and powered. Blowing a fuse drying your hair in a foreign country is not a good start to a trip!


Once you get off the plane, how are you getting from A to B? Do you need to purchase a Eurail pass, a Metro card, etc. Culture shock can set in pretty quickly if you are struggling at the beginning.


Don’t succumb to jetlag! If you land at your destination in the morning, but it feels like night is approaching, do whatever it takes to stay awake all day, until an acceptable local bedtime. Get outside, drink water, go exploring. Just don’t fall asleep!

Traveler gets fresh air to avoid jetlag while traveling internationally.

Plan Ahead

Taking the time to plan out your travels and research the unknowns will help avoid stress and additional expenditures on your first overseas trip. Being prepared can mean the difference of maximizing your time away or not wanting to travel internationally ever again.


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