Before Your Trip
- Double check your passport validity and any visa requirements of your destination.
- Find the most up to date travel restrictions and requirements here for your destination.
- Global Entry/TSA Precheck will help on the U.S. side of your trip (new applications can take 1-6 months). Global Entry includes TSA Precheck and lasts 5 years; some credit cards reimburse the cost.
- Buy Travel Insurance as early on in the process as possible; I will provide quotes. Coverage often extends to delays beyond your control, as well as if you should have a medical issue while on your trip.
- Learn a few phrases in your destination’s native language; your efforts will be appreciated. In places such as France (yes, even Paris), you will receive much better treatment if you greet the proprietor of every establishment you enter with “Bonjour, Monsieur/Madame” and as you depart, “Merci; au revoir.” Smiles are optional (really!).
- Keep a photo of your passport and vaccine card in your phone, saved in your “Favorites” folder.
- Keep important phone numbers handy, separate from your phone (e.g. mine, travel and health insurance, credit card companies, airline help desk).
- Buy Tile trackers or Apple AirTags to put in your luggage, wallets, purses, etc.
- Review my recommended travel items here
- Download relevant apps, e.g. WhatsApp (many businesses outside the U.S. use this to communicate instead of regular texting), Uber (and/or transportation apps relevant to your destination; ask me for guidance), a translation app, currency converter and any audio tours you may want to do (I recommend the Rick Steves app for these). You can also download specific areas from Google Maps so you can then use them offline; delete when you depart to free up phone space.
- Print out vouchers for any tours and tickets (many but not all will accept the electronic version on your phone).
- Read books and watch movies that take place in your destination (ask me for recommendations). This is especially important for kids!
- Download your airline’s app and make sure notifications are turned on so that you get alerts about any documentation you need to upload, delays, gate changes, etc. Should your flight be delayed, you can often get information more quickly from the app than from the gate agent. Should you need to rebook your flight or missed connection, get in line immediately but also use your app and airline help number while you’re waiting, as these are sometimes faster.
Arrive at the airport a MINIMUM of 3 hours ahead of an international flight. You must be checked in at least 1 hour before and at the gate and ready to board no less than 45 minutes prior to your scheduled departure. Be prepared for long lines and, at times, very thorough security (especially at some European airports).
Track your airplane so you know if the in-bound flight is delayed. FlightAware is a great resource.
If you receive any paper (including half an entry form or a receipt) from an immigration officer, do not throw it away until after you’ve returned home. You may be asked for it upon exiting your destination country and fined if you do not have it.
If you do not have Global Entry or CLEAR, you can try Mobile Passport for your return to the U.S., accepted at many U.S. airports. See here for more information.
While in Destination
- Please let me know if I can help in any way. I’d love to see your adventures! If you’re on social media and comfortable sharing, please tag your pics with @inspirewrldtrvl on Facebook and Instagram.
- Credit cards are widely accepted; always choose to charge the amount in the local currency rather than U.S. dollars (otherwise, the credit company will charge transaction fees twice).
- Carry a paper copy of your passport with you; leave the real one in the hotel safe. In order not to leave your belongings in the safe after you check out, some people recommend putting one shoe of the pair you will wear in the safe the night before you check out (clever!).
- When it’s hot, seek out an under-visited indoor museum, gelato (often!) or a cool drink and people watch. When it’s raining, find a high-end umbrella store (such as this one in Paris) and buy a beautiful (and useful) souvenir. You get the idea.
- SAFETY. As in any city, always be aware of your surroundings and all of your belongings, especially at the airport or train/bus stations. Take common sense precautions such as: do not keep wallets in your back pocket (front pants pocket or money belt is better); bags/purses should be cross-body and anti-theft; do not hang bags on the back of chairs (wrapped around your foot is a good idea). Your phone should have a wrist lanyard if possible, but in general, avoid the distraction of looking at your phone (if you must, be particularly aware of your surroundings, have your back to a wall if possible and/or have your travel companion be a lookout while you check your phone). Be aware of scams; best is to just ignore anyone who tries to give you a flower, asks you to sign a “petition,” or asks you if a “lost item” is yours.
- There will be some things that do not go according to plan! Try to roll with the punches; sometimes, you’ll have an opportunity to do something you might not otherwise have discovered. A sense of humor goes a long way!