Traveling abroad for the first time can be scary. It’s a different country, a different culture, and often, a different language. If you’re getting ready for your big globetrotting trip of the year, you’re probably searching out tips to make this vacation as stress-free as possible.

There are the obvious ones, like finding an electrical adapter/voltage converter or telling your phone company and bank that you’ll be traveling. But, there are less obvious ones that you don’t often see mentioned. These suggestions are integral to enjoying an international journey, but commonly misunderstood, making them even more important.

1. Protect Your Travel Documents

Your travel documents are the most important pieces of paper you’ll have with you during your vacation. Your passport is especially important since you’ll need it to get back into the United States when you return home. Contrary to popular belief, it’s legal and suggested to make photocopies of the first two pages (the ones with your ID) before leaving the country. In fact, you should make two copies. Take one copy with you and give another to someone you trust who’s staying in the States.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s legal and suggested to make photocopies of the first two pages of your passport (the ones with your ID) before leaving the country.

Taking a copy with you gives you two ways to avoid a passport nightmare. For times when you don’t need an official document, take the copy with you and leave the passport back in a secured location. If you are traveling with your passport and it goes missing or is stolen, you can use the copy to help replace the official passport. Simply head to the nearest embassy. They’ll be able to reissue the passport quicker with your copy than without one. Of course, there are other important travel documents to note, but your passport is far and away the most important.

2. You May Need Special ID to Drive

Speaking of travel documents, there’s one document that many people don’t know about. If you want to drive in the country you’re traveling to, there’s a good chance you need an international driver’s permit. The IDP is valid in over 175 countries and required or at least recommended in most of them. It provides your driver’s license information in 10 different languages and verifies that you’re certified to drive in your home country. Without this document, you can receive large fines, even if you’re otherwise driving safely. The other option is to rely on public transit or a hired driver, which can also become expensive if you’ll be traveling often.

Without the IDP, you can receive large fines, even if you’re otherwise driving safely.

You can get the license at two different entities in the United States, the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). It’s suggested that you only purchase the permit from one of those two organizations due to the many scam permits out there. IDPs are good for a year after the issue date. You can get one at any AAA office or by mail at the AAA or AATA websites above. It costs $20 for a permit along with any shipping and handling. You’ll also need two color passport-sized photos, a photocopy of the front and back of your license, and a completed application. For only $20, you can save yourself from further issue on the chance you’re cited for a driving violation.

3. Work Mostly in Cash

While you’re abroad, there’s a good chance you’ll spend money. When it comes to spending that money, cash is probably the smartest way to go. If you lose your debit card, it can be used to access your bank account and funnel out more money. If your credit card is stolen, it can ruin your credit. Losing cash, on the other hand, won’t run your savings dry.

Many places overseas don’t accept credit cards, which can put a damper on your experience.

There are other factors that make cash advisable. Many places overseas don’t accept credit cards, which can put a damper on your experience. There is also often a seller’s preference toward cash transactions, since it avoids a credit card company’s commission fee. Credit cards may also tack on a foreign transaction fee (usually 3 percent), though this is becoming rarer. You may even get a cash discount! That said, each payment method has advantages which are worth knowing. You also shouldn’t travel with excessive amounts of cash, since you’ll have to convert this when you get home anyway.

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Traveling abroad can be stressful, especially if it’s your first time. With so much to learn and know and plan, some things may slip through the cracks. Don’t let these tips pass you by. Now that you know them, you’re ready to explore the world!

Further Reading

Medicareful Living — Medicare on the Go: How My Medicare Plan Works on Vacation