I recently came back from a five-week trip to Italy with my parents and my fiancé. We travelled to a lot of different cities and regions all over the country and got into our fair share of mishaps along the way.
The seven travel essentials listed below either helped us out of a pickle or made certain situations way easier to navigate.
7 Lifesavers for International Travel
Before You Leave:
1. International Driver’s Licenses
If you’re going in a group, make sure multiple people apply for an international driver’s license. My dad had his wallet stolen towards the beginning of the trip, but luckily my fiancé got an international driver’s license, too, so we were still able to rent cars to travel between cities. If only my dad had one, we would have had to use more expensive travel arrangements to get ourselves around the country.
International driver’s licenses don’t require any testing to get and are valid in 175 countries. They can also serve as a form of identification if the rest of your wallet gets stolen or lost. International driver’s licenses can be obtained at AAA locations, only cost about $20 to get, and are valid for a year after being issued.
2. A sim card/ international phone plan.
Your setup will depend on your cellphone carrier, where you’re traveling to and how long you’ll be abroad.
For example, AT&T has an International Day Pass that is $10 a day (great for weekend trips) that gives you full data and texting, and the data from your wireless plan. TMobile’s Magenta Plan give you unlimited data and text that starts working as soon as you land in a different country.
We went to a Vodafone store and bought sim cards to use in our phones. It cost about $35 each, giving us 30GB of data that lasted for 30 days, perfect for our five-week trip.
Some countries also haver services that allow you to rent mobile internet modems. Like in Iceland, for example, you can rent a portable modem for $7/day.
3. A credit card that will work anywhere.
I used the Capital One Quicksilver credit card for any purchase that didn’t require cash. My card provides 1.5% cash back on every purchase, no annual fee, and doesn’t require that I call the company to warn them about travels before leaving. It automatically works everywhere and doesn’t charge currency conversion fees. It also has an app that allows me to track purchases and shut off the card automatically if I lose my card or it gets stolen.
Before you go, check out the international requirements of your credit card. You don’t want to get hit with insane fees for using your card abroad!
4. An extra way to charge your phone.
After a long day of taking pictures, your phone might be dying right as you need to figure out how to safely get home.
A $10 power bank can keep your phone charged as you go. They can be the size of a credit card and are super handy if you’re phone dies easily (like mine). If you’re using a rental car, it’s also helpful to grab a car charger with two USB ports, meaning you can charge two devices at once.
5. A thin pouch to store $$$ under your clothes.
For around $10, you can safely store documents, cards and cash under your clothes, making them much safer to transport and keep track of.
This was very useful for making sure I always had my passport on me and to store large bills that I didn’t need to access quickly. I would store mine right under the waistband of my pants so it was always within reach.
How to Better Navigate While You’re There:
While it’s important to do as much research as possible before leaving, sometimes plans change and you need a way to navigate on the fly. Below are two apps that really helped me communicate with those around me.
6. The Microsoft Translator app.
With this app, you can speak into it and it will automatically translate into the language you need to communicate in. This was useful when trying to communicate with my Italian family.
Sometimes I just didn’t know how to phrase something, and this app helped bridge the gap, allowing me to bond with family members beyond my super basic Italian knowledge.
It was also great for my fiancé, who loves to chat, but doesn’t know much Italian. This is especially useful if you need to ask for directions, order at a restaurant, or communicate with a taxi driver, airport employee, etc.
Depending on where you are, using either Whatsapp or WeChat can allow you to text and make phone calls, even if you don’t have calling capabilities on your phone.
I used Whatsapp to call people with Italian cell phone plans free of charge. It also helped me stay in touch with loved ones back home, sending them messages and pictures of my trip as I went.
These are just a few things that I found particularly helpful on my trip. Being prepared before you go helps to ensure that your trip is seamless and enjoyable.
What have been some lifesavers for you while traveling abroad?