Broads Abroad: International Travel Hacks
By Becca Haase
Seems like everyone around me is planning trips right now, an increasing number of which are international travel adventures. No surprise here–this is a great time to take advantage of travel deals. My most recent trip wasn’t the first time stamping my passport, but after heading to Cancun, Mexico for a bachelorette weekend, I certainly learned some valuable international travel hacks.
There’s an App for That
As a total tech geek, anytime I can “find an app for that,” I get super excited. Two apps that saved time and stress were:
Speak & Translate: This app gives users options to translate voice to voice, text to text, or voice to text. While there’s a small fee to use this app, the ability to go from not being able to communicate with taxi drivers, to feeling like there was no language barrier was priceless. This app also offers the ability to use while offline, which is perfect when travelling to remote locations and/or trying to save your phone battery! It’s an international travel must.
Mobile Passport: One of the most notable differences between stateside travel and International travel is the process of customs. This app allows you to upload your paper passport, complete a customs questionnaire, and speeds you through U.S. Customs and Border Protection at 1 cruise port and 25 airports. It’s the TSA Precheck of customs – you get your own fast lane at the airport, and skip the line with people still using paper forms. No joke–I was able to shave over an hour off my flight back from Mexico. Totally worth it!
Thinking Ahead About Your International Travel
Here is an additional list of things I learned and will make sure I do next time I travel:
Pack at least an outfit or two in your personal item or carry-on bag along with make-up remover wipes and the allowable size of basic toiletries. This would’ve been a great tip to know before my luggage got lost on its way to Mexico. Sigh.
In addition to extra outfits, make sure to keep glasses and any meds in your carry-on, rather than checking them.
Never check valuable jewelry or electronics.
Make sure you know the address and dates of where you are staying so you can annotate it on a baggage claim form if needed – it’s really your best bet for getting your bags back.
Get cash before you arrive at your destination – foreign ATM fees are HIGH and you can only get $20 bills typically. I will always bring some lower denominations of cash with me in the future so that I don’t get stuck overpaying because locals don’t have change.
Keep track of the paper customs slip you get when you enter a new country – some airports charge a cash fee if they are missing or illegible. It was $40 in Mexico and at the end of a trip that’s a lot of cash to part with!
Check with your cell carrier about whether your service will work at your destination. Get an International plan if they don’t–you should never be without a way to communicate! Also, know what settings you need to adjust before you go, even if you don’t need to add an international plan, you may simply need to adjust your settings to allow for roaming.
When you book lodging accommodations – especially Airbnb’s – be sure to confirm that shuttles or taxis travel to them. I booked a kickass Airbnb, but discovered upon arrival that I had to ride in a Motorcycle taxi just to get to the closest town in order to (eventually) ride in an actual taxi. Not ideal.
It’s All Good
In the end,I got my bag back…unfortunately it was on my last day of vacation. Most importantly, I had remembered to pack my bachelorette bathing suit in my personal item and it turns out that was all that mattered for the gram. Safe and happy adventures, guys!