Helpful Tips for Traveling Abroad for the First Time

In November my husband and I boarded a plane bound for the Hard Rock Hotel and Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. While I have traveled extensively across the US, I admit that I was incredibly nervous and perhaps more than a little unprepared for our first trip abroad.

I knew nothing about the process of getting through customs and had visions of intense security guards, cavity searches and being locked in a small windowless room with a slowly rotating fan that did nothing to combat the 100 degree heat while a shady customs officer grilled me about items allegedly on my person.

Okay, okay. Perhaps I have watched one two many action/spy movies and have a bit of an active imagination.

Nevertheless, I was apprehensive about so many things. Not knowing the language, the culture, or the lay of the land.

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After talking to some family and friends, I discovered that many of them envision these same scenarios and it’s part of the reason they have to yet cross international borders. Now that I’ve been through it, let me tell you – paradise is worth it – just look at these views!

Hotel Xcaret Mexico

As such, here are four helpful tips to ease the anxiety of the time spent getting to where you’re going!

  • Make backups of your passport. Keep a picture of the photo page on your phone, print out the photo and keep it in your luggage and also email a copy to that someone you’ll turn to if things go awry and the real one gets lost
  • Learn a few tidbits of the local language and if you can’t handle that, at least download an app that will help you translate! Not only will you find it helpful in navigating the airport and asking for help – it also wins over the locals. People are genuinely thrilled when you toss a few pieces of their language back at them.
  • Invest in a fanny pack. I’m kidding. Sort of. Your life will be a million times easier if you keep your passport, plane tickets, I.D. and any immediate cash in one easy to access location. IE Not buried at the bottom of your purse or inside your luggage. For instance, I had to show my passport and plane tickets 3 times before I reached the Dominican Republic. Once there, I needed to access my passport, $10 for the Tourist Card, and my travel vouchers multiple times. If you need a recommendation, I love my crossbody from Baggallini.
  • Contact your bank to let them know you will be traveling. This one is easy but can be a complete nightmare if you forget. Imagine arriving in a foreign country and swiping your credit card for one reason or another only to find your bank denied the transaction as suspicious (seeing as you’ve never left the country before). You go to phone your bank, except that even though you turned on global service before you left, you have zero bars on your cell phone. Yeah. Good luck with that. Save your self the headache and call your bank before you go.
  • Which leads me to my next tip – always have cash. Not every place accepts credit cards, especially in less developed countries. Furthermore, make sure that you at least two days worth of spending money in local currency. Not everyone wants to deal with American dollars (although it is rare) and you won’t be subject to street vendor conversion rates.

21 thoughts on “Helpful Tips for Traveling Abroad for the First Time”

  1. I really like the tip about contacting your bank to let them know you’ll be traveling. I’ve had those texts from my card when I’m out of town worrying that it was suspicious activity. I appreciate those, but if they held your card from use, it could also be scary overseas!

  2. I definitely agree that you need a cross body or around the neck type of device to hold all your important papers. You do end up needing to show them a lot before you get where you’re going!

  3. I love love love to travel abroad. I’ve been to many countries, and am always used to it, but it always seems like an adventure of the biggest kind! Lots of places to still cross off the list!

  4. I also believe in always having cash while travelling. Taking money out of an ATM whenever you so please can be SUPER costly with exchange rates and ATM charges!

  5. Great tip about letting the bank/credit card know you are traveling, especially these days with all the credit info swapping. It would be awful to be stuck in another country and have no access to cash!

  6. LOL – I won’t do a fanny pack per se, but I have an awesome travel purse for when I do travel. I love all your tips!


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