International Travel Tips
We recently took a trip to Ireland and Scotland from Michigan. The kids and I had not traveled farther than Canada before (hubby travels international for work). We thought it would be an easy fun first trip. It wasn’t so fun. I thought we’d planned everything. We didn’t. So I have some tips on things you need to consider when traveling international, specifically when traveling in Europe (Scotland/Ireland).
Items you buy may be illegal to bring back into your home country. Depending on the country you are flying in to Europe and out of, they process you differently. It’s best to read it directly from the U.S. Customs. I personally kept a list of what we purchased and the price by country ready for when we went through customs. There are forms that you can fill out if needed as well if you go over the limits. But read what you can actually bring back.
Great deal on flights. I usually go to the airlines website and look for flights or find myself floundering and frustrated trying to find a good flight. I have been using Skyscanner and Google Flights. It allows me to see multiple airlines, dates/times and prices. With both you can set up notifications on price drops as well.
What to Pack on Your Vacation
Review temperatures/climate to pack appropriately. We found Ireland and Scotland cold and wet when traveling in the summer. This meant we packed pants and jackets. You may want to ditch the shorts and sunscreen you were planning to take to Europe depending on where you are going.
You will need power adapters. To make thing fun, each country uses their own power adapter, so you may need to get multiple ones depending on where you travel. This is important for charging your phone.
Pack light for easy travel. You don’t need to overpack for your vacation. Pack less, especially if you have a backpack, it’s going to get heavy and awkward if you have a huge suitcase to lug around. You should be able to find someplace to do laundry if you are staying for a long period of time.
We found a great laundrette to do laundry in, in Ireland and they are everywhere.
Eating in Europe. You realize food is going to be different right? I recommend researching places you may want to eat while there before hand and review menus. Finding a location grocery store to get supplies of things you will eat is good. Stock up on nuts and beef jerky as staples for the times you might not find food. Bakeries are great to stop into and get croissants and biscuits.
Turn on international phone service while you are traveling. This is going to get expensive fast, about $10 a day. It may be best to get a SIM card while you are in Europe. Rick Steves explains the details making it easy.
Make a copy of passport Make a copy of your passport. This is helpful should you lose your passport. Don’t have them in the same place.
Put a pin/password on your phone. Should your lose your phone, it won’t be accessible by others. Put contact information in your phone case with your address and an alternative phone number, should it get lost. You have a better chance of getting it back.
Research things to do in the area you want to travel. You might be thinking, we wouldn’t be going some place we didn’t want to see things. Did you run these things by your kids as things they want to go to? ore important for older kids. We got to Ireland and the kids didn’t want to do anything we had planned. Make sure everyone is on board with the plans or break up into groups.
Remember there is a huge time change coming back. Your body is going to hate you for a few days after coming back to Europe. Try to sleep on the flight home to help adjust back. It took our family a week to recoup. Know what activities you have the days after you return and plan accordingly. maybe take an extra day off work.
Trim your nails before you go. Depending on the length of your trip, you may want to trim your nails before you go. This is important if you are not going to take your nail trimmers with you. I would still pack them on your checked back if you take one, otherwise, trim before you go.
Things you might not have thought about for traveling
Mass transit is preferred here. If you live in the midwest like us, we don’t have mass transit trains to travel around. We drive by car. Mass transit if faster to get you to where you need to go. Trains travel quicker to go long distances. The cities have tour buses to take you to tourist destinations. There are taxi’s for those who don’t want to drive in the traffic, that’s usually on the other side of the road. Check out what is available where you are going, and which you will use. You may need change for going on buses.
Driving is different. The steering wheel is on the other side of the car and most countries drive on the opposite side of the road on top of that. The roads are narrower, so if you drive, get a compact car. We got a BMW and it was more difficult to navigate in the narrow roads. They love roundabouts. You’ll want a co-pilot or GPS to help you navigate where you are going. I wish we had not gotten a car and would have stayed in pockets of places longer. We spent a lot of time driving to each place and sitting in the car a lot. As the picture shows, everyone regardless of direction, parks on the same side of the road.
Money tips for traveling
Local currency. We had about $100 in local currency we got at the ATM when we arrived at our first country. We paid with credit card where we could and cash where needed. Have cash to go on buses. Hotels can sometimes make change for you.
Tell your bank you are on vacation. If you want to be able to use your ATM card, give them a call and let them know the dates you are traveling or where. This avoids them turning off your card and having no money. Check with your credit card if you need to tell them as well.