5 Helpful Things You Need to do Before You Travel

5 Helpful Things You Need to do Before You Travel

Traveling can broaden your mind, soothe your soul, and give you a much need break from your regular routines in life. When you take your next trip you want to know that you have everything you need in order to enjoy your vacation to its full potential. No matter where you travel, there are a few things that you should do before you depart on your trip. These 5 things will help reduce the stress of travel and help you travel more easily. 


Access to Money


atm money 5 Helpful Things You Need to do Before You Travel


When it comes to traveling, access to your money is the most important thing. There are few scenarios worse than finding yourself in a foreign land without the ability to use your credit card or to receive money from an ATM.


Before leaving on any trip out of the country, make sure that you let your bank know where you are going so they won’t block your card. Many banks allow you to easily put a note on your account yourself through their website. If this is not the case, or you just prefer the face-to-face interaction, you can visit your bank location and give them a list of the countries you will be visiting and the dates of the trip.


If your bank or credit card has international transaction fees or ATM fees, I recommend getting an account with Charles Schwab. It is free and easy to apply for an account online. Since they are not a brick-and-mortar bank, everything is done online; from wire transfers to ATM withdraws. Because of this they do not charge any fees for these services. Myself, I simply transfer the amount of money I think I may withdraw during my trip and then use their card to withdraw that money from an ATM when needed. This allows me to withdraw a smaller amount at a time, instead of taking out a lot of money at one time to save on fees. It has saved me a ton of money in ATM fees over the years!


Unlock Your Phone


smartphone 5 Helpful Things You Need to do Before You Travel


Phones bought in the US can sometimes be troublesome when you are traveling abroad. In today's interconnected world, with all of the helpful apps, social media, and photo capabilities, no one wants to be without their phone. Whether you are needing to make a call, hail an Uber, or find the next place to visit, you need a phone that will work wherever you go in the world.


Most U.S. phone plans charge extra (often a lot extra) to work through towers overseas and if you are roaming these charges can add up fast. The best thing to do when you are traveling to another country is to get a local sim card there. Usually these can be bought right at the airport making it easy to start your trip off with phone service. I always get a plan that allows me to top off with more credit as I go along. I usually opt for a plan that only gives me data (using Google Voice for any I need to make), but you can also get plans that have both phone and data services.


U.S. phones are unfortunately usually locked to the provider, so you will want to unlock your phone before traveling abroad on your vacation. All U.S. phone carriers are required to unlock your phone if you are traveling/moving abroad (if you are moving, you will want to unlock it prior to closing your service). If you do not have a service you can use doctorsim.com to unlock it for about $35. If you would like to keep your phone number, but not the service you can port your number to Google Voice for a one-time $20 fee and then can use it there with data/wifi to call U.S. phones for free. If your phone is with Verizon then you need to make sure that it is also GSM compatible, since most foreign carriers are not CDMA (Verizon network) compatible.


Download Apps


smartphone apps 5 Helpful Things You Need to do Before You Travel


Long gone are the days of paper maps, being lost in translation, and being all together lost. Nowadays you can even easily travel without an itinerary; just reserving hotels, finding new sites to visit, and mapping it all out as you go. Today, everyone has a smartphone and there are so many apps out there that it is easy to do all of this on your phone. Here are a few my primary apps that I use on every trip.


Google Maps


Google Maps is easily the most necessary app that you should have on your phone when traveling abroad. You probably already use it in your normal life to find your way around town, but it becomes even more useful while you are traveling. Not only do I use Google Maps to get from point A to B, but I also use it to pin all of places that I want to go. Once you pin all of the sites, restaurants, etc. that you want to see, it is easy to plan an itinerary with the best path to travel to each place. This is also a great idea for remembering where your hotel is located!


Note: Make sure to download the map of the areas you will be traveling to for offline use, so that you have it in case you lose data connection. You don’t want to be out and about and not be able to use your mapping app.


Alternative: Maps.Me


A great alternative to Google Maps is Maps.Me. I actually keep both on my phone and use them for different purposes. Maps.Me does the same thing as Google Maps, but it also allows you to upload maps to it (ie. My Map pins for offline use). It also has the option to take dirt roads to your location if you would like to get off the beaten path when driving. One on my favorite parts of the app is the amount of trails that it has mapped out. If you like to hike, then this is a great app to use to follow the trail you are on.


Google Translate


Charades can go a long way, but if you are traveling to a country where the primary language is not your own, then Google Translate is a must. The best travel experiences happen when you get out of the tourist areas, mingle with locals, and experience the culture and food of the country where you are traveling. The language barrier that usually comes with this experience can be, at least partially, negated with Google Translate. You type in text, speak, or even use your camera (with some languages) for translation. I always use prior to traveling to also learn a few key phrases. Knowing at least a little of the language goes a long way when talking to people anywhere in the world.


Note: Make sure to download the language you need beforehand, so that you have it encase you lose data connection.


Hotel App


If you travel like I do, knowing only where you will be from day by day (if not only evening of), then a hotel app is a great addition to your travel app arsenal. There have been many days that I have been on a bus traveling to a new town and using the Agoda app to find a hotel in the new place. But even if you are reserving all of your hotels days, weeks, or months in advance, having the app on your phone is a good idea in case you run into problems along the way.


Rideshare App


Rideshare apps are now used in most parts of the world and they are an easy way to get around. When I travel, I usually try to use the local modes of transportation (even some of these have apps now), but when I am in a crunch or there is no transportation in sight I will turn to my trusted rideshare app. Uber is the same in all countries where it exists. Lyft on the other hand is only in the U.S. and Canada, but the app has cross integration with the Southeast Asian giant, Grab app. It is best to research the cities you will be traveling to find the best app for those locations.




WhatsApp might not be very popular in the states, but it is huge in most other places in the world. If you are traveling, then it is a great idea to download WhatsApp prior to your trip. There are many people and companies that use this app as their primary form of communication; using it for phone calls and messaging.


Travel Insurance


We never hope that things will go wrong while we are traveling. We can check all of the boxes and do everything to stay safe, but even that doesn’t keep things from happening from time to time. Whether we get sick, things get canceled, or our things get broken or stolen, it is good to have things covered while you are gone. There are a few options out there to either cover your property or your health while you are traveling, but the most recommended is World Nomads. This top rated travel insurance company allows you to customize your plan from country to country, any amount of time, and from regular vacation to extreme adventure.


Have Your Documentation


passport 5 Helpful Things You Need to do Before You Travel


There is nothing worse than being in a foreign country and losing your passport. I do not like carrying my passport around with while I travel, preferring to leave it locked away at my hotel. For both of these reasons I keep a picture of my passport on both my phone and in Google Drive. This might not get me out of the country, but it usually suffices for any passport checks while walking around or to start the process to get a new one. Likewise, you should also have copies of any other important documents that you might need. One other that I always have, is a print out of my rental car coverage from my credit card (so that I don’t need to purchase extra coverage for rentals abroad). Extra passport head-shots are also handy if you plan to cross borders.


Was this helpful? What other information would you add?


5 Helpful Things You Need to do Before You Travel

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  1. Great list, especially the section about the apps! I don't think a lot of people think about that.

    1. Thank you! I agree, There are so many useful apps that can make your trip far easier. There have been a few times where I forgot to download the map of the city I was in though.

  2. These are all fantastic tips! It's been a while since I travelled but I'm looking forward to exploring the world again. I'll keep your travelling tips in mind. I really like your point about unlocking your phone. I've never done that when I travelled but I'll definitely consider it.

    1. Yes, you should definitely get back out there and travel. I think unlocking your phone is a must if you are traveling for longer periods of time or if you plan to use apps/calling that will need data.

  3. Useful tips on travel planning. I make a list of items to be carried and things to be done.

    1. Thank you. A checklist is a great thing to have for preparing to leave. For places to see I always make a map on My Maps to be viewed in Google Maps.

  4. Thank you for this detailed list. I am going to have to save this because I knew what I needed to do just not how to do it. 🤦🏾‍♀️

  5. very helpful! maps are a must. I highly recommend maps.me for it. not only they work offline but also show a lot of walking paths (for example in parks) while Google doesn't really do it. Being able to translate stuff is also very useful, many countries don't speak English or the majority of people don't so being able to communicate is golden. For example my A2 in Spanish was often not enough for Mexico

    1. I really like Maps.me as well and use if I don't have data on my phone or to do any type of hiking.

  6. I like how you are listing really the basic stuff. People who travel a lot tend to think, who needs that, everybody knows. And then you see these people at the airport who do not have their papers in order, so... Great, very helpful post!

  7. Awesome tips. I would say that access to cash is so important because you never know when you need it.


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