Tuesday, March 18, 2014

8 Things to Know Before Going Abroad

1. It's better to under-pack than over-pack.

This is a no brainer. If you don't want to carry 14 pairs of shoes up a broken escalator (that you will most likely encounter) then don't pack them! At most you would probably use three pairs of shoes, but I never pack more than two. One pair of tennis shoes, and one pair of sandals that double as classy and casual. 
It's always really fun to buy some of your toiletries at your destination and if you don't use them all they become great gifts for family. So go ahead, only pack the bare necessities and buy the rest at your destination.

Here's a tip: Unless you're going for a fashion show, no one actually keeps track of what you're wearing. Don't stress about wearing the same shirt two or three times, just not consecutively....please.

2. Save your money, take a wi-fi device.

I speak from experience when I tell you international phone plans are expensive. My plan through Verizon is usually $.50 per text and $1 a minute for a phone call.....way too much especially when finding wi-fi and talking to your family over the internet is usually free. 

During our last trip abroad my mother took her iPhone 4 and turned off her cellular data as soon as we boarded the plane. She then only used her phone when we found wi-fi hot spots (usually every night at the hotel) and talked to my dad using Voxer. It's a great FREE walkie talkie app that lets you talk, text, and send photos over wi-fi.

3. You will never actually regret purchasing those dorky C-shaped pillows.

You know the ones I'm talking about. Those dumb looking pillows that look like hideously over-sized nose rings.

The reason you will never regret what will probably be one of your most ugly purchases is the unbelievable value of sleep while traveling.
At first you will be too excited to sleep, and that's okay. But about seven hours into your overnight flight, when your arrival time gets you there in the early hours of the next morning I guarantee you'll wish you'd splurged on one of these bad boys. They are way cheaper than first class, and a lot better for your mental health than waking up laying on the complete stranger in 38D.

4. Trains (while terrifying) are VERY useful.

Once you get over the initial blood curdling terror of getting on a train in another country, you will find that you've been missing out. They are one of the most under utilized features of travel, and it saddens me. By taking the trains you can save tons of money on transportation and see all of the sights you want to see without breaking the bank. 

Most stations have small kiosk looking things where you purchase a ticket using a credit/debit card. Once you've purchased your ticket, you're ready to enter the station. If you're already lost look for people in brightly colored uniforms, they are about to be your BEST FRIENDS. Ask them anything, that's what they're there for. Once you've found your platform and found yourself safely inside the train relax and enjoy the journey. Most everyone else on the train is just trying to get from point A to B so chances are they won't even notice you. Make sure you don't miss your stop though! That can be tricky. If you want more information on how my mom saved our lives last time we took the trains in Scotland. Check it out here.

5. You only need an adapter for Apple products.

Deciding what kinds of adapters and converters to bring can be a REAL pain in the patooty when you're planning your trip. One really underrated bonus of having an Apple product is that the wall plugs are actually electrical current converters already. Take a second to look at your wall plug and you should notice in very light grey writing Input: 100-240V which means that the plug can charge your device with anywhere between 100 and  240 Volts. Be sure to check the Hertz of where you are going as well. Your plug should also say 50-60 Hz Output.

Here is a map that will give you an idea of the places you can go without an extra converter.


You will probably still need a plug adapter depending on where you're going.

6. Backpacks are the BEST carry-ons.

Backpacks are one of the biggest carry-ons you can legally take on a plane. Go ahead and pack your backpack with your purse/wallet, that ugly C-shaped pillow you actually need, and all of your electronics. Guess what? You've got room to spare for souvenirs on your return flight! They fit really nicely in under-seat storage or right next to your feet if you're by the window.

7. ATMs, ATMs, ATMs

Let's face it. Converting money is a HASSLE. You can do it at the airport before your trip and face paying an outrageous conversion rate, or you can try to find a post office or other official money conversion place when you arrive and try not to get lost. Your best option though....is an ATM. They are something of an abundance anywhere you go, and the great part? There is an option for English! Way to go fancy money dispensing technology! The money is automatically converted as it is withdrawn from your account.

8. Don't stress about what you're going to eat. McDonald's is EVERYWHERE.

It's pretty easy to get stressed thinking about trying to find food in foreign countries. A lot of what I was worried about is... What if I don't have enough money to eat everyday? What if they don't understand me when I try to order? What if they don't have food I like to eat? Stop with the what ifs!!! You are on an adventure, and really shouldn't worry because Americanized food is everywhere.

Here is an actual picture from my hotel in Scotland.

Bonus: Have fun. You're going to have the trip of a lifetime!

What are some things you wish you knew before you went on your trips?

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