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5 Tips for Traveling Overseas

Going on a trip overseas can be a thrilling adventure, and there are a few things you can do to make sure you have an experience worth remembering. While you're making hotel reservations and buying plane tickets, there are steps you may want to consider taking during your research and planning. Although they may not be quite as much fun as choosing hotels, landmarks, and restaurants to visit, taking extra measures before you embark could save you a lot of time, money, and stress in the long run. For tips and ideas to save money for your trip, check out our article How to Use a Vacation Savings Account to Pay for a Vacation.

Man and woman raising arms in mountains in Norway.

Check for Travel Advisory

Before booking your airline tickets, check out The State Department's current list of travel advisories. You'll be able to check if the State Department recommends you do not travel or reconsider travel to specific destinations, for example, if there's an unstable government, civil war, ongoing crime or violence, or a health alert such as an outbreak of a disease. After selecting your destination, you'll also see a list of quick facts such as how many stamps are required for entry on your passport, restrictions for entry, when a tourist visa is required, and any medical requirements to enter the country.

Travel Documents

If this is your first time traveling, you may not be aware that sometimes you need more than a passport to visit. It depends on the country you're going to and how long you plan to stay, but you may need a tourist visa. This document is issued by the destination country granting you entry, which you'll need in addition to your passport. You may be able to get a visa when you arrive but always do your research because other countries can require that you have your visa in hand before you leave the U.S. While you're reading up, check out passport requirements, too. There are sometimes limitations on how close your passport can be to expiring for you to visit (if your passport expires in less than six months, for example).

Lastly, make copies of important documents like your airline tickets, itinerary, passport, driver's license, and tourist visa and store them digitally in a place you and someone at home can access, just in case. It's always better to be prepared than sorry if some or all of your documents are lost or stolen.

Travel Insurance

It might not feel necessary, but travel insurance can come in handy and provide financial protection in various situations. Always read the fine print on what is covered, but you could be protected if your flight gets cancelled, lost luggage reimbursement, medical expenses, or even a flight accident or death, among other things. Some credit cards offer travel insurance as part of their benefits, so check out your credit card to see what you're covered for (you might need to pay for your plane ticket or other service with your credit card to be covered).

Find U.S. Embassy or Consulate Contact Information

U.S. Embassy and Consulate officers are available for emergency assistance 24/7. If you lose your passport while overseas or have other issues, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate of the country you're visiting to get help. And, if your family back home needs to reach you in an emergency and can't do so by phone or other means, they'll work through the consulate office.

Research the Local Currency and Ways to Pay

Before you leave for your trip, put together a plan to pay for souvenirs and any activities you didn't pre-pay for. For countries that get a lot of tourists, card or digital wallet payments should work fine. However, make sure you look at any international charges assessed with each card. These fees or charges vary significantly between banks and credit card providers and can really add up. For less-visited countries or rural areas, have enough of their currency in hand before you leave or know where to get it when you arrive. Lastly, before you leave, notify your bank or credit card company about your international trip. They will need to remove any international blocks on your card. This is a big one, as companies will sometimes cancel your card automatically, leaving you stuck with a useless piece of plastic.

Questions to Research About Your Destination

  • Can you drink the tap water?
  • What are common ways that tourists get in trouble? For example, feeding pigeons in Venice is strictly prohibited.
  • Are accommodations for tourists available?
  • What is the time difference, and how long will you need to recover from jet lag?
  • How close or far apart are the destinations you want to visit?
  • What is the cell phone service like?
  • What are the medical requirements for entry?
  • What is the country's primary language?
  • Does local cuisine align with any dietary requirements you or your travel partners might have?
  • How are traffic laws different?
  • Are there any festivals or celebrations you can experience while you're visiting?

Pack Smart

Simplify as much as you can. Try to travel with essentials only, and pack versatile clothing suitable for the climate you'll be in (hot, cold, rainy, etc.) and for whatever occasions you have planned. Look up the baggage limitations of the airlines you're using to avoid checked bag fees (and the possibility of checking your bags and then finding out they're lost). To make packing even easier, use packing cubes to really pack everything in your suitcase and keep your clothes organized so you can find your things more accessible. Just make sure to weigh your bag and stay within airline policy so you can still carry on rather than checking your bag. Remember electronics like a phone charger, power bank, and universal adapter. Other countries follow different electrical standards than the U.S. does, so your electronics may not be able to plug into the outlets overseas.

Don't Forget About Your Phone Plan

Not all plans have international calling (yes, that is still a thing). You can get an international SIM card or call your phone provider to temporarily add an international roaming plan so you don't get a surprise bill. While you're at it, download any maps for the areas you'll be in so you can still use them if you don't have service, and download a translating app to help you supplement any phrases you've learned in another language.

Adapt to Local Culture

This is a big one. Respect the culture and dress code, and adhere to other local customs. The U.S. does things very differently compared to other countries. To have an enjoyable experience, read up on your destination to understand how they view life and how things are done. For example, are people more relaxed or always on the move? Avoid any behaviors that might be offensive or disrespectful, as some gestures and phrases we use every day are frowned upon elsewhere, like feeding the birds. Be open-minded to experience new cultures, cuisines, and ways of life and get the most out of your trip. Try to engage with locals and immerse yourself as much as you can in your destination's traditions.


Be aware of local laws, customs, and emergency numbers. Make and keep a list of important contacts and addresses saved on your phone, like the U.S. embassy or consulate, just in case. Invest in anti-theft accessories like a money belt, slash-proof bags, or TSA-approved locks to keep your belongings safe. Tourists can be easy to spot, so it may be good to research the area you're headed to see what you might experience to prepare ahead of time. Even in the U.S., some areas are notorious for different things, like pickpockets.

Medical Requirements

Vaccinations are required for entry to some countries. The U.S. Department of State offers information on which vaccines are required for visiting certain countries (listed on the specific country page). Be sure to do your research early on this topic! Some medicines require multiple doses or need to be taken a certain amount of time before your trip. Remember to pack any essential medications in your carry-on, plus a basic first aid kit, and look up healthcare options nearby in case of emergency.

Flexibility and Patience

Expect the unexpected! Travel often comes with unexpected delays, language barriers, or changes in plans. Do your best to maintain a flexible mindset and embrace these moments as part of the adventure. In challenging situations, take a deep breath, remain calm, and ask for help. It's all part of the journey.

Lock Up Your Home

While you're having a blast traveling, making sure your home is secure back in the States is important. Let your (trusted) neighbors know the dates you'll be out of town, and provide them with your contact information so you can get updates and notifications if something happens. Don't post anything online about traveling either, so no one knows your house is empty. Wait until you return to post all your photos and talk about all the cool things you experienced!

WaFd Bank is Here to Help

Wherever you go in life, WaFd has your back, offering checking accounts and savings accounts that come with all the things you need and more, plus the digital tools and services you need to manage your money the way you want to. WaFd also offers Voice-Activated Banking so you can quickly get your balance, make transfers between your WaFd accounts, and more while you're on the go. Stop by your local branch, open an account online, or give us a call at 800-324-9375 to learn more.

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