12 Tips for International Travel [Infographic]
The crowd of vendors surrounded my mom. Having unknowingly gotten ahead of her, I heard her faint, desperate yell of "NO!" The out of character for her shriek grabbed our family's attention, and we quickly turned back to extricate her from various salesman who'd thought they'd found an easy target, hawking everything from ugly plastic figurines to "genuine" leather key fobs.
While stationed in Germany, our day trip to Paris turned into a near-panic event for her. My family, accustomed to keeping our purses and wallets well hidden, and pros at pushing through crowds and past hucksters and beggars since we'd lived in Europe for some time, had forged on through the masses near the Eiffel Tower. My parents, working hard to maintain their Midwestern politeness as best they could, had slowly become separated from our group.
While this scenario turned out fine, it reminded me of how differently we dealt with crowds and travel since living overseas. For starters, you learn quickly that sticking out like a typical American makes you a target for those wanting to pawn something cheap to you or for worse reasons. We learned not to carry big purses or talk loudly. We discovered that dressing more like locals helped us blend in (though opening our mouths and speaking broken German gave it all away!).
If you're due to move overseas or perhaps planning some travel near where you're currently stationed, it's time to think about safety!
While you probably realize the importance of not flashing your cash, know to be wary of strangers, and to take care when choosing cabs or other ground transport, there are other tips that may not be so obvious.
12 Tips for International Travel
1) Give someone your itinerary.
While you may be a free spirit who just wants to go wherever you feel led, make sure someone knows where you'll be and when.
2) Check in with the local ITT or USO if there is one.
These knowledgeable folks can give you tips on the best places to go, information on areas to avoid, as well as provide maps and information on local tours and attractions.
3) Secure your lodging in advance.
Again, check with the USO for help in finding affordable local lodging, or if you're coming back stateside, utilize PCS-Lodging.
4) Research travel restrictions before you go.
Sites like the Army's Travel Safe can give you the most current information on particular countries.
5) Find out emergency and U.S. embassy contact information.
Store local emergency and other contacts in your phone, since it's unlikely you'd be able to remember them in a pinch.
6) Contact your credit card and cell phone companies before embarking.
Let them know where you'll be traveling, so you don't find your cards frozen due to strange charges. You'll also want to check about cell roaming charges so you don't have an unwelcome surprise on your next phone bill.
7) Understand your Tricare benefits while traveling.
While as an active duty family you're always covered for true emergencies, make sure any routine needs are completed before you go. Find out more at Tricare's Getting Care While Traveling.
8) Scan your passport and other important documents and save them to the cloud.
If something happens to them, it could take weeks to get new ones.
9) Consider traveler's insurance.
Lonely Planet has a quick tool to help you determine if it's something you need or want.
10) Learn about the culture where you're headed.
A little research ahead of time could help you avoid a cultural faux pas, and it's always a good practice to learn some basic greetings in the local language!
11) Pack light.
Taking only what you need will give you less to carry, while also leaving valuables at home where they belong.
12) Enroll in the STEP program
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, developed by the U.S. State Department, is designed to help you have your safest travel by providing information about your destination, help with emergency contacts, and much more.
12) It's not about the money, money, money....
Actually, it is! Get some cash ahead of time, then use your ATM card or credit/debit cards once you arrive in country so you don't have to go through the bother of exchanging money.
Wondering whether you should use traveler's checks or need more money tips?
The infographic below breaks it all down for you!