- Cash or Card? Do your research on your destination. I’ve gotten away with traveling without cash completely, but some places use mostly cash [Amsterdam is one of these places]. Also, if you’re going to be buying from street vendors, it’s best to have some local currency on hand. Order currency from your bank if you want to carry a lot, or use an ATM when you are abroad if you just want a bit. If you are using your credit card, check with your company to see what the fees are. Capital One has no international fees, as well as some others, but Chase charges a 3% foreign transaction fee. I’ll just leave those Chase cards at home…
- Passports are the laziest thing about travel. They take their sweet time, and it really depends on where you’re located and how busy those offices are. The post office is your best friend in this situation. Look up the items needed, it’s really not hard. Wait here, I’ll do it for you: https://www.usa.gov/passport See? That was easy. Make sure you have all your documents ready when you turn them in. It can take any where from 4-8 weeks to get your passport, and even longer to get your birth certificate back. You can rush a passport, but expect to pay for that rush. It’s best to apply for your passport when you don’t have an impending international trip, so there is no stress.
- We hear it all the time. Like ALL THE TIME. But for christ’s sake, PACK LIGHT. I can’t stress that enough. Pack clothes that are interchangable with other outfits. Don’t pack a giant coat in the middle of summer. Don’t pack 5 pairs of shoes. If there’s some freak storm, you can always buy something on your trip. If you’re going somewhere weird, pack cold meds, aspirin, pepto, the works, but don’t go overboard.
- Where are you going? What are the requirements? Some countries require an international driver’s license. Mostly countries where English isn’t a widely spoken language. The international driver’s license is good for a year. You’ll need a passport type photo, your normal state driver’s license and $15. It’s all done through AAA, and it translates your license into a ridiculous amount of languages. This is handy when you get pulled over and the officer doesn’t speak English. Sounds terrifying. But how about we don’t do that, okay?
- Some countries and companies will require you to purchase their insurance. Be prepared for that, or email the company ahead of time to talk details. Car rentals in the states are pretty standard among all companies…unlimited mileage, you can use your own insurance, come back will a full tank, etc. It’s not as across the board when you’re traveling internationally, so make sure to read that fine print. Like actually read it. That car rental online that’s $35/day could equal to about $150/day once your add in their insurance, taxes and fees.
- Your credit card can cover car rental damage. It varies from card to card, but check that info out before you pay for your rental in advance as it will only work if you pay with THAT card. Don’t make the mistake I did of paying for the car with one card, and the damage with another card. Oy vey.