Top 10 International Travel Planning Musts

10 Must Know First Time International Travel Tips

UPDATED 8/15/21

You’re doing your planning for first time international travel and know your first solo travel destination and created your solo travel budget. Now, all you need to do is use these 10 must-know first time international travel tips early and throughout your international travel planning to ensure your international travel is a success.

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What to Do Before Traveling Internationally?

Here’s my never-fail checklist for international travel below so you don’t miss a thing on your first time international travel.

1 – Airlines and airports

Taking advantage of airlines miles/points is a great way to save money on your booking as well as score up those airline travel benefits.

If you don’t have an airline mileage affiliation, perhaps sign up for one with an airline you use frequently and has extensive partner airlines.

If you don’t have an airline preference, don’t be afraid to check out the international partner airline sites directly – they may be the airline getting you to your destination anyway and have cheaper fares.

Of course, there are also good price comparison sites like Skyscanner, Cheap Flights and Booking Buddy, to name a few.

Travelers and United Airplane on tarmac
Do you have an airline preference?

Airline Seat Reservations

How long is your flight (or flights)? Will you need to catch some sleep? 

Book in a seat where you know you’ll be most comfortable, and don’t forget to bring those travel items that make your flight more comfortable and fit in your carry-on luggage. Also try travel gear and accessories that have worked well for me.

CORR Eco-Travel Pick

Carry-on Closet by Solgaard

Solgaard Carry-On Closet-blue

Here are more Booking Resources for your convenience.

Airport services and gate connection locations can really make a difference with a layover. Look on the airport’s website to know the distance between your arrival and departure gates.

My airline mileage is through United Airlines so I always check in advance as to where the United Club locations are so I can great concierge services, free drinks and food, and an abundance of outlets to recharge.

Don’t discount long layovers in your first time international travel planning – they could be a great way to save some money on your airfare and explore the airport’s city. 

For example, if you have a layover of 6 hours more at SFO or Oakland, you could see top sights in San Francisco for the day

Eco-Travel Tip

Always carbon offset airline travel. It’s an inexpensive way to reduce your environmental impact.

More Eco-Travel Tips & Ideas

People walking in airport - travel tips
What will your layover look like?

Solo Travel Packing Essentials

2 – Accommodations

How will you get to and from the airport (or train / bus station) to your hotel? Will your hotel offer shuttle service or, even better, free shuttle service?

Will you rely on taxis or ride shares to get around after checking in or will your hotel be in the ‘heart of it all’ so you can walk or take public transportation? Being able to rely on the latter can really help you save money on your first time international travel.

Did your hotel booking offer free cancellation? No required prepayment? 

I recommend using  I find them invaluable as they offer many sustainable-rated places to choose from, in a wide range of prices, including the ability to cancel for free and/or provide no prepayments.

Eco-Travel Tip

When reserving through, don’t just compare services and price. Review your accommodation’s Travel Sustainable rating to support those businesses doing more for protecting the environment in their daily operations. hotel rating sign-international travel tips rating

Will your hotel offer free Wi-Fi? This is one of the top 3 filters I apply in my bookings.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Email or call your hotel(s) in advance.  They can provide great advice on their local transportation, food, and entertainment in the area and love to give it. 

If they are worth their salt, they want to make your stay as pleasant as possible (so you’ll come back and write a good review).

3 – International health insurance and medications

Health care coverage may not just be safe, but it could also be a mandatory planning measure, depending on the country you visit or, perhaps, traveling during pandemic?  

Most health insurance policies do not cover international travel, so do some research on your current health care plan, especially if you are elderly or on Medicare

Also look into coverage provided in your destination country, including what is covered and total cost.

If you need to purchase international health insurance, there are many to choose from, such as Allianz Care, which I have used. Make sure to shop and compare prices.

Last, don’t forget to pack necessary medications or devices you take or use frequently. In fact, it may be helpful to bring a little extra in case of emergency. What if you’re quarantined or stuck in an airport due to weather?

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4 – International travel insurance

Now, do you also need international travel insurance? This could depend on your destination, time of year you’re travelling or travel environment (think pandemic), or how long you’ll be on your first time international travel. 

Before purchasing, check your credit card travel insurance coverage. If they cover your bags being lost, your flights being delayed, etc., do you really need to purchase international travel insurance?

For extreme travel conditions, like traveling during a pandemic as a solo traveler, it may be best to get additional travel insurance coverage.

Solo Travel Tip

Research international health insurance and international travel insurance early as prices could be lower the earlier you book prior to your departure.

More Solo Travel Tips

5 – Currency exchange

I recommend doing a currency exchange check as soon as you know your destination(s). This is an easy Google search of your currency vs. the local currency.

Keep checking the exchange rates throughout your planning your first time international travel for any rate changes. How else to plan how much your trip will cost?

Another good check is knowing which places offer the best currency exchange rates.

Airport currency exchange - international travel tips
Airport currency exchange

6 – Travel documents and safety

I listen to the news a lot, but my first go-to site to check on travel safety is the U.S. State Department. They provide all sorts of travel information and advisories for countries worldwide, including required travel documents, vaccinations, etc.

Afterwards, research travel sites and blogs to get insights from others who have traveled to your travel destination recently. Those sites could provide granular information on what to expect. The ‘Safety’ sections of my global travel guides are also helpful.

Download maps and Google street views in advance so you can get a “lay of the land”, and make a note on the map where your country’s embassy is, in case of emergency.

Provide a family member or friend a copy of your passport photo/details page and your itinerary, just in case of an emergency.

Last, don’t forget a good travel day bag or backpack that not only keeps your belongings safe, but is also comfortable, fits in your carry-on baggage.

7 – Credit cards

Which of yours have travel insurance or other protections? Which one has no international fees?  Do you need a PIN for transactions in the country you’re visiting? 

These are good to know before booking anything.

8 – What’s the weather like?

I know this may sound really basic, but continually checking the weather can really make or break your first time international travel.

Recall my Austrian wine tasting day trip? If I hadn’t found a small group Wachau Valley tour from Vienna at the last minute, I would have been very bummed missing out on the opportunity to visit the Wachau Valley.

It’s also a good idea to build in flexibility and some backups in your international travel itinerary.  If that day you want to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower is rainy, perhaps you can switch it up for a day in the Louvre instead?

Nice France beach - international travel tips
Will you have a sunny day at the beach?

9 – Got Wi-Fi?

If so, where? Will you need to purchase a SIM card or cellular service for your smartphone? 

If your smartphone can operate as it does at home, all the better. However, you may not wish to pay for international cellular service or purchase a SIM card. 

Personally, I operate on free Wi-Fi when traveling abroad as well as use my T-Mobile international travel plan. Using WiFi cuts down my costs. It also pushes me to identify what apps and maps to download in advance of leaving so I am more prepared for my international solo travel.

Still, you can always get a SIM card if it makes you more comfortable.

10 – Travel apps

There are a plethora of smartphone and tablet travel apps you can download in advance to assist with your trip. These can be from translation apps, to Wi-Fi and bathroom finder apps, local transportation apps, social and meet-up apps, maps, etc.

Will you want to stream your favorite Netflix or GoHBO entertainment abroad?

Check first whether or not you’ll be able to access your accounts internationally.  Some may not let you stream so consider downloading as much online entertainment to your device(s) before you leave home. Alternatively, you can get a VPN service to be able to access your accounts from abroad. I have Nord VPN and love it.

Let Me Hear From You

I would love to hear if these first time international travel tips were helpful to you. Post me your thoughts or questions in the Comments section below. Thank you!

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