Travel,  Travel Hacks

20 International Traveling Tips

International traveling tips, learned from traveling mistakes.

The best International traveling tips are learned from making mistakes. Making mistakes is human. Learning from one’s mistakes (and others), is growth.

While we can’t control some forces (e.g. canceled flights). There are a few course corrections, that can manage, what seems to be an unsalvageable situation.

It’s these lessons, that increases our travel intelligence.

The past 2 years I have been on 33 International flights. With 5 more planned, to end out the year.

When it comes to the traveling department. My travel follies, my friends travel faults, and families travel woes. Have taught me how to be action oriented, how to be pragmatic, how to avoid costly and timely mistakes.

All the while, still having a bit of sense of humor about it all. AND to never stop being adventurous.

But more importantly, how not to repeat those international traveling mistakes.

International Traveling tips checklist

The Top 3 Most Expensive Traveling Mistakes.

1) Not buying travel insurance.

If you have read 25 Travel Tips for Traveling During the Holidays.

Then you read about a 2 week vacation, that turned in a traveling nightmare. The canceled flights, lost luggage and burst eye vessels were all, well, terrible. The extra costs that I incurred was horrible, but the worst was, missing my older brother’s rehearsal dinner in London, and another wedding the following weekend in Portland, Maine. Those moments, I will never be able to recover.

The huge lesson learned, was (to never pick a crap airline), not buying travel insurance.

PRO TIP: Do not purchase travel protection over travel insurance. Also, check with your health insurance, homeowners insurance, and travel credit cards. As they may have you covered in certain areas.

2) Not setting up an International Data Roaming Plan.

The fastest way to be billed a few hundred dollars, in a matter of minutes. Is not preparing your data roaming plan or not purchasing a SIM card.

On a recent trip to Bali, Indonesia. I forgot to set up my International data plan and I didn’t turn off roaming.

Within 2 minutes of turning my phone back on, I racked up a $700.00 data roaming bill.

3) Pay attention to the details on paperwork.

Not paying attention to the spelling of your name (travel partner’s name), order of dates – month/date/ year or date/month/year and or passport numbers when applying for a visa. These are all, simple and common oversights, that can be costly, if not caught immediately.

A friend flew from LA to India, and upon her arrival it was discovered her passport number was entered incorrectly on her Visa. She was denied entry and had to turn back around and fly back to LA, immediately.

P.S. The flight is a little over 17+hours – one direction.

Avoidable additional charges travel mistakes.

4) Excess baggage weight charges.

Know your weight limits with your airlines.

Especially when switching airlines on a layover.

Flying on a large airplane carrier to having a stopover and changing to a smaller, budget airline. Can result in extra baggage fees. Both carry ons and checked luggage weight limits will differ, and are often significantly lower for budget airlines.

Don’t forget to read the fine print on baggage carry on and checked baggage weight.

5) Valid Passport.

Ensure your passport is valid and has a minimum of 6 months validity, after the date of arrival to your destination.

Being properly prepared.

6) Vaccinations.

Check up on the necessary vaccinations needed, a few months prior to your travel date.

7) Embassy / Consulate contact.

Put your countries embassy location, number and address of the country or countries that you are visiting, into your contacts.

8) Photo and email documents.

Email yourself photo copies of your passport, visa information, travel insurance information, credit cards (front and back) and make sure you have your banks international number.

9) Medications.

This is a two-fer.

Ensure your medications do not expire while on your trip, and you have enough to last for your holiday. Check if your prescription is allowed into the country you are visiting.

Timing is everything.

10) Taking a sleep aid at the wrong time.

While sitting on a tarmac waiting for take off. This is not the time to digest a sleep aid. In an unforeseen event, passengers on a flight were directed to deboard. The plane was declared faulty and subsequently ended up being canceled. In hindsight, taking a sleep aid could have waited.

The kicker! Retrieving checked luggage and talking with an airline agent, while fighting the induced sandman takeover. Should be part of the Navy Seal training.

It’s best to take your sleep aid when the captain has announced the aircrafts cruising altitude. At this point, it’s less likely the plane will make an unscheduled landing or the situation above.

11) Have that disagreement at a later time.

While I was boarding a flight, a couple behind me were arguing. Surprisingly, not loudly. Yet the horrific name calling, was brutal.

There was a lot of profanity exchanged and it was in earshot of an airline agent. Who happened to be off duty, and standing behind them. When we arrived to our seats, the airline staff escorted them off the plane.

In hindsight, the silent treatment would have probably been best.


12) Watch your cocktails.

The plane scene from the movies Bridesmaids is more common than not. It’s the one of the fastest ways to be denied flying, banned and possible fined from an airline.

I’ve heard stories, like a drunk passenger opening up another’s passengers bag (from the overhead compartment). Took out the contents and passed them around to other passengers. Most recently, a flight had 2 drunk women sneak up to first class and give lap dances to passengers.

Don’t be that person.

A quick way to damage your electronics or blow a fuse.

13) Voltage change.

Know your voltages.

Many countries output charges are between 200-240V. In the States, it’s 100-120V. Check the electronics, hair dryer/irons, laptops and other devices you will use during your trip to see if you need an adapter and or converter.

14) Banking

Not putting your travel notice on. Is the fastest way to get your bank card frozen.

Cash. Have the local currency in hand. It still baffles me when fellow travelers choose not to carry cash. And it’s not just during international traveling. Our old stomping grounds in San Francisco, California, many businesses, are strictly cash only.

Use a no bank fee card that has no foreign transaction fees. It’s a great way to avoid ATM fees and other surcharges.

Having a backup card for emergencies is also a good idea. If you’re traveling with a spouse or travel partner, have them carry an emergency card as well, but from a different bank.

Check out 52 Savvy Travel Tips and Hacks.

15) For the Ladies!

What time of the month, is it? Not all locations sell women’s products for the monthly flow. Especially, in developing countries in rural areas.

There’s a different set of rules in these parts, so make sure you do your research and be prepared.

This lesson was learned during a girls trip in Borneo, Malaysia and Flores, Indonesia.

16) Retail Therapy comes with discounts.

Carry your passport when shopping. In some countries, there’s a refund for travelers who like to shop.

In Europe a VAT (value added tax) refund is offered by some shops (by spending a certain amount). The form can be returned to the refund counter at the airport.

In Singapore, it’s the GST form. Goods and Services Tax. If you make a purchase of more than S$100 (including GST) at participating shops. A refund of the 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST) can be refunded on your purchases can be refunded at the airport.

Read more about, What To Do During a Layover in Singapore.

17) Be aware of your surroundings.

International traveling tips

Paying attention to the on-goings, surrounding you.

When I was standing in line for security in Jakarta. I was tapped on my shoulder by a polite passenger. It was brought to my attention that I was standing in the security line for males. In Jakarta the security lines are separated by gender.

It could have all be avoided, if I stopped and looked up (from my phone).

While not standing in the correct line is avoidable, so is, standing on the wrong side of escalators.

In some countries, people stand on a particular side. It’s definitely agitating when a couple stands side by side on an escalator, when clearly everyone is standing on the left and walking on the right (or vice versa).

International Traveling Tips Brushing

18) Water.

Not drinking the tap water, is an obvious no, no in some countries and of course don’t drink tap water on planes either.

What I quickly forgot was brushing my teeth with sink water. Needless to say, the next few days were rough. ROUGH!!

19) Being an accidental offensive visitor.

In general, many travelers do not want to offend their host country by minding their P’s and Q’s. Many learn how to say, hello, goodbye, thank you, please etc. in the local language.

Yet, there’s another type of language that can be easily forgotten. Body language, hand gestures, and some behaviors. While all harmless in some countries. In other countries, they have a different meaning.

For examples, pointing at a person or thing. Is a rude hand gesture in many parts of the world. You may want to rethink your pose for the picture. In most cases there’s no need to point to the obvious subject.

Rubbing chopsticks is also a rude gesture. It indicates that you think the chopsticks are cheap. By rubbing them together, you’re insulting your host or restaurant.

While a thumbs up in the States is A-Okay. It’s actually the equivalent of holding up a middle finger in some countries in Latin America, the Middle East, Western Africa, Russia, and Greece.

It’s wise to read up on the local law and social cues.

20) Safety.

Just like having your countries embassy contact information, include the local emergency numbers, as well.

It’s really unfortunate, there are people out there with nefarious agendas.

NOTE: There are far LESS traveling issues/ mistakes, then there are FANTASTIC, WONDERFUL and SOULFUL Traveling Experiences.

But there are sure ways to dodge, sketchy situations / people.

Listen to your inner alarm.

Question the integrity, authenticity and genuine.

Read reviews and scams, about the country you’re visiting.

Don’t give the opportunity to be a target.

1. Don’t engage. Generally, I don’t make eye contact when people approach me. I also, do not stop walking. I don’t want to be sold anything that I’m not actively looking for, nor do I want to be a target for a pick pocketer. I also do not allow to be handed anything. I always hear the horror stories of people being lured off the street to another location to be scammed.

2. I’m mindful of where I put my personal belongings on my person. When in crowds, I carry my backpack in front. I don’t put my credit cards and cash in my purse. I usually carry snacks, an umbrella and my water bottle in my purse. I wear a jacket that has inside pockets with zippers. I place my cards and cash in there, and zip up my jacket. If it’s hot weather, again I have my cards and cash in separate pockets with zippers (I also sew, so I can make my own clothing with zippers – win!). I generally do not carry a wallet.

3. I make a point to blend in, rather than stick out. I don’t want to call attention to myself and I don’t wear expensive jewelry.

4. If possible, I do not use taxis because of ride sharing apps. When I have used a taxi (when shared riding don’t exist in the area). I ask for the meter to be working, ask a local (or hotel staff) what the ride should generally cost, and or negotiate the final cost before taking the ride. I also, show the driver Google maps on a agreed upon route, to mitigate taking longer than necessary route.

An Extra Bonus:

The TOP 3 funny / awkward questions I have been asked in the last year. Either by airline agents or immigration officers.

Immigration officer (in the Philippines): You’re Filipina but you have an American passport (?.)
Me: Um. Sorry, but is that a question or a statement?
To this day, it is still unclear.

Immigration officer (in New Zealand): You’re currently not employed? Then, how did you get here?
Me: I used money that I have saved up.
My inner thoughts: Why is the officer still looking at me, confused. Is my American accent hard to understand? Is this is a trick immigration question that I don’t get? Seriously, why is she still staring at me?
Note to future self: just write in ‘Blogger‘.

Airline Ticket agent: How many months pregnant are you?
Me: Uuuhhh, I am not pregnant.
My inner thoughts: I’m never wearing this dress again and I’m burning it the second I get home.

The last one, was fairly recent and still stings. Like, how many months pregnant did I look?

So let’s hear it. Sharing is caring!

What are your traveling mistake(s) have you made and what useful and helpful advice do you suggest to avoid those traveling mistakes?

Outdoor enthusiast thriving in the expatriate traveling lifestyle. Looking to connect with your sense of adventure.


  • daphne takahashi

    I travel a lot and thankfully I haven’t had any of those mistakes but I think your tip number 19 is crucial! we can never assume that what’s ok in our country is ok in others as well so doing research on the proper manners of the place your visiting is fantastic to avoid any problems! great list!!

  • Alexandra

    Okay, this was a great post and very funny at the end! haha! However, I now DON’T want to travel. There are too many things to remember and they ALL are relevant!

    I would absolutely hate it if I took a sleep aid and then the flight was canceled. And having to think about what you are carrying on your person and what to wear and what NOT to point to. You must have traveled a ton to learn all of this but I really don’t travel. So on the off chance that I got to go to a foreign country, I would need to pass a test on all this information. This was really good!

    • Sarah Emery

      🙂 It’s all very much common sense stuff (e.g. things you would do in your own country) – but can be easily forgotten when the excitement of travel is happening. We once forgot to hide a backpack in our car when parking in San Francisco. When we came back to our car. Someone had smashed our car’s window and stole the backpack. AND this was when our dog was in the back seat.

  • Sushmita

    Firstly, I am so glad I came across your blog. Your description is interesting – multicultural people are so much fun know. Secondly, regarding this post, I agree with everything you said. I have been travelling internationally every once in a while and I can safely say you have consolidated every whim of a traveller so nicely! Loved this post!

  • Lindsay Brown

    lol I love the awkward moments! But seriously this is a GREAT article for anyone planning on travelling. I never thought to email myself my documents – brilliant idea! I will definitely be pinning this article for next time I travel!

  • Colleen

    Oh boy, these are good ones. When I first started traveling, I learned a lot of these the hard way. Having adapters for your appliances is so important. That was the first lesson I learned. Thankfully, I didn’t have to learn about the importance of travel insurance the hard way. I heard about that one, and I thought, “I should start using this.”

  • GiGi Eats

    GREAT travel tips! I need to go through this blog post when I travel at the end of this year again. I haven’t traveled in a little while due to having a newborn but I cannot wait to get out there again. However, I feel like I have forgotten how to do it! LOL!

  • Dreams Abroad

    Voltage change is a must and most do not realize until they land and are hit by high prices of cell and laptop chargers. Seems everything has to do with spending more money which you want to avoid! Great travel tips and I can’t wait till your next post.

  • Subhashish Roy

    Something that I regret during our last holiday was buying a return ticket instead of a one way ticket and taking a bus connection to the next destination. Wasted a whole lot of money and additional time. Never plan in a hurry was my take away. Some really great tips from you.

  • Steph S

    Such great tips!! Travel insurance is so important but often overlooked cuz of the cost! But it can actually cost u a lot more to skip it! And pay attention to the details! I’m glad you’ve got it all covered for us so we don’t have to make the same mistakes!! Traveling is a lot of planning as it is!

  • Erin Knight

    These are all great travel tips. I remembrer once my luggage exceeded the weight limits (I flew with Air Asia and they only allows 7kg) and I paid dearly for it. I have learned that I should be assume every airline allows 23 pound check-in luggage.

    • Sarah Emery

      Yes, that weight allowance can get you, for sure. My friends and I had an experience, where the airline only took cash for the overweight carry on. They claimed their credit card machine didn’t work. It was all very suspect.

  • katrina Kroeplin

    it is so important to set up the international data plan. your other tips are great as well, i didn’t think of some of the others so thank you!!!

  • Tiffany La Forge-Grau

    There is so much to account for when you go to another country. Just about everything you can think of is vastly different.

  • Thuy

    Great tips! The bonus questions at the end reminded me of my similar experience when I studied abroad in Australia. I’m Vietnamese American and I was born here so the conversations always go -Where are you from? -America -NO Where are you REALLY from? -uh Connecticut lol

    • Sarah Emery

      OMG!! I can absolutely relate – throughout my whole life!!!! I’m so entertained to seeing one’s facial expressions, struggling to connect the dots 🙂 Ha ha! Now, when I visit surrounding countries, many locals assume I speak the local language. I usually wait for them to break, to ask if they speak English. It drives my husbands crazy, that I don’t interrupt them to let them know I don’t speak their language. Lol!

  • Laura

    Great tips! Everyone traveling, especially beginners, should read your post! On a side note, the question about employment and traveling is something I got as well. The conversation actually continued, he asked me if it wouldn’t be better to save the money in case I don’t find employment again. Umm…I have enough saved, I didn’t spend my last dime, but thanks for the tip. I was just starting my freelance business at the time. I probably should’ve written “self-employed”.

  • Kristine Nicole Alessandra

    We do most of these things already, but that thing with the voltage is a MUST REMEMBER. I am used to traveling to places with 220V electric outlets. I have to remember to ask first before I plug in any of my gadgets!

  • Debra Roberts

    The argument point struck a nerve with me! My husband picked a fight with me on a plane last month and he didn’t care if anyone heard him! I was horrified and tried to ignore him, which only made things worse. It’s amazing how you can barely hear one another sitting beside each other, but can hear people clear as a bell a few rows away!

  • Angie

    Traveling can be an adventure lol! We are hoping to travel internationally with our kiddos in a few years. These are all great tips! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.