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10 Overseas Travel Tips for the Novice Traveler

Sharon learned a lot on her first trip overseas. She hopes her tips will help fellow travelers get the most out of their trips.

Plane in the sky

Plane in the sky

I am an inexperienced traveler. I will admit that I am not young and, until recently, I had never left North America. I had traveled throughout Canada and the U.S. but never overseas. Then, with my family, I booked a trip to Italy and Greece. It was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot about overseas travel.

Tips for Traveling Overseas

We had six flights in two weeks. Those flights were Toronto to Rome to Sicily to Santorini to Athens and back to Toronto. It was the trip of a lifetime and we enjoyed every minute of it. However, it would have been even more enjoyable had I discovered these tips before I got on that first plane.

These are the tips that stood out for me and will make my next overseas trip more enjoyable. I have caught the travel bug and I hope to be visiting Europe again. I'm saving my pennies right now!

I understand these tips may be obvious to seasoned travelers, and you may have more that you could share, so I welcome you to add your tips in the comments.

Colosseum in Rome

Colosseum in Rome

My Top 10 Tips for Traveling Abroad

1. Buy Comprehensive Insurance.

Insurance can be expensive, but you paid a lot for the vacation, and if your luggage is lost or you miss a transfer, it's going to cost you a lot more! The peace of mind alone is worth it.

My luggage was lost for two days and I didn't know if I would even get it back. I had nothing but the clothes on my back that I had just worn on an 8-hour flight. Ewww. I was able to shop for fresh fashion because I had coverage for such an event. Yay!

2. Pack Wisely.

Why did I bring all these shoes? Three pairs would have been fine. One for walking, a pair for the beach, and a good pair for going out for dinner. You don't need as much as you think; except underwear—bring lots of underwear. You are not going to do laundry, and underwear takes up little room in your luggage.

Bring clothes that do not wrinkle, and roll them to save space. With this added space, do not bring more to your destination; use it to bring back the things you buy.

3. Stick With Carry-On Luggage.

The next time I travel, I am going to attempt to put everything in a carry-on suitcase. I think it can be done. If you can't reduce your load, at least put emergency clothes and toiletries in your carry-on. You never know where your checked suitcase is going, and it may not be with you!

4. Don't Book Overnight Flights.

Yes, it sounds great to leave and sleep on the plane and be refreshed and ready to go when you arrive at your destination. Yeah, sure. I can't sleep on planes, at least not very well. My trip to Europe going in was overnight, and I felt, well, crappy when I got there. The trip home was a morning flight and it was much easier to tolerate. I didn't feel the urge to jump up and run up and down the aisles screaming—not even once!

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5. Bring Earphones and Earplugs.

You will need them for movies and music. They are not free anymore as they were in the good old days. You can buy them on board, but they are cheap in cost and cheap in quality. It is better to bring your own good quality earphones and earplugs from home. And they do a good job of drowning out the sound of that crying baby. Poor parents.

6. Watch What You Eat and Drink Before a Flight.

You know your body . . . do you really want to have to use that lavatory in the sky for number two? I know what foods trigger this reaction in me, so yes, I avoid coffee in the sky at all costs. Who wants to be running to that bathroom more than they need to?

I like to be hydrated, but finish all water intake 2 hours before a flight. Then I drink sparingly during the flight (and no booze). I'd rather save that for a nice dinner at my destination. Yes, that's much better.

7. Wash Your Hands and Use Hand Sanitizer.

You are on an overseas flight with, I don't know, 400 to 600 people jammed in close quarters with questionable air circulation for what? eight or more hours? Yes, a recipe for catching some crazy virus. Now, you might get through your trip okay with incubation times and all, but that bug could still get you and get you good.

I see people come back from these trips all the time and get very sick, usually with an upper respiratory tract infection and guess what? I got sick too. I came down with bronchitis and was off a week of work just after my two weeks of vacation. Yes, my employer loves me. So wash your hands and use hand sanitizer.

8. Shop at Local Markets to Save Money.

I was in Rome—a very hot and very expensive city. Bottled water was a must. I found a little market up the street from my centrally located hotel that sold two-litre bottles of water for about 35 cents. This sure beats the street vendors selling 500 mL bottles for a buck fifty. This same little market had fruit and snacks that were cheap, cheap cheap.

Fast forward to Santorini, Greece. Same thing! Little market down the cobblestone street from our villa. We bought fresh cold cuts and a large loaf of bread (enough for 5 people) with a two-litre bottle of water and it cost us....wait for it....3.35 Euros! Say what? Now nothing where I live is cheaper than that. We were able to have light lunches and save a trip to the local restaurants that were not so cheap. Yes! All good.

9. Buy a Travel Guide (and Use It)!

I didn't and I wish I had. Learning more about your destination and having a reference book to look things up is handy. I saw a lot of buildings in Rome, a lot! There was history everywhere, but other than the most famous sites I had no idea what I was looking at. Yes. Get a book.

10. Buy a Cell Phone Travel Pack With Data.

You may think, "I won't need data! There is free wifi!" And yes, there is, but it's hard to log on to and very, very slow. I should have added data to my travel pack. Oh, well. The first hotel with reliable internet was the last one I stayed in before heading home. I just wanted to check my email. That's all.

Waiting with your bags

Waiting with your bags

Bonus Tip: Buy a Digital Luggage Scale.

Bon Voyage!

Travelling and exploring other countries and experiencing new cultures creates memories you will never forget. Don't let your vacation memories become blemished by bad planning. If you follow these simple tips, your travels will be less stressful and more worry-free. Enjoy!

Arriving at your destination

Arriving at your destination

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Sharon Bellissimo

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