Tips · Travel

Travel Tips: Pre-trip planning and things to do while abroad!

Many of you know that I went backpacking through Europe for a month with my boyfriend (you can read here). We saw so much, and learned so much about travelling and each other.

I am known to be a major stress ball, so doing my research beforehand helped tremendously. The key is to be prepared!

Here are some tips based on the things I did/learned while backpacking for a month!

Traveling abroad tips:

  • Scan your passport and photo ID (e.g. driver’s licence) and give to someone at home.
    If these items get stolen while you are abroad, at least you have copies of the originals and it can make your situation a little easier.
  • Bring your own locker lock (preferably key-less).
    A lot of hostels will provide lockers for you to lock up your belongings during the day. But they also typically charge you for a lock. And I say key-less because who needs ANOTHER thing to have to worry about losing. I brought 2 locks with the same combination (for Kyle and myself) so we could each get into each others lockers if needed.
  • While traveling with luggage on the trains, be super cautious.
    I recommend keeping that luggage as close as possible to you. Store overhead if you can versus in those empty spaces by the exits. Someone could easily hop on and off with your bags. If you have no choice and have to store it farther away from you, use those locks you packed and lock your 2 bags together. It’s much harder for someone to run off with 2 bags locked together.
  • Is there an app for that?
    There are some pretty cool apps out there that can save you money. Apps like Viber allow you to text and make phone calls for free when you’re on WiFi. Have your family/friends download it too. Also, instead of paying a ton of money for guided tours at museums, some apps have highly rated guided audio tours for those same museums. They also have currency converters apps which can aid the mathematically challenged.
  • Change your phone plan or keep it on “airplane mode.”
    Unless you don’t mind getting charged an arm and a leg of course. You might be able to get a decent deal with your cellular provider, but if not, keep your phone from roaming by switching it to airplane mode when you aren’t connected to WiFi. And use apps like Viber to keep in touch with your family/friends.
  • Students- bring your student ID.
    A lot of places give discounts to students.
  • Use those hidden wallet.
    There are TONS of pick-pockets in Europe and they like to prey on tourists. When your tour guide can pick them out of a crowd, you know it’s bad. Kyle used this kind that buckles around your waist and I used the kind that you wear around your neck. All worn under your clothes obviously. Yes it’s dorky and a pain, but do you really want to lose your money and ID in a foreign country? It was nice to be able to relax on our tours while the girls with purses had to stay alert constantly with their bags in front of them.
  • Pack travel-sized items rather than the large version.
    For example, I wear contacts and had to bring contact solution. It was much better to bring 4 mini bottles of contact solution than 1 big bottle- because I could toss each mini bottle as I went, freeing up space in my bag for things like souvenirs. Oh and 4 mini bottles can easily be shoved all throughout your luggage (unlike a big ole bottle). Oh and bring extra pairs of contact lens (and your glasses)- you never know if you’ll lose one or irritate your eyes!
  • Bring mini packs of laundry detergent + a sink plug + bungee cords.
    My mom bought me a little kit that came with mini packs of laundry detergent (about the size of running gels like GU) and a sink plug. Bungee cord is to hang dry the clothing. A lot of hostels will have laundry rooms, but sometimes you only need to wash a couple items- so why pay for a full load and waste that water?
  • Try to bring/wear clothing of like colors.
    I brought only “dark” clothing. You don’t want to have to do 2 loads of laundry just because you accidentally brought that 1 white shirt that can’t be washed with all your darks.
  • Space saver bags are your friends.
    I brought 2- 1 for clean clothes, 1 for dirty clothes. These bags zip up similarly to a Ziploc bag, but then you roll the air out and compresses the contents. HUGE space saver.
  • Coordinate with your travel partner so you don’t bring the same items that could have been shared.
    Things like toothpaste, toothbrush (Lol I kid), outlet converter, shampoo and conditioner, hair dryers/straighteners, lotion, sunscreen, etc.
  • Bring an outlet converter if necessary.
    I brought one but it was old and heated up too quickly. We could only charge our phones for 15 min. at a time. AND (ladies) my hair straightener didn’t work with it- so yes I had no hair appliances for a month!! And sometimes it might be cheaper/easier for you to buy a phone charger for that particular country. We ran into a couple that bought an iPhone charger for Europe (for really cheap) because they weren’t going to need to charge anything else.
  • Dry shampoo is your friend.
    Instead of bringing a huge bottle of shampoo and conditioner, I brought medium sized bottles for Kyle and I to share. On the days I didn’t wash my hair, I used dry shampoo and it worked perfectly. My hair thanked me, and honestly going to bed with wet hair in the winter in Europe wasn’t fun.
  • Shower sandals are your friend.
    Don’t go barefoot in those hostel showers. Just don’t. I bought a pair of $2.50 flip flops from Old Navy before I left, with the intention of tossing them at the end of my trip if I needed the luggage space.
  • Bring hand sanitizer and moist towelettes.
    Sometimes you might not have access to soap and water before eating. Sometimes you might just want to wipe down that tray table on the train.
  • Ladies, don’t pack feminine products to last you the whole trip.
    I’m an over-prepared control freak, so obviously when I packed for my 1-month trip, I packed enough feminine products for 2 months…this took up a lot of room in my 1 bag. My mom laughed at me and reminded me that girls in Europe get their monthly visitor too. Bring enough for 1 day and buy the rest there.
  • Check hostels AND hotels for sleeping accommodations.
    Depending on the season of your trip, hotels might be cheaper than hostels. Kyle and I stayed in both because hotels were often cheaper (during the off season, hotels want to book those rooms too)!

Hope this helps some of you!

Any tips to add?

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23 thoughts on “Travel Tips: Pre-trip planning and things to do while abroad!

  1. Mmmmkkk Now you’re just freaking me out…. I just started curating a travel section on CCR today hahahaha.
    I definitely agree with the outlet converter!

    I don’t have much experience with hostels, but now that I’ll be traveling more one my own, and less with my family, I will definitely be referring back to these. Thanks for the post!

  2. When I studied abroad, I bought a straightener in Spain..for shorter trips, no big deal but if you NEED hair appliances, I’d recommend buying where you are- plus you don’t risk frying your American ones! I definitely agree with the hotels and hostels comment- when I was in Florence a hotel was cheaper (and had better ratings). Also Skype works for free as long as there’s wifi!

  3. Very good tips. Need to check out that app. I would add ‘take a photo of your luggage’. I’ve had nightmares when airlines have lost mine, and so I started taking photos of it. It helps them out when they can see what they’re looking for. I saw one guy that had printed photos that he gave them.

  4. This is a great list! I really need to bookmark it… well for the one day I might ACTUALLY go on a trip that isn’t a day work trip.. gah!

  5. I’ve always been wary of going to hostels! I have no idea why. I’ve never visited one… I’ve never backpacked either but it sounds pretty cool. 🙂 I’d like to get a plane to Canada and just travel about. Same with the USA.

    1. No it’s completely normal! I was really nervous about hostels until I got to Europe. I was worried about theft, privacy, germs haha, you name it. Then I learned you can pick girls-only rooms (which I didn’t use because I had Kyle to protect me haha), rooms with x number of beds in them (so you can pick how crowded it is), they have lockers, etc.

  6. Hair straighteners ARE NOT supposed to be plugged into converters either!!!!! I have no clue why, but after blowing mine in Europe, I’ve read a lot of instructions not to plug them into converters!!! Lesson learned. Thankful I didn’t learn that on my Chi. My hair dryer was fine on a converter though, but got really horribly hot if I just relied on the “built in” converter and used an adapter. So I totally skip heat styling overseas now- I just go wavy.

      1. Chi actually specifies not to plug into a converter on their instruction manual too! The only reason I actually read that was because I had literally just fried mine right before getting my Chi. Glad you opted for wavy!!!

  7. I travel a lot. The main tip I’d give is travel light! You really don’t need that much stuff. :Put it all in a pile and take a bunch out. I went to Antarctica with just a carry on and no compression sacks and I even had too much stuff.

    1. Haha where were you the night I started packing?? 😉 I seriously shoved everything in my pack and then my mom walked by and told me what you just said, “Take most of that out- you don’t need it!” Man you are one excellent packer if you could do that!

  8. These tips are all awesome and I probably wouldn’t have remembered to do any of them at all aside from scanning IDs (I only know that one because someone suggested we do it before going away for our wedding). I have serious travel envy…I wish that my husband and I had been able to get away and travel like that, but we never did. Maybe one day when Betty is in college I can use all this wonderful advice. 🙂

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