Greetings, global wanderers. Ready for your next grand adventure? Perfect. We’ve rounded up tips for your international travel checklist. Discover the value of local tourism offices, smart safety steps, and the attractions that are worth every moment. It’s all about preparations for a seamless and enriching journey. Join us as we delve into insights that elevate your travel know-how.

Lady and computer

Visit the local tourism information center

Surprisingly, it’s an often overlooked resource for travelers. These offices are full of information on local events, from cost-free adventures to paid tours. Sometimes they have deals on sights and transport. We can usually find a free local map at the office. Google Maps is great until you don’t have internet access. Don’t be afraid to use a map and look like a tourist. We also ask locals in the area for help with directions if we end up completely lost.

Hotel room safe

Safety

Keep hotel and car keys on your person when traveling around. Don’t leave them in a purse or backpack.

To avoid being a target of crime, try not to wear conspicuous clothing and expensive jewelry. Don’t carry excessive amounts of money or unnecessary credit cards.

Leave valuables in the hotel room safe. Keep the cash and cards on you to a minimum for outings – it makes bouncing back from mishaps much easier. Stick to a single credit card or ATM card. For cash, take what you think you will need for the day.

Carry a small first aid kit. Always be ready for the unexpected. We never leave without a stash of band-aids, antibacterial cream, and ointments for those minor nicks and scrapes. Having them at hand is better since they might not be readily available (or recognizable) on your travels. It took us quite a while to find the equivalent of Day-Quill in Norway!

You can assemble your first aid kit or buy a pre-packed one online. We purchased a compact kit online. It has everything we need and was very reasonably priced.

Older tourists

Tours and Attractions

Go early to busy tourist attractions. Most people like to sleep in on vacation, so popular sites are less busy early in the morning. Lunch is also a great time to visit while everyone else is eating.

Try a free walking tour. Not only are these tours free (kind of – the guide generally expects a tip at the end), but they offer an excellent introduction to the history and culture of your chosen city. Check with the local tourism office to see if there are tours offered. Paid walking tours are also a great resource if you are new to the area.

Consider booking your activities and excursions ahead of time online. You are likely to get a discount compared to on-the-spot purchases. Plus, paying with a credit card provides extra security.

What’s more, major sights often allow you to book access in advance and bypass the crowds. Always check online to see if this is available. Beat the exhausting lines and go straight to the front. Remember, hours spent lining up for the Paris Catacombs or the Louvre are hours lost from your adventure.

We book major attractions or things we want to see in advance using trusted sites like Viator, Tours by Locals, Get Your Guide, or Project Expedition. If we find a local company with great reviews while researching, we sometimes try them.

However, we always leave time for any adventure we learn about while we are onsite.

Travel reviews

Look at reviews with a skeptical eye

Some sites like TripAdvisor can be handy for basic details like visiting hours or locations, but we take the reviews with a grain of salt. Negative experiences often prompt reviews more than positive ones, skewing the overall picture.

Moreover, the ease of posting fabricated reviews means businesses might enhance their image artificially. It’s an open secret that some hire services to boost their ratings. Travel review sites sometimes remove extremely negative feedback, including serious concerns like safety. When using resources, proceed with skepticism or consider more reliable sources entirely.

We generally use Google reviews as well as trust pilots. We also look for Facebook groups that are focused on our destination. Just reading what others post is highly informative. Avoid “influencer” reviews, as they are generally paid by the company they are reviewing.

Remember, you can’t believe everything you read online.

Older couple at hotel reception desk

Ask hotel staff for recommendations

They live in the area and know it better than anyone. We’ve found the best restaurants and unique places to visit by asking the staff at the hotels we’re staying in.

Starbucks, McDonalds, and Burger King

Don’t be afraid to pop into a Starbucks, McDonald’s or Burger King. Familiar spots can be a welcome sight, offering free wifi and restrooms. We don’t generally eat here while traveling, but it’s our go-to place if we can’t find a cup of “American” coffee or if you just need a quick snack. Libraries and trendy cafés are also great for free wifi.

Lady with journal on sofa

Notes and Journals

Jot down your adventures. Despite the digital age, documenting your journey is timeless. We never travel without our journal; it’s essential for work and a treasure trove of travel memories.

A basic travel journal is perfect for reflections and critical info like directions, contacts, and local lingo.

We use the notes in our journal for this website. Pictures are great, but there are so many little moments we don’t want to forget, so journaling at the end of a day is a great habit to get into.

Cafe in Bruges Belgium

Dining

Go where you see the locals go. They know where the good food and good value are. If possible, avoid restaurants with a menu in multiple languages. Most of these places target tourists; the food quality and value can be questionable.

If there is an expensive restaurant you want to try but are not keen on the prices, check it out at lunchtime. Many expensive restaurants offer deals for the lunch hour. If it’s just the ambiance you want to experience, see if they have a happy house.

Group of senior travelors at the rear of a van

Attitude is Everything

Everything will fall into place eventually. There’s no need to hurry. In time, you’ll reach your destination. Remember, travel is more about the experience than the arrival. Most locals are happy to assist you, but language differences can be tricky. Stay calm if things don’t pan out. Losing your temper only makes you stand out as the stereotypical rude tourist. It’s all about the journey!