Whether you’re studying abroad, traveling for business, or going to the most epic destination wedding of your life, there are things that you just need to know before hopping on the 8+ hour flight across the ocean. I recently when to the most beautiful wedding in Siena, Italy and decided to make a trip out of it while I was there. We stopped in Rome first for a couple of days before the wedding, took a train to Siena, then flew to France to end our trip. While we were celebrating our friends and taking advantage of being abroad, there were little nuggets of information that I wished someone would have told us. Here are some quick and dirty tips that can help you go on your overseas excursion with ease.
Tip #1: Melatonin- Melatonin is a sleeping aid that you can get over the counter. I did a little research and got 1mg and took it about 30 minutes before my flight. Yall, I was knocked out. This was also nice because my flight was downgraded for some reason so I had no tv, not much leg room, and not even an outlet to charge my phone (Thanks, Norwegian Airlines) but the fact that I took a sleeping aid before my flight had me in REM sleep with only about an hour left before I woke up. This was KEY! I woke up and it was noon in Rome and I had what felt like a full nights rest. Bring your neck pillow because ya girl was knocked out! If you have any condition check with your doctor + do your own research but this worked really well for me and my husband. It also helped us have energy to explore the city on day 1. Keep in mind that there’s a pretty significant time change so taking melatonin before bedtime when you’re abroad can also help reset your sleeping schedule.
Tip #2: Charging Convertor, Watt Convertor, and Portable Chargers:
Charging Covertor: The outlets in Europe are different from the ones in the States. They’re also different than the ones on other continents, so bring a convertor! You can order one off of Amazon and usually can get them a little cheaper at stores like TJ Maxx in their travel section. Get the one with multiple USB outlets so you can charge multiple items at a time!
Watt Convertor: This is completely different than a charging convertor. We had brought a charging convertor but had no idea about this thing. Apparently Americans use higher watts on some items like blow dryers and mens clippers (which we learned the hard way) and if you plug in your beauty tool only using a charger convertor then ZAP! Daniel was using his clippers in Italy and we suddenly smelled and saw smoke coming from it. SO. MUCH. FUN. -___- You can get an adapter that will change the watts being used on the tool you already have so you’re things aren’t ruined!
Portable Charger: You will probably be out ALL day and if you’re depending on your phone for directions, translations, or photography, you’ll need to keep it juiced up! Those apps take a ton of battery. Keep a portable charger with you so you can always have a charged phone during emergencies! You’ll also be using your phone to take those gorgeous photos, so don’t forget it!
Tip #3: International Sim Card: I had never heard about this, but you can purchase an international sim card when you go overseas. They’ll take your current sim card out of your phone, put a new one in, and *BAM* you have a new phone number that matches your new country code. The sim card will also give you pre-paid data which means you won’t have to look for free wifi everywhere. THIS. IS. HUGE. It also means you don’t have to worry about your phone carrier overcharging you or going over your data limit when abroad. You can use What’s App or Viber for texts and calls and text over wifi worry free. This was something I didn’t do personally and regretted big time. They sold them in the airport for $50 and the lady said it would last around a week based on your data usage. I definitely recommend doing this if you’re the type to use your phone often or like me and get testy using my current plan but always go over. A friend of ours did it over our trip, and she had a great experience!
Tip #4: Transportation: Figure out transportation early and screenshot EVERYTHING. You never know when a possible train ticket won’t pull up, the wifi won’t connect, and you can’t show your tickets to the man checking for them! Thankfully, Daniel handled transportation because I’m directionally challenged, but so many times I was grateful for him saving things as photos because our tickets would have pretty much gone to waste. In Italy and France we used public transportation often and it wasn’t hard to get around at all. The best part is it’s so much cheaper. Daniel had all the routes pre-downloaded to his phone and we were able to get where we needed to go easily. If you want to use Uber or Lyft, make sure the country you go to provides it. Some countries offer other services- for example Italy uses Uber and Free Now. Free Now we found was much cheaper!
Tip #5: Have a few phrases memorized. Duolingo was a little too much for me given the fact that I know zero French or Italian. I did however memorize phrases like, “Do you speak English?” “Where is the…” and “How much is…” Always say hello/bonjour/ciao first! The effort alone is appreciated by locals and usually you can get around with the basics and lots of pointing or showing them a map.
Tip #6: Be early and be flexible: You never know what challenge could arise so always try to get to your destinations at least 30 minutes early. It’s so much harder to find what you’re looking for when signs aren’t in your language and you’re in a completely different environment, so just know what can go wrong probably will. And since what can go wrong will, be FLEXIBLE. I have seen trips turn for the worst because people aren’t flexible or insist that something happens when it’s just won’t. Not because you don’t want it to, but because it’s out of our control. Learn to go with the flow and enjoy your time abroad. If something doesn’t work out, it’s all going to be all right. Don’t let one minor mishap mess up the beautiful day ahead. Learn to let things go gracefully.
Italy and France were full of art, beauty, history, and well…… gluten. Wherever your passport takes you, learn to embrace it even when you’re gluten free. Try to plan ahead but if you don’t, THAT’S OKAY. Learn to ride the waves as they come and be present in each moment. Traveling abroad can get super hectic and there will be things that are just unavoidable. If things go awry, look around you and take all the beauty in and exhale all the worry out. You’re in a different country learning new things, meeting new people, and gaining new experiences. This, alongside the beauty that’s physically around you is what traveling is about. Enjoy it and get cultured!