International Travel Tips

Recently I went on my first international business trip to Lviv, Ukraine. This is the first time I have been outside of North America since my early 20’s. If anything could go wrong on this trip, it did, and I learned the hard way how to make my travel next time much better.

I must preface my tips below with I never missed a flight and have never had a bag lost, until this trip.

  • Don’t count on Wi-Fi working in planes at all overseas. The foreign airline I took (Austrian airlines) does not seem to provide this on any flight. We’ve gotten use to this in the past few years in the US.
  • I thought using Wi-Fi while traveling in the US sucked until I went to Europe!
  • Exchange money in the country of origin to the place you are traveling! I got to Vienna and they won’t exchange Ukrainian money to Euros!!!
  • Get to the airport 2+ hours early before an international flight even if the first leg is to a city in the US.
  • Learn to speak common phrases in the language of the country you are going to before you leave. You cannot rely on software translations apps, especially if your cell does not work in the country. People in that country will greatly appreciate it.
  • The US allows two carry-ons, but Europe does not! They only allow one, the rest you might have to pay for up to 75 Euros ($83 US dollars) or more for one bag! Even though I could do two carry-ons all the way to my final destination in the Ukraine, I could not do it on the way back. I actually wish the US did the same thing since many abuse this privilege and it makes boarding the plane MUCH longer.
  • If your hotel provides a shuttle, call at least one day ahead before. They might not schedule it when you land.
  • Count on your checked luggage getting lost or delayed in customs. Always carry at least one day of clothes, meds or anything else you need. Even more days if you can.
  • If you use a debit card, make sure you have more than plenty of money on it before you leave the US. ATM machines in other countries do not provide the ability to transfer money. Only dispense cash or transfer money to your phone (not even sure what the latter is). At some ATM’s your card might not even work at all, so it’s better to have a credit card or lots of cash with you! Also, if you use a debit card, you might get socked with big fees!
  • Find another cell provider than AT&T. My entire trip I could not use cellular on my phone. I tweeted them about this and all they did was send useless links.
  • Make sure to purchase a power converter for charging batteries, running laptops etc. If you forget, airports should have them.
  • 20150924-  -Ukraine Trip-Network2015-NETwork 2015-10338If you or your company can afford business class on long flights overseas… do it! It’s well worth it… not like first class in the US which pales in comparison. Actually if any company in a foreign country wants me to come work or speak for them, I’m going to insist on it for the following reasons…
    • There is plenty of leg room! The seats even go almost flat so you can sleep. They provide pillows, sheets and even a blanket. Your seat even will massage you!
    • You get a personal chef that will make anything you like off of a menu. The first flight I had filet minion. On the way back I had a four course dinner that included so much food I couldn’t even eat it all. They will even wake you up for breakfast which was awesome too!
    • The bathrooms are about three times bigger than any airplane bathroom I’ve ever seen. In the bathroom they have deodorant spray, shavers, combs, toothbrush and toothpaste.
    • They provide noise canceling headphones.
    • You get a very large HD TV screen. All movies etc. are FREE!
    • There are USB charging ports available.
    • You are allowed two carry on items. Everyone else only gets one.
  • If you expect to use a cloud service like OneDrive to backup all of your photos while you are overseas… forget it! I had my Surface Pro 3 (Windows 10) trying to do this for the better part of three days for 4.6GB of picture/ video files and it did a very small fraction. I know part of this issue was the hotel Wi-Fi. Lesson learned… still carry enough memory cards for your camera or video camera that you will need. I will mention that backing up all the pictures on my iPhone to OneDrive worked great.

If you have any travel tips, please let me know by leaving a comment.

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