International travel is one of the best things you can ever do for yourself. We all make excuses as to why we don’t do it more often; citing costs, time, and previous commitments are some reasons why we avoid leaving our homelands or taking time off from work at all, but once you take the dive and land on foreign soil, you’ll know you made the right choice. As creatures of comfort, most of us tend to overpack for some such occasions, bringing more stuff with us then we’ll ever need throughout the entirety of our trips. However, if you take everything you want to pack and remove everything that you don’t necessarily need, it’s amazing how light your load can be on your next adventure.
That being said, there are a few essentials that we here at Urban Beardsman highly recommend for all embarking on an international trip anytime in the near future. Of course travel essentials vary from person to person, but based on firsthand experience, both of the amazing and horrific variety, we have a few suggestions of our own for items you should absolutely bring with you next time you fly off to distant and exotic lands. Let’s take a look at what you should bring with you next time you’re traveling abroad.
An International Data Plan
Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re all addicted to our devices. We want to communicate with those who are elsewhere as much as, or often times more than, the people sitting directly across from us. Although you can use your trip as a way to get away from it all and unplug, if you’re planning to spend any kind of extended time outside the country, you might want to consider switching to a phone plan that includes international data.
Now it’s important to note that almost anywhere you go in the world now will have wifi access (recently I was able to find high speed internet in everywhere from Laos to Nepal to Sri Lanka), however, apps such as Google Maps come in handy when you least expect them to and being able to contact people you’re traveling with who might not be by your side at every moment can also be immensely helpful. Our suggestion: check out T-Mobile's international data plan, which gives you data access in upwards of 140 countries around the globe. It might not always be super fast, but it’ll help you get the job done when you least expect it.
International Debit Card
In many parts of the world, it’s a whole lot easier, and sometimes a requirement, to use local currency instead of a debit or credit card. Because of that, you’re going to be making plenty of ATM withdrawals, regardless of what corner of the globe you’re off to next. Although you can opt to make fewer, larger withdrawals and avoid getting the added ATM fees tacked on regularly, there is another option that will save you a surprising amount of money over time. Our suggestion: Charles Schwab offers brokerage accounts that allow you to avoid international ATM fees, or more specifically, they refund you all of the fees incurred at the end of the month. Depending on how long you’re traveling for, these fees can really add up and by the end of the month the money you’re refunded can account for a round of drinks, a meal, or a bed for the night, depending on where you’re at in the world.
The Pocket Jacket
If you’re looking for a way to lighten your luggage, definitely take a close look at the outerwear you’re planning to bring vs. the weather report you’ve been eyeing for the past month since you booked your trip. In all seriousness though, the less you bring the better, but it’s also good to be prepared for sudden weather changes. Our suggestion: the Patagonia Houdini Pullover is perfect for handling a heavy breeze or a sudden drizzle and the whole thing folds into a pouch within the pocket of the jacket itself and you can easily throw it into a daypack or even in your back pocket. The jacket is super lightweight and versatile. Basically, it’s the best travel companion you can have, aside from the Swedish backpacker you met at last night’s hostel.
Your Favorite Tablet
When most people think of international travel they imagine all of the exciting places they’ll visit, people they’ll meet, and food they’ll consume. What many folks don’t keep in mind is the amount of travel and downtime that they’ll have at their disposal between those aforementioned exciting experiences. Some people are hesitant to bring too many electronics abroad in fear of breaking, losing, or having them stolen, but take it from someone who’s been stuck on a bus for 24 hours without access to any electronic devices that a tablet can be your greatest travel ally. Whether it’s a Kindle or an iPad or whichever brand you prefer, having books or games pre-loaded on that sucker that can be accessed sans-wifi is truly pivotal to making sure you don’t lose your mind.
Sure, they aren’t the sexiest item to get excited about, but the number of times you will use a pair of earplugs on any long international adventure is countless. From flights to bus rides to sleeping in crowded hostels or ill-located hotels, earplugs will become your greatest ally in ensuring you actually get some sleep along the way. Buy a ton of them and offer a few pairs to your fellow travelers. You’ll be amazed at how thankful people can be when you offer an olive branch to better sleep.