A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

16 Things Never to Forget When Traveling Overseas

When you pack these international travel essentials, you may still look like a tourist—but you certainly won't act like one.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

Closeup of happy couple looking at laptop

Being prepared makes all the difference

Whether you’ve planned a whirlwind one-week sightseeing extravaganza through Europe or a month-long island-hopping adventure around Asia, you’ve likely spent many hours researching transportation, lodging, tours, restaurants, and attractions. Now that you’ve captured every last detail of your itinerary, all that’s left to do is hop on the plane and head overseas, right? Not so fast—what about packing? Overseas travels require special consideration. If you haven’t traveled internationally before, or it’s been many years since you made the trek abroad, then you could easily be overlooking items that seasoned travelers would never leave home without. It’s a good thing that Amazon Prime Day is around the corner to help you find the perfect products at the best price. Find out some major packing mistakes that could ruin your vacation.

Model look female wearing glasses is reading emails on her mobile phone while relaxing on a luxury tropical villa. Travel blogger wearing light blue shirt is surfing the web on a smartphone.

VPN for Wi-Fi Security

Unless you have an unlimited international data plan on your smartphone, you’re probably going to be on the lookout for cafés and hotels that offer free Wi-Fi. While it may seem like the best invention since sliced bread, public Wi-Fi is actually a dangerous practice. “Travelers are taking risks every time they connect their devices to public Wi-Fi hotspots, because these networks can easily be hacked in minutes, giving the someone access to all your online activity, possibly even passwords or financial information,” says Harold Li, vice president at ExpressVPN, a company that provides security by ensuring all your Internet traffic is encrypted. “For travelers to countries with censored Internet access—including China, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Turkey—VPNs also help you stay connected to blocked sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, Twitter, and even the New York Times.”

Credit card with no foreign transaction fee

Sure, you can take any ‘ol credit card overseas, but choosing one without foreign transaction fees will definitely increase your budget for souvenirs. “Many travelers end up using a credit card that charges a foreign transaction fee on every purchase overseas, which is typically around 3 percent,” says NerdWallet’s credit cards expert, Kimberly Palmer. “That can really add up and give you a nasty surprise when you get home from vacation.” She also recommends looking at premium travel cards for hotel upgrades, too. Here are more travel fees that smart travelers avoid.

Connection in the airplane. Young man (traveler) using smart phone during flight and listening music.
Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock


Shop Now

Even after your long-haul flight is over, it’s wise to keep your trusty pair of headphones nearby to block out crying babies, loud conversations and stressful traffic noises, especially if you’re going to be taking trains or buses between various cities and countries. You can use the travel time to immerse yourself in a movie on your tablet, listen to a podcast about the city you are heading to, or relax with a guided meditation. Oomo 3D 5.1 Immersive Earbuds deliver movie theater-like surround sound, thanks to its five-channel acoustic structure that separates sound frequencies. If you forget your headphones, don’t play your music out loud. Don’t be one of the world’s worst tourists.

 eBags Ultralight Packing Cubes - Super Packer 5pc Set (Blue)
via amazon.com

Packing cubes

Shop Now

If you aren’t staying in the same hotel throughout the duration of your trip, you’re likely to be living out of your suitcase the entire time—it’s just too time-consuming to unpack and repack everything when you’re moving between destinations every few days. Plus, many foreign hotels simply don’t furnish their rooms with dressers or wardrobes like in the United States. Enter packing cubes: Weighing in at just 10.8 ounces, eBags Ultralight Packing Cubes will help keep your suitcase organized, so you know within seconds where to find your underwear versus your t-shirts. Plus, they will compress all your clothes so you won’t struggle to close your suitcase when it’s time to head to the next city. Keep these travel accessories on you for emergencies. 

Universal Waterproof Case, JOTO Cellphone Dry Bag Pouch for iPhone X, 8/7/7 Plus/6S/6/6S Plus, Samsung Galaxy S9/S9 Plus/S8/S8 Plus/Note 8 6 5 4, Google Pixel 2 HTC LG Sony MOTO up to 6.0" – Black
via amazon.com

Waterproof phone case

Shop Now

Whether you’re on a guided tour of all the major sights in Rome or snorkeling off the coast of Thailand, it’s typical to rely on your smart phone’s camera for awesome pictures. But we all know that water is a cell phone’s mortal enemy—so what happens when you’re stuck in a surprise rain shower while photographing the Colosseum or need proof that you saw a rare Leopard shark in its natural habitat? Well, if you have the Joto Universal Waterproof Case, you’ll be able to snap Instagram-worthy shots without any fear of water ruining your phone. The dry bag fits most smartphones and the plastic window on both sides allows you to take crystal clear pictures. Be sure to check out the ultimate travel checklist to have everything you need for your next trip.

adorable kid sleeping in car with neck pillow
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

Neck Pillow

Shop Now

Getting 40 winks on your overseas flight can mean the difference between arriving in a new country bright-eyed and bushy-tailed or looking and acting like a wild animal. Be sure to pack a chin-supporting neck pillow, like the BCOZZY, which is a flexible, ergonomic neck pillow offering a unique structure that provides peripheral support to the head, neck, and chin in an upright sitting position. Fall asleep easily anywhere you sit (including a train or bus) and wake up without a sore neck—it’s adjustable so you can customize it to fit your personal comfort and support just the way you like it. As you lay back, you can listen to the iPhone white noise feature to help you easily fall into a slumber. If you haven’t had any luck sleeping on a plane before, check out these 14 secrets from seasoned travelers.

Pretty girl with boyfriend traveling on rickshaw through city streets, friendly talking with driver
Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock

Key phrases

Being able to speak even a few words in the local language while traveling can go a long way toward enhancing your experience. “I learn how to say hello, thank you, and please in the language before I visit a different country,” says Kiersten Likkel, cruise consultant, Cruise Specialists. “If you want to connect with people, making even the smallest effort to speak their language is always a barrier-breaker.” Available in 14 languages, from Spanish to Indonesian, the Babbel app will get you talking no matter your level—beginner, moderate, or advanced. Not only can you practice your language skills and work on your accent from the first lesson, but the content you learn can easily be applied to real-life situations, leaving you feeling at home around the world. While you’re at it, take the time to learn these 12 local customs so you don’t accidentally offend your new friends.

Electric power bar with many plugs,it is a power hub
Suwan Waenlor/Shutterstock

Surge protector

Shop Now

In some countries, electricity can be a bit iffy. Bringing your own surge protector will help protect your devices from getting fried during an electrical surge. Choosing one that offers three grounded outlets plus two USB ports, such as the Belkin SurgePlus USB Swivel Surge Protector and Charger, allows you to safely charge multiple devices simultaneously. Considering how few outlets most hotel rooms have, or how awkwardly they are usually placed, you’ll be grateful not having to choose between charging your cell phone before a full day of sightseeing and drying your hair.

Oh, and don’t forget to pack a key multi tool, either. It comes with all the essentials of a complete toolbox but takes up less than three inches of space.

Universal plugs adapters on wood background

Universal adapter

Shop Now

Your surge protector will likely need a little help to fit into the socket of your international hotel room—and that’s where an adapter comes into play. Different regions of the world use different plug shapes and sizes, so you’ll want to choose the correct one for the country you’re visiting. For example, most of Europe uses one type, but Italy and Switzerland each use something different. Ceptics offers separate options for each region of the world, or you can choose their universal adapter if you’re going to be traveling extensively and only want to carry one product. Make sure to avoid these travel mistakes to have the best vacation ever.

Foval Power Step Down 220V to 110V Voltage Converter with 4-Port USB International Travel Adapter for UK European Etc - [Use for US appliances overseas]
via amazon.com

Voltage converter

American appliances run on 110 volts, whereas European appliances are on 220. If you want to use your hair dryer, flat iron or electric shaver overseas, then you’ll need to use a converter. “It is important to make certain your electric device converts to the correct voltage to avoid frying your device,” says Erica Papley, group leader and business development specialist, All Aboard Travel. Your other option is to purchase dual-voltage appliances ahead of your trip—just make sure to adjust that switch before you plug them in; otherwise, you’ll fry the appliance and/or blow a fuse!

Thoughtful pretty afro-american woman in colorful blouse, wearing sunglasses, looking away. Outdoors.
Maksym Azovtsev/Shutterstock

Sunglasses and an extra pair of glasses

Shop Now

When you’re on a sightseeing-heavy trip, you want to make sure you can see all the sights clearly—and that means bringing a high-quality pair of sunglasses, especially if you’ll be spending time on water or snow. ”If you wear contact lenses or glasses, it’s also worth taking spares in case you lose or break them,” says Annie Foot, Africa travel expert for travel company Scott Dunn. “Also, bring a copy of your prescription, particularly if you have a complex prescription.” SportRx is a company built by active opticians who ride their bikes, run their races, and bomb down ski slopes; it specializes in custom prescription sunglasses for active individuals.


Travel Visa

Remember to check the current visa requirements of any countries you’re traveling to well ahead of time. “Even if you’ve been there before, there’s no guarantee that the visa rules are the same as the last time you visited,” says The Swedish Nomad travel blogger Alex Waltner. “If you’re unlucky, this could mean that you’ll be rejected entry to the country.” If you’re a U.S. citizen looking to travel abroad, begin by researching visa requirements here. Before you book anything, it’s also wise to check here for any travel advisories for your intended destination. Brush up on these 12 golden rules for stress-free air travel.


Depending on where you are headed, you may come into contact with diseases that are rare or nonexistent in the United States—such as malaria, yellow fever, cholera, and typhoid. As such, vaccines may be required (or, at the very least, recommended) before traveling to certain countries. Getting vaccinated will not only help keep you safe while traveling but will also help ensure you don’t bring any diseases back home to your loved ones. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains updated information on vaccination advice—keep in mind that some vaccinations require multiple rounds, so you may need to start several months ahead of your travels.

women is selecting credit card from her card wallet

RFID-blocking wallet

Shop Now

When traveling, it’s always important to be on the lookout for pickpockets because they are incredibly skilled at their craft. But petty thieves aren’t limited to picking pockets anymore: Hackers are essentially fancy pickpockets who can wirelessly gain access to your credit card data through radio frequency identification (RFID). An RFID-blocking wallet or purse is designed to prevent this problem. Stephanie Miller, founder of The Scenic Suitcase travel blog, recommends the SanSiDo RFID blocking leather passport cover and wallet combo, “which not only keeps my personal information and credit cards safe from compromise but also keeps me organized with multiple slip pockets.”

Cropped image of African american man holding passport and fly ticket in hands
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

Copies of important documents

Always bring copies of your passport with you, both a physical photocopy and a digital image stored on your phone. “In case you lose your original, or it’s stolen, you want to have at least two copies of it stored in separate areas for safety and security purposes,” says David Bakke, travel expert for Money Crashers. “Also, be sure to bring a list of the customer service numbers of the credit cards you’re bringing with you. That way, if there’s an issue, you can call immediately to have a stolen card or a fraudulent charge rectified or addressed.”

Close-up of Woman's hands plugging a mobile phone into a portable charger in a bar

Portable charger

Shop Now

It certainly doesn’t take much to wear down your smart phone’s battery, especially if you’re snapping a lot of photos and videos or using Google Maps to navigate a new city. The last thing you’d want is to run out of juice a few steps into walking along the Great Wall of China or when you’re trying to figure out what time the train to Amsterdam leaves Brussels. Stay charged anywhere with Belkin’s slim and lightweight power bank that fits in your pocket or purse. Its 10,000 mAh recharges a smartphone up to three times; its universal USB-A 2.4 amp port quickly and safely charges devices like smartwatches, fitness bands, headphones, speakers, action cameras, and Bluetooth-enabled devices.


Jill Schildhouse
As an editor-at-large for Reader's Digest, Jill Schildhouse regularly covers travel, wellness, food, beauty, consumer products and product reviews. She has more than 20 years of experience as an award-winning lifestyle writer and editor, and she frequently contributes to Travel + Leisure, Bride’s, Southern Living, Taste of Home and Insider. Jill has traveled to 36 countries and is always planning her next domestic or overseas adventure.