It’s very apparent via my blog and my Instagram page that I recently traveled across the pond to London and Paris.
Technically, this was not my first time traveling to another country. My first trip outside of the United States was to the Bahamas – which I am dying to go back and visit – but this trip across the pond was the first time I experienced a language barrier and having to convert currency. We were fortunate that in the Bahamas they spoke English and their dollar was worth the same as the U.S. dollar. Since I experienced more new things during this recent trip, I learned a few things that I wish I had known before I went. If you haven’t traveled internationally and are planning to in the future here are a few things I would suggest.
Just the other day I was waiting on an oil change in my car and I met this sweet girl in the lobby who was telling me about a trip she had planned with her sister to Madrid. They were planning a big birthday trip in June since they both had June birthdays. She had mentioned she wasn’t sure what to do about her phone until I told her about my own struggle. I had called my cell phone provider and added an international travel plan for the week I was gone. When I arrived in London, however, my phone would not work. Luckily, I had ordered a sim card (that I almost sent back because I was told by my cell carrier that I would be ok) and having the international sim card saved me numerous times! The only downfall was that I was only able to text those who had an iPhone. The sim card I ordered allowed me to have data, text and call capabilities. We used the GPS a lot for walking directions numerous times and having the data to do that saved not only time but frustrations since we did not know where we were going. Instead of calling your cell phone provider, I would definitely recommend getting a sim card for your international travels to stay connected and of course post your Instagram photos!
I bought a really cute Kate Spade passport cover when I went to the Bahamas, however, the functionality of it wasn’t the best for my most recent trip. It worked when I went to the Bahamas because I carried it in my cross body bag and didn’t need to keep train/flight tickets in it. With my trip to Paris and London, we started in London then went to Paris for a few days and then back to London. We also traveled via train/subway quite a bit. So I was constantly getting my passport out or digging for my wallet or tickets and all the things needed to get from one place to another. As cute as my passport cover is, it’s just that, a cover. Next time I travel internationally I will definitely use an actual wallet that will hold my passport, tickets and cards.
I just ordered this one and its under $10! Women RFID Blocking Wallet, Teoyall Travel Passport PU Leather Long Trifold Wallet (Black)
My original plan was to exchange my currency when I arrived in Paris and London. I brought a small amount of cash with me and planned to use my cards. Turns out, I really didn’t need the cash at all. The only time you would need cash in either of those cities is if you plan to order from a street vendor but these street vendors are prime spots for pick pocketers as well. I took two cards with me my debit card and my Southwest Airlines card (gotta get those points for more travel!). There are also numerous ATM’s available to get cash out if it is an absolute must. Just be sure you call your debit/credit card providers to tell them you are traveling so your card doesn’t get blocked and to check to see if there will be any international fees charged for your purchases.
One thing I was worried about was frying my phone…turns out I fried my hair straightener instead. One thing to keep in mind is you need a wall adapter and wall adapters typically do not convert voltage. Somehow, I was lucky enough to use a hair dryer and straightener with a regular adapter without converting voltage. I brought both a wall adapter and a voltage converter that was designed for hair tools – unfortunately, it not only fried my straightener, the straightener fried my hair…even on low. I was able to borrow a straightener from a friend on the trip and we just used a regular wall adapter.
Here are a couple I would recommend:
Insten Universal World Wide Travel Charger Adapter Plug, White
Taxi’s and Uber’s can get very expensive. A friend and I learned the hard way when we got a taxi from the airport to the Harry Potter Studio Tour – $200 US FUNDS! It’s almost embarrassing to admit to that. The best, cost-effective way to get around is to travel via train and subway. It also is the quickest! The traffic in London can be very congested and there were times in Paris the drivers were quite frightening. We had an Uber driver take out a mirror on a bus and hit a curb, in less than 5 minutes. There were times it was almost quicker for us to walk the long distances than it was for us to use an Uber. Definitely do your research on what trains will be best for you and the routes you will be taking during your trip so that you can see if you will be close to train stations or not and if it will be easier to take the train or an Uber.
Seeing The Most For Your Budget
City Passes will be your friend! We bought The London Pass and not only did we get to see about everything on our list, the pass also gave us discounts at shops! This was a hop-on-hop-off bus tour around the city so this also saved us on some travel costs to all the major monuments we were able to see. This is definitely something I wish we had done in Paris.
These are just a few things I learned during my recent vacation and I know that each persons experience will be a little different. However, if I can help one person save money or time then the experiences I had learning the hard way will have paid off. I can’t recommend traveling either locally or internationally enough. There is so much to be seen, heard and tasted – crêpes in Paris are heavenly!
Wishing you safe and happy travels on your next trip, near or far!