What You Must Do Before You Travel Internationally

Currency board

Currency board (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Packed and ready to go on your dream trip? Wondering what You Must Do Before You Travel Internationally?

This guide reveals what you need to know before you leave for your trip

The information comes from years of answering of client questions. If you have travel tips you’d like to add or questions to ask, please let me know!


Will I receive Luggage tags?

In most instances, no. In our modern techno-world, most cruise lines include a printable/foldable PDF to make into a luggage tag – even Cunard has paper luggage tags! Make sure to pre-register your booking with your address soon after the final payment. As an alternative, you can go to the pier and ask a porter for a “real” tag; just be sure to write your name and cabin number along with other requested information.

Will I receive Cruise “Tickets” in the mail?

In most instances, your electronic pre-registration will provide an electronic boarding pass to print out. Please pre-register soon after the final payment to ensure you have plenty of time to gather your documents and other required information. This process, which may appear cumbersome, will greatly speed your check-in at the pier and get you aboard much faster. Note: certain Luxury and Premium lines still prepare paper documents.

When do I show up at the pier for my cruise?

As a general guideline, plan on arriving between 12-1pm for Continental US departures. Keep in mind that ships are debarking passengers and need to receive clearance from the Coast Guard/local authorities prior to boarding. This is generally at 1pm or later but may occur earlier than listed. Arrive too early and you could be caught up in the departure traffic from the prior cruise, which is not advisable. Getting there after 2pm will result in the shortest lines, but why not wait in line and have the opportunity to start your vacation sooner? Please always refer to your boarding documents for more detailed information. Some cruise lines have started boarding times based upon deck or cabin category.

Can I take my own alcohol aboard on my cruise?

Wine and champagne are allowed on certain lines; please check with the cruise line for specifics. Consuming your own wine or champagne in the main dining room normally comes with a corkage fee. Please do not consider taking liquor aboard as the liquor will be confiscated and denial of boarding/disembarkation IS possible.

Also note that it is generally permissible to take your own cases of water aboard.


English: A flight coupon issued by Thai Airway...

English: A flight coupon issued by Thai Airways International (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Will I receive Airline Tickets in the mail?

It is exceedingly rare to receive paper tickets anymore. (When’s the last time you got a paper ticket on airline “stock?”) In most cases, you will take your confirmation number and pre-register on your carrier’s website.

What are my airline Seat assignments and can I make requests?

In some cases, the most economical fares do NOT allow advance seat assignments. Advance seats assignments are still available to a limited degree. Whenever you purchase your airfare with me, I will get seat assignments for you when possible. Additionally, I will look for options that are based upon your preferences. When advance seat assignments are not available, two options include paying for a higher fare class and paying for a seat assignment on the airline’s website (e.g., British Airways).

When do I check in for my flight? Boarding pass?

Generally, you may print your boarding pass starting within 24 hours of your departure flight. Check in online for flights as soon as possible (normally starting within 24 hours prior to your departing flight)…airlines have started bumping people who check in late! You may also wait until you get to the airport and check in at a self-service kiosk. At this time, you may have an opportunity for seat assignments or seat changes. Please be aware that arrival guidelines are two hours in advance for domestic flights and three hours in advance for international flights. These times are for arrival at the gate, NOT airport or security check-in.

Select automatic check in for return flights when offered while checking in for your outbound flight.

Many airlines now have an app which enables you to use your smart phone as your boarding pass as opposed to printing out a boarding pass. You can also print boarding passes in your cruise ship’s Internet center or your hotel’s business center for a fee.
How do I meet the driver/shuttle for my resort, tour, or cruise transfer?

Please refer to your transportation voucher/information in your Paper or eDocuments. Normally you will claim your baggage and proceed through customs first. Then, you will look for either a tour operator desk and check-in area or look for someone with your name on a sign to personally greet you. Again, please refer to your travel documents.
SPECIAL NOTE: If traveling to Cancun/Riviera Maya, walk through the terminal and speak only with your pre-designated transportation company – BEWARE of time share peddlers offering you a free ride to your resort!

All-Inclusive Resorts and Hotels

What do I need to check into the hotel/resort?

You will generally receive eDocs with a voucher for each hotel/resort. Please present the voucher upon check-in. Your travel docs will also include contact information for each property.

Do I need to wear wristbands at the all-inclusive resort?

Some require you to wear wristbands and some don’t; we’ll cover that when selecting the right properties for you.

Do I need to tip at the all-inclusive resort?

Generally no, but it’s up to your discretion in most cases. I hear many stories of tipping the bartender the first day of your stay. Note: some resorts actually prohibit tipping.

Do All-Inclusive Resort ever have extra charges?

Generally, there is a wide variety of food, drinks, and activities at better properties. Some activities like SCUBA, spa services, etc. will be extra. Some of the more entry-level resorts will have an upcharge at their a la carte restaurants. Nicer resorts may charge for a romantic dinner on the beach or full bottle of wine/wine not included on the All-Inclusive list.

Finally, upscale All-Inclusive resorts may include WiFi/Internet service at no charge along with traditional/VoIP calls back to the US.

Credit/Debit Cards and Foreign Currency

English: Sample ATM card which can be distingu...

English: Sample ATM card which can be distinguished from a credit card or debit card by the absence of such features as network logotype on the front. Created by Sergio Ortega on April 16, 2008, based on existing standards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do I need to get Foreign Currency prior to leaving for my trip?

Your destination determines your currency requirements. For places like the Caribbean/Bahamas/Bermuda, US dollars are often welcome and credit cards are usually the way to go, so don’t even worry about foreign currency.

For European land tours or cruises, please consider purchasing a small amount of Euros prior to your departure at a local bank as it may be a good idea to have some Euros in pocket. Withdrawing Euros from an in-country ATM may give you the most advantageous exchange rate.

Please complete these steps prior to leaving the US:

1) Call your bank or credit card company and make sure that the debit/credit card(s) of choice are able to be used overseas and can access foreign ATMs.
2) Inquire about a credit card “PIN Code.” Some European Merchants will ask for a PIN code when you present your card for a transaction.
3) Ensure that your PIN code is numeric only (some banks may use alpha characters in the US but European ATMs use numbers only.)

FX/Currency exchange kiosks in airports and tourist sites are not going to give you the best exchange rates. Again, credit cards are great for souvenirs and meals out. TIP: do consult with your card issuer for advice on best practices to limit FX charges. AND, please inquire about ATM card usage overseas. For Northern Europe, Mexico, and Asia, please contact us for more detailed information.

Cell/Smartphones, Laptops, Tablets, and other data things

Can I use a cell phone in a different country? Aboard the ship?

Please contact your service provider to determine if your phone will work and inquire about a short term international or country specific plan. For traveling in Europe, please contact us for more thorough options. Be aware that cellphones and 3/4G tablets generally work on ships but once a ship starts moving, they will try to move your phone onto their satellite repeaters at a very high per minute price. You may want to keep your phone off when moving and be aware of data charges while at sea and out of the continental US. Contact your wireless carrier to use the data off/international data roaming off, or airplane mode features on your phone. Finally, consider using the ship/resort Internet plan for email, browsing, social, etc. Note: Skype or similar services do not work aboard ships at this time.

Can I use my Laptop during my trip, and is there /WiFi/High-speed Internet access?

Virtually all ships offer Ethernet/Wi-Fi access. The service is most often for a fee and unpredictable due to limited bandwidth, high demand, and varying signal strength at sea. (If you have read this far, I hail from the telecommunications industry.) With that in mind, please sign up for a pre-paid package on the day of embarkation for a “discount” plan rather than using pay-as-you-go minutes. TIP: Since the rates are always somewhat expensive, consider visiting Internet cafes or souvenir shops in port that normally offer Internet access for very reasonable prices (libraries also offer free access!). For hotels/resorts, please contact us and we will provide specific details for your property.

Can I use my charger? Do I need an adapter?

Small appliances (curling irons, travel irons, electric razors, etc.) are on different electrical voltage than the U.S. The cruise ships aren’t a problem because they usually have dual voltage, but hotels in Europe and other places usually don’t and you’ll need to bring an adapter. Please do NOT bring any type of iron aboard a cruise ship.

Make sure to check with your cell phone/smart phone/tablet manufacturer/carrier for the correct adapter and/or converter for the countries you are visiting.

Tips and Gratuities

Am I expected to tip the Guide/Driver?

Providing a gratuity to your guide or driver is strictly optional but greatly appreciated by the people taking care of you. A commonly accepted guideline is USD $3.00 per person for a half-day tour and USD $5.00 per person for a full-day tour. (I recently had super clients who tipped their driver and private guide 50 Euros after buying them Gelato for a private Vatican and Rome tour!)

Do you tip a transfer or taxi?

Again, strictly optional but at your discretion.

How does tipping work on a cruise?

The definition of a tip or gratuity on a cruise is getting increasingly complex as most are automatically added to your account every day. Some cruise lines now call gratuities “service charges” but force you to pay them. The days of distributing tips to your service workers on the last night are all but vanished. Sometime, mass-market and premium lines may offer free gratuities on a promotion. Luxury ocean lines and some river cruise lines may include these “service charge” in their fare which provides a better feel for your true travel budget.
Note that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity require pre-paid gratuities if you select their flexible dining plans.

If service fees are mandatory why not just include them into the cruise fare?

I have only a hypothetical explanation, but leaving these charges out makes the cruise look less costly. My mission is to help you evaluate the total cost of everything to come home from your vacation. IMHO, if these fees wind up being paid, I’d like to see them included!