Eloping Abroad: Tips, Tricks, and Good-to-knows
This post could just be titled “Finishing Strong When Traveling Abroad” because many of these suggestions are targeted towards those traveling internationally. However, many couples who do elope end up eloping abroad – meaning they decide to visit another country! Whether this is the first time you’ve ever heard the term “destination elopement” or your first time traveling abroad, there are a few steps to consider to make your experience safe and seamless.
Tips for Eloping Abroad
International Data Plans
This one’s pretty much a no-brainer, but easy to forget because of the natural convenience our phones come with. Depending on your service provider and the duration of your trip, the most economical decision may be to pay for an entire month of international data rather than paying by the day.
A word of advice on this… During my first trip outside the US, I decided to add an entire month of international data. Unfortunately, Verizon failed to remove the expanded coverage after the first month and they continued to charge us for two more months. Because of this, I always advise people to double check their plan after they return home and make sure they didn’t pay for anything they didn’t use.
Credit Cards Without International Transaction Fees
This is, without a doubt, my biggest piece of advice for anyone traveling abroad! First of all, a credit card in general is super important to have along with you. It certainly isn’t a necessity, but if something goes wrong and you find yourself without enough cash, a credit card ensures you have something. Another benefit to having a credit card when traveling internationally is that because you are borrowing money from the bank, every transaction is validated before it comes out of pocket. This means credit cards come with a built in insurance policy in case of fraud or theft.
One last bonus with the credit cards is that many of them come with a points system. This means every time you swipe your card, you’re technically earning money back. With cash or debit, you’re essentially leaving money on the table! I personally have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and I don’t have enough good things to say about it. I earn one cent for every dollar spent, and two for every dollar spent on travel or dining. The cherry on top? If you spend a certain amount within the first four months, you automatically earn 60,000 bonus points, which equates to $850 towards travel!
My recommendation to you…
Sign up for the card before you start planning your elopement and earn points as you plan!
Exchange Your Currency Wisely
Many people end up exchanging their currency at the airport. However, these convenience booths often rob you with transaction fees and other services fees. In my experience, I’ve found that banks and credit unions are often the best place to do this. With this option, you can either order money through your own back at home before you leave, or exchange your US cash at a local bank after you arrive in the foreign country.
You also have the option of ordering money though an online currency converter where cash is delivered to your home. However, these services often have higher exchange rates than banks (although not as high as airport kiosks).
Whatever you do, I always warn people against withdrawing money at a random ATM on the street. These ATMs have high tendency for fraud as they are easy enough for any person on the street to tamper with.
Prepare for the Long Haul
Long legged flights are just how they sound… long. Anything you can do to keep yourself hydrated and comfortable will make a last impression on your overall travel experience. Over the years, I’ve developed a “travel bag” of all my own little necessities for flying. Of course you can survive a long-haul flight without these items, but they definitely make for an overall more comfortable experience.
Hydration system (aka a water bottle!).
To me, this is the most important thing you can bring with you when traveling or eloping abroad. Not only does it become helpful once you actually arrive for your destination elopement, but dehydration is one of the leading causes of illness when flying. Dehydration of the mucous membranes (yuck, I know, but it had to be said) increases your chances of contracting illness. Ever hear of people catching a cold or respiratory infection every time they travel abroad? Yeah, it happens a lot. I just can’t say enough things about staying hydrated when flying, but I won’t bog you down… here’s a great read from Lonely Planet that will help explain even more.
Moisturizers for hands and face.
No, this is not me being high maintenance. Because cabin air only has about 20-30% of the normal humidity levels we’re used to, the dry air will steal any moisture from your hands and face, which can leave you uncomfortable for days. By protecting your skin with a good moisturizer, you can easily prevent all of this discomfort while traveling abroad.
We all know how dirty airplanes can be. However, because of the circulating air, there isn’t too much we can do to prevent illness other than staying hydrated! However, hand sanitizer one other thing we can easily do to add a little extra insurance.
Ear buds or noise cancelling headphones.
Out of all the little luxuries I bring with me when I fly, this is one I continuously forget. Many of the long haul flights will come with a television on the back of the seat preloaded with movies and television shows. Airlines do often provide headphones, but more often than not these headphones either hardly work or don’t properly fit. I always do my best to bring my own earbuds when traveling abroad, and noise cancelling headphones make for an even more comfortable flight experience. Just be aware that these often work via Bluetooth, which the airplane TVs do not have. This means your headphones will likely have to be plugged in to work.
Okay okay, this may be me approaching high maintenance, but I swear it makes my travel experience so much better. For me, other than dehydration, there’s nothing worse than not having a proper pillow or neck support. On long flights, I always do my best to bring a pashmina or blanket scarf to snuggle up under. Another little word of advice – dress in layers! I’ve been on flights that were freezing cold and others that were stifling. You never know what you’re gonna get.
Don’t forget the aspirin and Dramamine! If you’re flying for more than four hours, you’ll definitely feel a bit restless at some point during your flight. The longer your muscles are stagnant, the higher your risk for blood clots and muscle spasms. To alleviate these from happening, I recommend *taking aspirin before and during your flight to thin your blood a little bit. Also, if you’re one for motion sickness or have a hard time sleeping on planes, I would definitely recommend bringing along Dramamine.
*Disclaimer: I am not a physician, and certainly not your physician. Please consult with your physician and consider your own personal health before taking certain medications.
Bring Reliable Hiking Gear
You’re probably going to be doing a lot of walking on your elopement day. Even if you aren’t planning a hike-in elopement celebration, at some point during the day you’re likely going to be doing some sort of exploration. Whether its hiking boots or waterproof hiking sandals, you’ll definitely want to take your location into consideration before packing footwear.
For example, if you plan on exploring waterfalls, you’ll want waterproof shoes with good tread to keep you safe from slipping. If you plan on exploring beaches, heavy hiking boots may collect sand and cause you a difficult time walking. If you plan on hiking up the side of a mountain, you’ll want supportive shoes with good tread to keep you from tripping.
You’ll also want to consider a backpack and waterproof jacket. You never know when the rain might start coming down! In fact, one of the best investments we’ve made for our travels has been our anti-theft backpacks and lightweight rain jackets. We feel so much better knowing our belongings are safe and dry no matter what the weather does.
One last word of advice for those eloping abroad: If you are eloping at a destination known for cold or windy weather, I highly recommend bringing and wearing leggings or some other form of under-armor under your wedding attire. If you’re worried about it being seen under your attire, look into nude or white options.
Do Your Transportation Research
In some places its better to rely on public transportation and shuttle services such as Uber or Lyft, while others may require you to rent your own car. It all depends on the location!
For example, some countries such as Iceland and the Faroe Islands are so small and remote that they haven’t developed a reliable public transportation system. In these instances, I would recommend renting your own car. However, many European countries and the UK have mastered public transportation and have many options available including buses, trains, subway systems, and shuttle services, all of which are readily available and super affordable. In these cases, especially if you don’t plan on leaving the city very much, I would recommend skipping the car rental and instead use public options.
Unless you’re staying somewhere with your own parking spot, you’re likely to spend too much time and money finding a place to park in most cities. However, even if you aren’t much of an adventurer, I always suggest trying to get out of the city for at least part of your trip and don’t be afraid to get a little lost. These are often the most exciting and most beautiful days of any trip!
Whatever you do, avoid tour buses at all costs! While it sounds tempting to hop on a bus and let the driver escort you to all the “must see” locations, these buses often have thirty to fifty other people on them all going to the same places you’re going. This means a strict timeline as well as no quiet or alone time – elements you’ll want to avoid during your elopement experience.
Other Tips and Tricks for Traveling and Eloping Abroad:
- Invest in a universal outlet adapter and converter kit like this one
- Stay in an AirBnb or VRBO to experience the convenience and comfort of home while spending much less than you would for a comparable hotel.
- Cook your own meals! Book a hotel with a fridge and microwave or an AirBnb/VRBO with a kitchen and do a little grocery shopping. Not only will you save money, but eating familiar meals can save you from home sickness (or actual sickness).
- Pack a few reusable shopping bags! If I plan on doing any shopping what-so-ever, I always do my best to pack a few reusable bags. Many grocery stores overseas don’t even offer bags at checkout or will charge you for every bag you use. Good for the environment, good for your wallet = a win win.
- Have the best time! Take lots of photos, then come home and host a viewing party with your favorite people! Walk them through the photos and tell them all your favorite stories. Don’t be afraid to be proud of your incredible experience!
Other Elopement Planning Resources
I’ve been a bride and I’ve photographed weddings. No matter how small or how grand your wedding is, it’s going to fly by in the blink of an eye. With so many things happening at once, its easy to overlook