I just took my first vacation outside the U.S., had a blast, and learned a ton regarding what to do and what not to do the next time around.

1. Learn The Language

Thank god for those five years of Spanish classes. Though it wasn’t entirely necessary, understanding a moderate amount of Spanish definitely made my trip to Cancun that much more enjoyable. I can assure you that the more prepared you are for your trip, the better it will be- exponentially.

2. Book Through A Travel Agent

Unless you’re a pro traveler or traveling with an educational institution, book your trip through a travel agent. That being said, don’t just settle for the first agency you find. Shop around and make sure you and your agent click. The reason I stress going through a travel agent is because they can find you better deals concerning airfare, hotels, transportation, and activities using their companies clout. For example, we booked a dolphin excursion with our travel agent. The same excursion was double the price through the representative at our resort.

3. Don’t Go Nuts With Activities

If you’re only vacationing for a week I’d say book only one activity, two max. Remember (depending on how chipper you are after a long flight) you’re losing two days to plane travel. So that leaves you with five days. Unless you’re an adrenaline junky, the point of a relaxing vacation is to relax. Seeing all the crazy things you can do may make you temporarily forget that point, and you may be kicking yourself later if you overbook.

4. Decline Extras

If you decide to book a few activities or do anything outside of your itinerary, decline any offers for an upgrade or a picture package or whatever it may be. These things tend to be overpriced. They’ll either come back to you with a lower price or let you go. Trust your instincts. If something seems way overpriced, it most likely is. We were offered a package of 66 pictures for $140. We were like, “Ah, no way.” They came back with a lower price which we declined, then came back again with a still pricey yet reasonable $80.

5. Tip Your Servers

At an all-inclusive you’re not required to tip. If you can, you should anyway. You don’t have to do the 20% thing like here in America. We tipped $5 for lunch and $10 for dinner and could tell our servers appreciated it. It’s just a nice thing to do.

6. Bring A Good Amount Of Cash

Though credit cards were widely accepted where we were in Mexico, there were a few situations where we needed cash. We brought $500 in cash and ran out the last day- which turned out to be the day we actually needed cash for something. I had to hit up an ATM and got slapped with a $20 foreign transaction fee which could have easily been avoided. So, bring enough cash that you can leave your debit card home, bring a credit card, and notify your financial institution(s) that you’ll be traveling abroad.

7. Plan Ahead

Research where you’re going. Download maps if they’re available. Make sure your pets are taken care of. Have someone grab your mail while you’re gone. Set up Wi-Fi calling on your phone or download an app like WhatsCall or Google Duo (or the iOS equivalent) to avoid a huge phone bill waiting for you at home. Now this seems like a weird tip- but you should hit the gym a few days a week for a month before you leave and take some probiotics. Different climate, different food, different time zone- this could be a potential recipe for disaster if you’re not in good health. But most importantly, if you book through a travel agent- buy travelers insurance. I think it cost us around $60. Unexpected things happen. If you need to cancel for any reason, you’ll only lose $60 instead of thousands. Like I said before, the more prepared you are, the more amazing your trip will be. Happy traveling!