Planning Your First International Trip

International travel can be very overwhelming, especially your first time. There are so many steps involved in the planning, from entry into the country, transportation, accommodations, and activities. It is easy to forget or overlook a step, but to minimize stress and last-minute hassles be sure to complete the following tasks with plenty of time.

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1- Determine your destination

Okay, this one is kind of obvious. You can’t travel if you don’t have a destination to travel to. This step certainly seems like it should be the easy part-but that is not always the case, especially if you have a bucket list that spans the length of the Great Wall of China. You can find tips for determining your next travel destination here

2- Determine how long you will travel/when you will travel

Once you have determined where you are going determine how long the trip will be. Is it a short 5 or 10 day trip or will you be staying for a month, six months, or longer?

You also need to determine when you will travel. Do some research and determine the best time of year to go to your chosen destination, keeping in mind special events and festivals that may be going on throughout the year.

3- Determine what type of trip you will be taking

Will be you traveling for a short duration of time or will it be an extended trip? Will it be a budget trip or luxurious trip? Will you be backpacking, camping, or staying in hotels? Pinpointing what type of trip you want to take will further direct you as to the next steps you need to take and prepare you for creating your trip budget.

4-Determine potential costs and start planning your budget

Now that you have determined the where, length, and what of the trip you can develop some sort of idea of the cost of the trip and begin to build your budget. Be sure to include air fares, ground transportation, international travel fees, accommodations, activities, food, tips, parking fees, and rental car fees. You will also want to be sure to set aside some money for emergencies, you never know what could happen.

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When you decide how much money you will need, you can then begin saving. Often times money seems to be an issue and can be a hinderance to you taking your dream vacation. However, there are simple, every day things that you can do to build up your trip funds. For example, cutting out frequent fast food stops will give you the extra money that may get you to your destination. For more ideas on how to save money for your upcoming trip click here.

5-Get your passport or check your expiration date

This step is essential (obviously) for any international trip. If you do not yet have your passport be sure to order in plenty of time before your departure date (at least 6 months) to ensure arrival on time. If you are already a passport holder be sure to check the expiration date and verify it is not within 6 months of your travel date. It is always better to give yourself more time than to be sorry later on! If need be make sure that you have renewed your passport.

6-Get Global Entry

Global Entry will expedite the process of getting into a foreign country and will allow you to skip the lines. It will save you lots of stress!

7-Check Visa requirements for your travel destination

Different countries have different visa requirements for visitors wishing to enter the country. Before traveling make sure that you are verifying what documents are needed to enter the country and ensure that you have what you need for every person in your travel party.

US citizens can check visa requirements at https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country.html.

U.K. Citizens can check Visa requirements at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Canadian Citizens can check Visa requirements at https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories

Australian citizens can check visa requirements at https://dfat.gov.au/travel/visas/Pages/visas-for-australians-travelling-overseas.aspx

Whichever country you are from, be sure to check the visa requirements for your destination.

8- Check what immunizations are required/recommended for your destination  

Before you travel you will want to check and make sure that you have all required/recommended vaccinations for your destination. This information can be found here https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list/

This will minimize potential illness and increase your family’s safety while traveling abroad. Be sure to receive any needed vaccinations at least a month prior to travel to ensure your body has had enough time to adjust.

9-Book your flight

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Once you have figured out where and when, have your budget planned out, and all your paperwork in order book your flight and set the wheels in motion! Do some research and look into different airline choices to find the best deal before booking.

10-Book your accommodations

Determine what kind of accommodations you are looking for and then do some research to find the perfect location for you. It may be right in the center of a city with easy access to your points of interest or it may be out in the country away from the crowds. Whatever the case may be for you, decide what it is and book your accommodations ahead of time. 

11-Plan your itinerary

Who else agrees this is the fun part? Determine what you want to do on your trip, what sights you want to see, what activities you want to do, and when you want to do them. I recommend planning out the must see attractions for you and then loosely filling in the things you would like to do/see but are not essential. Always leave space for relaxation and last minute itinerary changes.

12- Determine your mode of transportation

Determine how you will get around when you get to your destination. Will you drive? If so, make sure that you have checked the requirements for international driving for your destination. Will you take a bus? Get around on foot? Train? However you plan on doing it be sure to include the cost of your chosen form of transportation in your budget.

13-Get travel insurance

Getting travel insurance should be on your list. I will admit I often times will opt out of getting travel insurance, but when you are traveling internationally and have out a great deal of time and money into the trip travel insurance is something you are going to want! You never know what could happen and it is always better to be prepared.

14-Notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans

I can’t tell you how many times my card has been flagged with fraud alerts while traveling. A simple phone call or visit to the bank to let them know you are traveling and when you will be traveling will prevent this from happening.

15-Make copies of all your travel documents

Travel documents are essential for any trip. They are something that you don’t want to lose and if you do you want to have a spare! Be sure that you have the originals and one or two copies of each.

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16-Check with your wireless provider regarding international travel.

Before leaving for your trip ensure that you have verified that your cell phone will work or that you have purchased an appropriate international plan/SIM card. Determine if your phone is unlocked so that you can get a SIM card at your destination (if your phone is locked and your cell phone provider does not exist in your destination country you will not be able to connect to an available service provider).

I would recommend telling your family/friends to contact you via email or social media messaging because as long as you have internet access you will be able to get in contact with them while abroad.

17-Familiarize yourself with the country’s culture

Different countries have different expectations about what is acceptable behavior. Familiarize yourself with how the locals define acceptable social behavior and any specific acts/gestures that may be deemed inappropriate for the country you are in. Dress is another important factor that you should take into consideration. Certain countries have stricter guidelines about what they find acceptable for dress. Familiarize yourself with this before you enter the country. Always be respectful of the culture you are entering into!

18-Learn basic language words/phrases

Before traveling to a country with a language that you do not speak take some time to learn at least some basic words/phrases. It will lessen the culture shock and will also likely gain you some respect from the locals. Learn the basic, every day phrases, such as hello, goodbye, thank you, bathroom, food, drink, numbers, medical needs, and allergies. If you are planning on driving in the country make sure you are familiar with the road signs and what they mean.

19-Register with your embassy

Registering with your embassy will provide extra security for you and will allow the government to easily contact you with safety alerts while you are traveling.

20-Enjoy the Trip!

All the hard work is done and all this planning should eliminate any travel hassles you may face. Enjoy the ride and enjoy your destination!

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