Do you feel that? That itch that can’t be scratched by any old trip? Oh no. NO, what you are feeling is the sweet sting of the travel bug. Thinking about planning to travel the world? Seeing different sights. Experiencing different cultures. Sound fun! remember before you jump and book that ticket. Take a deep breath and repeat after me: the amount of effort you put into planning your trip will determine how much you will enjoy your trip.
We know it can be daunting to remember everything. Where does one even start? Fear not! We are here to give you step-by-step tips and tricks to help get you prepared for your trip overseas.
Table of Contents
Step one: check your passport and book appointments for required VISAS
Make sure your passport is valid and up to date. If you are planning a few months ahead of time also check to see that it won’t be expiring close to that timeframe. If the time looks too close for comfort, have it renewed to cut any chance of danger about that. Next up: check the country you are planning to go to and see if you need any legal documentation such as a visa.
You can do this via the State Department websites for your own country as well as the one you are planning to visit. Book the appointments ahead of time to ensure that your passport gets back to you before you leave. You can also make hard copies and digital copies of other documents. Such as your identification book, driver’s license, medical records (see step 2), etc.
Pro tip: Always keep an eye on that expiration date. Rather renew it sooner than later, particularly if you are getting a VISA that lasts longer than a few months.
Step two: update your medical records
Make sure that you look up the medical requirements for the country you are planning to visit. As soon as you have that information, make an appointment with your local doctor. Explain to your doctor you will be traveling and you need to update all your shots as well as the ones required by the country you are planning to visit.
Pro tip: seeing an international doctor can be very expensive. Or, sometimes they are not available if you are traveling through more rural areas. In some cases they are available but the language barrier is causing you stress. That’s why it’s always a good idea to ask your doctor to write you a prescription for medicine that you might need. Colds and flu. Upset stomachs. Anti-biotics. Motion sickness. As well as any other medication that you take.
Step three: do your research
With the state of the world, it would be a good idea to check on the country you are planning to visit. Make sure to look at places that are tourist-friendly. Look up areas that are considered safe and that do not have high crime rates. Make sure to know the area that you are booking your hotel. Register your trip with the local Department of Consular Information Program.
It is also a good idea to sign up for the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (STEP), to keep you updated on any travel warnings or updates. Watch the news, read up on the country you are planning to visit to stay informed on the situation there.
Pro tip: Read reviews to make sure previous tourists had a good experience there before you book a hotel. You will see through the comments and reviews if the experience is as good as the pictures on their website.
Step four: check your finances
The most important thing you can do is to let your bank know you are planning a trip. Tell them where you are going and when you are leaving. Sometimes banks will see transactions being made from a foreign country and think it’s fraudulent.
They will then freeze your cards leaving you without the necessary funds. It is also a good idea to look up the exchange rate in the country you are visiting. Do research on how much things cost over there and make sure you have enough to work with that comfortably.
Pro tip: Look up places to exchange your bills on forums. Plenty of places have a large fee for exchanging bills for foreign currency so make sure that you aren’t getting ripped off. It happens to the best of us.
Step five: get a legal International Driver’s License
If you are planning to rent a car be sure to get a permit. Go to your local Department of Traffic and get the necessary documents that you will need when applying for an international permit. Be sure to include your insurance company on this as well. They will need you to sign some papers to update your account for the time you are overseas.
Pro tip: Familiarize yourself with the laws and rules of the road in the country you are planning on visiting. You will need to know that in case you accidentally do something wrong. You can contact the foreign embassies for their rules and regulations.
Step six: lookup Exit and Entrance fees
Familiar yourself with the Consular Information Program. It is the most reliable source of information regarding this topic. It will tell you whether or not you need to pay an exit or entrance fee for your specific country. Sometimes Visas are not required for a period of time but you will need proof of payment when entering certain countries.
Step seven: get to know the country you are visiting
It’s always good to know the basics. For example how to introduce yourself. How to ask for a cab. How not to insult people’s cultures by accident. All these are good examples of what you need to know before you get on that plane. If you have any food or medical allergies it’s a good idea to have them written down in English as well as a translated version printed on a card or on your phone. That way you will feel a lot safer when ordering foreign delicacies.
Pro tip: Contact your hotel and make sure that they keep a record of your allergies. That way they can work around them to make sure that you are safe and still enjoy their food. Do this with any trip or activity you plan that involves food.
Step eight: get guidebooks of the area
The world is a lot smaller today with the internet. However, you are not familiar with their cell service. You might get a spot where your phone is not getting a signal or there is no Wi-Fi available. A guidebook will be a great help to identify where you are, what is close to you, and where your nearest internet cafe is. A guidebook also has a lot of little details about the area that you may have missed on the website. They are very handy and travel-friendly.
Pro tip: make sure to research the local service providers in that area. Keep your data bundles only for when there is no Wi-Fi available. You might need it later. Safe the hotel’s number on your phone along with the local authorities’ number. It is also a good idea to have the embassies number of your country as well. Just in case.
Step nine: update your electronics
No, don’t buy a new phone, silly. Stock up on adaptors and connection cables. It will not be good for you when you get there and your charger does not work with the foreign plugs. It is always a good idea to get a universal adapter, that way you’re good for whatever plug situation gets thrown your way.
Pro tip: check the voltage of all your electronics. If they don’t match, get a voltage adaptor to keep your devices or electronics from blowing out the power grid.
Step ten: pack light
The first rule of international travel: the heavier the bag the more miserable the traveler. If you are going for two weeks pack enough for just that. Maybe downsize even a little more. You are going to want to buy souvenirs and things like that so make sure you leave some space for them. Be sure to check the weather too and pack accordingly.
Pro tip: one suitcase and a backpack will get you pretty far. Be sure to not mention that detail to the wife. We don’t like that.
Step eleven: book events and trips in advance
There is nothing quite as disappointing as looking forward to doing something and finding out the next available appointment is in three years. Book all of your trips and events far in advance. Make use of professional and trustworthy companies to book your tours.
Pro tip: Half-day. Full day. Half-day. Rest. Repeat. That is the magic formula for doing fun things while not killing yourself doing so. Remember jet lag is real and it is no friend to anyone.
Step twelve: engulf yourself in the new
One thing a lot of new travelers forget to do is understand and enjoy something new. Be it culture, food, or experiences. Skip the fast food you eat every week and try something traditional. Take photos. Yes, you look like a stupid tourist but this your time. Your adventure.
Don’t let that stop you from making insane memories. Respect the fact that locals are opening their arms to you. Respect their culture. Value the experience. Most importantly: WEAR SUNSCREEN. No one wants to feel like they are on fire every waking moment. A day of walking is just as bad as laying in the sun too long. Apart from that, just enjoy it.
Pro tip: Hat, shades and a portable adaptor/charging brick are your new best friends. Get to know them.