For some people, international travel is a routine part of life. But for others, traveling overseas is the culmination of a lifelong dream. Many folks may go on such a trip only once or twice in their lives.
If you’re thinking about planning your first trip abroad, chances are you’re racked with worry while also suppressing your excitement.
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While I can’t predict where you’ll go or what you’ll do, every international trip comes down to planning and preparation.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at seven essential steps toward preparing for your first trip overseas:
Unless you plan on sneaking across the border (which is not advisable), you’ll need a passport to travel overseas. Applying for a passport is time-consuming, requiring proof of citizenship, a recent photo, and money to cover fees and shipping. While most passport applications are approved within a few weeks, it usually takes months and some people have their applications rejected and must reapply.
With this in mind, it’s essential for those planning overseas travel to start the passport application process several months before their trip. The last thing you want is to be ready to go on the trip of a lifetime only to discover you lack the proper documentation to do so.
And hey, if you are a veteran traveler, make sure you keep note of your passport expiration date. Most countries require 6 months worth of validity. I have seen people arrive at the airport and be turned away because their passport was expiring within the window!
Once you’ve decided where you’re going, the next step is researching the destination. Language, climate, culture, food, and transportation are just some of the things you should be somewhat mindful of before arrival. While no one expects you to be fluent in French upon arrival in Paris, having a basic understanding of common words and phrases is a tremendous advantage.
It also makes it easier to get yourself in the good graces of locals who may otherwise be unwilling or unable to provide help and guidance. A brief history lesson doesn’t hurt either!
Regarding health and overseas travel, because of recent events, most people think about vaccines against infectious diseases. While travel vaccinations are a crucial part of international travel, they’re not the only factor to consider when considering health and wellness.
For instance, taking a food sensitivity test (Mr. Misadventures and I both just did this!) before your trip can be beneficial in helping you avoid certain dishes that might cause you grief. Who wants to spend the entire trip stuck to the toilet? Speaking of which, make yourself a small kit of medicines that includes things for indigestion! I am a big fan of probiotics to prevent stomach issues.
Lastly, consider scheduling a routine medical exam before your trip to prevent underlying health problems from interfering with your travel plans.
Modes of transportation vary significantly from one region to the next. For instance, in the United States, the car is king, while in Europe, trains are the best way to get around. It’s a good idea to look into transportation beforehand and plan accordingly.
Something as seemingly insignificant as the trip from the airport to the hotel must be ironed out in terms of transportation. Otherwise, you might be in for a bad time.
Before you leave look for transportation apps for the specific city or country you are visiting. Examples are the Paris metro app of the Lisbon bus app, they really are lifesavers!
Popular tourist destinations tend to be hives for petty criminals. It’s that way everywhere. As an inexperienced traveler, it’s essential to safeguard yourself against scams and other criminal threats. I recommend reading Rick Steves’ guide on avoiding tourist scams and rip-offs.
Most petty criminals targeting tourists tend to fall back on the same tried and true scams, making this a handy guide no matter where you’re headed.
Let’s say you lose your passport or suspect it was stolen. What happens next? Typically, you head to your nearest consulate or embassy, where they begin the process of helping you obtain the documentation needed to make it back home. I worked in the American Embassy in Madrid for one summer and it was my job to help people exactly in this situation!
With this in mind, always remember to look up your home country’s nearest diplomatic outpost. Also, make copies of important documents and keep them separate from your passport. Separate your money put it in different places as well.
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” We all know the first half of that saying, but the second half is almost unheard of. It means following the traditions and customs of a place you visit.
Always remember, you are in their country, subject to their laws and cultural practices. You might not always like what you see, but keeping an open mind is crucial to being a respectful world traveler.
Is overseas travel something you’ve always dreamed of doing? If so, that’s great! But before you take off, it pays to be prepared!
How about you? Do you have any additional tips for someone preparing for their first trip? Do share!
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