After years of saving and planning, you’ve finally been able to hit “Purchase” on those plane tickets! If you’re like us, the next thing you probably want to do is grab your passport and head out the door right now. But big international trips require some planning and doing some prep work before you pack your bag can help you make sure your trip goes as well as possible.
There are a few tried-and-true travel tips that can help you have the adventure of a lifetime. Read on to discover what you need to do before you jump on a plane for your next trip.
Take Care of Home Concerns
Before you jet off across the world, you need to make sure everything at home will be taken care of while you’re gone. If you have any pets, make arrangements with a pet sitter or boarder. And depending on how long you’re going to be gone, you may want to arrange for someone to pick up your mail, water your plants, and check on your house.
Before you leave, fill a cup with water and put it in the freezer until it’s solid. Then set a quarter on top of the ice and leave it in the freezer; when you come back, if the quarter is sunken into the ice, you’ll know your power went out, compromising your food. The deeper the quarter is in the glass, the greater the chance that your food is bad.
Plan Your First and Last Days
When you’re traveling, your first and last days are likely to be the most harried of your trip. You’ll be trying to make flights on time, navigate customs, find your hotel, and get some food in between all the rush. And it can be easy to forget about the details of your first and last days when you’re planning your trip.
Try to plan your first and last days of travel as closely as possible. Figure out what time you need to get to the airport, how you’ll get there, and what you’ll need to have in which bags. Make plans to get from the airport to your hotel or back home when you land, and make yourself a packing checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything.
Check the Weather
On the subject of packing well, when you start planning a trip, one of the first things you should do is check the weather in the place you’re traveling to. Yes, it may be the middle of June when you’re going to London. But it’s still only going to be sixty degrees and raining, and if you’re used to ninety-degree summers, you’re going to be in for a shock.
Look at the average lows and highs for the area you’re going to, and pack appropriately. Check how much rainfall they usually get around the time of year you’re traveling, and look at other significant weather trends in the area. You don’t exactly want to travel to the tropics in the middle of hurricane season.
Look at Public Transit Options
While you’re researching the area you’re traveling to, you should also take a look at what sort of public transit options are available. Unless you plan to rent a car or stay with a friend, you’re going to need to use public transportation to get around. And most major cities have a ton of options available on that front.
In the city, you may be able to choose between using the subway system and the bus system. There may also be city-sanctioned cab services you can take if you want to spend a little more money. You should also see if Uber and Lyft operate in the area to take you out to any destinations you want to see outside the city.
Do Your Homework
Before you travel somewhere, it’s a good idea to do plenty of research about it. For one thing, you never know what sort of amazing attractions may be a little bit off the beaten path. You’ll also want to know about cultural norms you should observe, such as wearing long pants in religious buildings or taking your shoes off when you enter a home.
Get a few books about the area you’re traveling to, and read up on what to expect. Look for recommendations about things to do and places to eat, learn some about the history of the area, and check on local customs. Not only will this help you know what to expect when you arrive, but it can also help you avoid committing a social faux pas.
Slow Your Schedule Down
When you’re looking at attractions in an area, it can be hard to choose between different options. While you’re in Rome, you may want to go to the Coliseum, visit the Pantheon, tour the Forum, visit Vatican City, and visit several dozen fountains, museums, churches, and other attractions. But if you only have three days there, you’re going to be running constantly to fit everything in.
You can’t enjoy your trip fully if you’re stressed out about making it to all your activities in time. As hard as it may be, pick just your top priorities for things you want to do on your trip. Having the extra time will help you fully enjoy the amazing sights in front of you.
Plan, But Don’t Overplan
Planning a trip can be almost as fun as taking the actual trip – you get to dream about what your trip will be like and make arrangements to do things you’ve always dreamed about. And having a plan is important to make sure you get to do all the things on your checklist. At the same time, some of your best adventures will happen because you took a wrong turn or decided to go left instead of right.
Leave some time in your schedule for spontaneous adventures. You never know when you might find your way into the Vatican catacombs on accident or be invited to have tea on the back lawn of Notre Dame. If you overplan every detail, you’ll miss out on a lot of wonders your trip has to offer.
Brush Up on Language
Unless you’re fluent in the language local to where you’re traveling, chances are you’re not going to learn it before your trip. That being said, knowing a few basic phrases can help you get along in your travels. You’ll be able to find what you need more easily, and locals will appreciate your efforts to respect their language.
Get a language guide book or app and try to memorize some commonly used phrases before you leave. “Please,” “Thank you,” “Where,” and “Help” may all be good phrases to learn. You may also want to learn some more specific words like “bathroom,” “phone,” “good,” and “bad.”
Make Financial Arrangements
Most banks have systems in place designed to protect you from identity theft and fraud. Most of these systems will send an alert and shut down a transaction if they detect activity on your account from another country. This is a great way to protect you when you’re home, but it can be problematic when you travel.
Before you leave, visit your bank and let them know where you’re going to be traveling to and for how long. They’ll remove these holds on your card for the duration of your trip, but you may want to take along an extra credit or debit card just in case. And, of course, you should always get a few hundred dollars’ worth of local currency in case of an emergency.
Make Some Notes
During your trip, details may become a bit of a blur as you travel from city to city. You may not remember when all your flights leave or where you’re staying in each new city. And while we rely on our phones to store most of this information, what happens if your phone dies, gets broken, or gets snatched by a passing eagle?
Pick up a small notebook before you leave for your trip and use it to jot down important information. You may want to write down the name and address of all the hotels you’re staying in on the trip, as well as flight details. You can also use this notebook to jot down things you want to remember from your trip.
Make Copies of Important Documents
While you’re putting together your trip journal, you may also want to make a few copies of important documents and tuck them in the pages. None of us like to think about it happening, but your passport could get lost or stolen while you’re traveling. If this happens, you don’t want to wind up stranded at the U.S. embassy while you wait to get approved for a new passport.
Make two photocopies of your passport, tuck one into your journal, and put one in your suitcase. You may also want to make a copy of your driver’s license, health insurance card, and any other important documents you think you may need on your trip. If anything happens, you’ll be glad you have proof of your identity around.
Set a Budget
The other big thing you need to do when you’re planning your trip is to set a budget for how much you want to spend in each city. Ideally, you should have an overall budget that includes your hotel and plane costs, too. But this should be your day-to-day budget for food, souvenirs, experiences, and the like.
Decide how much you want to spend on meals each day and souvenirs in each city. Write down all of these expenses in your journal, and adjust your spending as needed. Without a budget, it’s easy to get drawn in by an amazing restaurant or cute keepsake you see when exploring the city.
Pack for the Flight
As your flight gets closer, you’ll need to start planning what you want with you on the plane. If you’re traveling internationally, you’re likely to be in the air for several hours. Make sure you bring along something to do and some TSA-acceptable snacks.
You may also want to bring along some things to make the flight a little more comfortable. A neck pillow and eye mask can make sleeping easier, and a seat cushion can help alleviate any back pain you suffer during flights. You might also want to bring along a blanket in case you get chilly during the flight.
Get the Right Packing Tools
While you’re packing your bag, there are some great tools that can help keep you organized. For one thing, you want to make sure you pick the right bag for your trip. A backpack that opens from the front rather than the top can be easier to keep organized, and you may want to get a suitcase with multidirectional wheels to save your arm when you’re moving through airports.
Packing cubes can also be great to have around when you’re preparing for your trip. These little cubes fold out and allow you to divide the inside of your suitcase into neat compartments. You can use these to organize your socks and underwear, toiletries, clean and dirty clothes, and more.
Find More Great Travel Tips
Traveling internationally is very exciting, but it does take a lot of prep work. The more you’ve planned for ahead of time, the more you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy your trip. These travel tips can help you make the most of your next adventure.
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