First time traveling abroad? How exciting! Heading out on your first international trip may seem a bit nerve-wracking, but with a little prep ahead of time, it can be a breeze. To help you get ready, we’ve outlined a few suggestions to get you on your way:
Plan ahead for passport processing
If it’s your first time applying for a passport, make sure to apply at least 2 months before your trip. The normal processing time is 4-6 weeks but why cut it close? Or if you are going on a last minute trip, you can pay for expedited processing and get it in 2-3 weeks. You can apply at your local post office, public library, or through the U.S. government travel site. If you already have a passport, make sure it is more than 6 months from its expiration – some countries won’t allow you entrance if it is less than 6 months.
Check for travel advisories
Safety should always be a priority while traveling. To make sure you are aware of any risks involved in traveling to a certain country, check out the U.S. Government’s travel site to learn about travel advisories. And just in case, you might consider signing up for the Safe Traveler Program – that way if an emergency does arise, the U.S. embassy will be able to get in contact with you. Additionally, some countries have very specific entry requirements (other than needing a passport) – and they may be different depending on your nationality. You can look those requirements up on the U.S. Government travel site as well.
You don’t need fancy luggage.
You may think that since you’ll be going on a longer trip abroad that you need fancy, matching luggage. Though there are a lot of great luggage brands out there, what you really need to concentrate on is how sturdy and easy to carry it is. Are the wheels nice and sturdy where you could easily pull it over cobblestone streets? Does it have a good amount of zipped pockets to help organize your belongings?
Check the weather
Whether your travel dates are flexible or not, it’s a good idea to check out the typical weather of the destinations you’ll be visiting ahead of time. And if your dates are flexible, you can even plan around optimal weather times. We rely on the website Weather Base to plan our tours. It’s a great resource that provides a lot of weather-related information at a quick glance.
Helpful Items To Pack:
Other than clothes, you may be wondering what else to pack for your trip abroad. Here’s a few suggestions from our travel experts:
- Baby wipes – traveling means that you are coming in contact with a lot of public spaces where you never know what could be lurking on surfaces you touch. Baby wipes come in handy for wiping down airplane trays before you use them (note: they are one of the dirtiest spots on the plane!), cleaning your hands before sitting down for a nice picnic, or even wiping off your jacket or bag when a bird decides to use the bathroom.
- Zicam or other zinc products – Traveling can wear you down a bit – the overnight flights where you may not get any sleep, the taxi or train rides to get you to your next destination, walking all day seeing the sights, etc. Give your body a boost by taking a zinc tablet before your flight and whenever you begin to feel a little tickle in your throat. It can help prevent you from getting a full blown cold while traveling.
- Benadryl stick – No matter where you are traveling to (maybe, except Antartica), there are going to be bugs. Some places will have more than others, like the Amazon, but mosquitos, spiders, and flies are basically everywhere. Be prepared to give yourself some relief if you get bit by bringing a Benadryl stick with you. It’s the size of a pen and can fit into almost any bag or jacket pocket.
- Band-aids – This may seem like a no-brainer but many people forget to pack a few band-aids. You never know when you’ll get a minor scratch or a pesky blister.
- Ear plugs – Ear plugs are wonderful not only for your flight to help you get some sleep but they are a godsend when you are staying in a hotel on a busy street or have not-so-quiet neighbors.
- Small journal and pen – You don’t have to be a novelist to record your travels in a leather-bound book, but it is nice to have a place to jot down what you did that day or a restaurant you’d like to try the next time your visiting. Keeping a small notebook and pen with you will help you record your vacation and is a fun way to remember the special moments of your trip.
- Google Translate app – If you are traveling to a different country where you don’t speak the language, download the Googe Translate app (Android or iPhone) on your phone. You can download the language library ahead of time when you are on wifi so that you aren’t using your data to look words or phrases up while traveling. It also has an audio feature where you can say something into the app and it will translate it for you.
- Photocopy of credit cards and passport – In case you have a bit of bad luck and your wallet or purse is stolen while traveling, it is a good idea to have taken a photocopy or even photo on your phone of your credit cards and passport. It will help speed up the process of getting these items replaced.
Ready to head out on your first international trip? Remember to have fun, enjoy each experience for what it is, and that everything won’t be like it is at home – that’s the whole point!
Additional helpful travel tips:
Traveling Light – How to Pack in Just a Carry On
How to Travel to a Country Where You Don’t Know the Language
How to Find the Right Tour Operator