Getting Ready to Travel Abroad – Where do I begin?

You’re drowning inside your head.  The endless stream of questions began to pour into your head the minute you decided to embark on an international adventure.  Do I need a visa?  How do I get there?  What do I bring?  Will I meet people along the way?  What places should I visit?  Your mind has essentially been sent into overdrive, and calling mom to come do all the readying for you is sounding sweeter and sweeter.

Where do I begin

It’s how many travels begin – not knowing where to begin, only to have an avalanche of information suffocate you the minute you take the small step of searching the internet for ‘Must-sees in Peru’.  There is an endless list of things you can do to prepare and an endless list of resources to go along with it, but we think we can help save any traveler from a lot of upsets with a brief preparation checklist of our own.

Passports and visas take priority.  Be sure you look at your passport to verify the expiration date.  If you realize last minute that your passport is out of visa pages or will expire within 6 months of your departure, the fees are pretty steep to get a new passport expedited – needless to say, you just want to avoid this situation.  Also, check if there is extra paperwork you need for a tourist visa (or any other type of visa) prior to leaving.  Some countries require you to apply for a visa before you even leave.  All this depends on your country of residence, so give the local embassy a call or look it up online.

Check required vaccinations.  Some vaccinations are given in a series of doses spread over the span of a few months, so you want to be sure to leave yourself the proper amount of time to prepare.  To find out what vaccinations are suggested or required, the most informative site we know of is the Center for Disease Control website.  You should also get in touch with your physician to let them know where you are going and what country (or countries) you will be visiting.  You want to make sure they can meet your needs for vaccinations or, at the very least, refer you to another clinic that can.  Call your insurances too; you don’t want to be surprised with a $200 bill for vaccinations.

Flights must be purchased.  This may be the most exciting part of planning; it just makes it official.  At the same time, it is likely the most costly part of planning, so it is always important to use multiple resources when searching for the best deal.  If you are student, teacher, or under the age of 26, you are in luck!  There are some amazing discount flight sites out there meant just for you, one of our personal favorites is STAtravel.  For those of you who are planning to volunteer, FlyForGood is a great place for you to start your search.  And, for travelers of all destinations and missions, check out kayak.  Remember, don’t limit yourself to just one search engine or even to just the internet; there are plenty of sources out there including travel agencies.

Write a trip bucket list.  Before you go, it is important to have an idea in your head if there are any must-sees along your travels .  Likely, if you’ve picked a destination, you already know some information about it, but be sure to look into detail about all the options you may have for travel.  Most well-renowned guidebooks are now accessible on the internet, including Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Moon, and many more.   There are also sites like wikitravel that exist, connecting you to millions of other travelers who can be tapped for information as well.

Create a packing list.  Through all the research you have done in guidebooks and online, you likely have a pretty good idea of what to bring, but there are a few things we suggest you keep in mind:

  • Know if laundry facilities will be accessible; this will affect how much you need to bring.
  • Consider where you will travel; for rural developing areas, a roller suitcase is likely not ideal.
  • Prepare for the activities you will do; if you are camping, a sleeping bag may be necessary.
  • Check the weather; you may be headed into rainy season or into the scorching hot sun.
  • Determine what will be made available while there; the hotel may have a hairdryer already.

If you are volunteering or studying abroad, be sure that you ask the organization that you are going with what they suggest.  They will be very informative on what you will need to wear for projects, what weather you will see, and what supplies you will need for any traveling you will do.

Call your bank!  Be sure your credit card company and bank are aware of where you are traveling, when you will be traveling, and for how long.  If you don’t let them know, you may find yourself stuck in a foreign country with zero access to cash.  It is also important to ask what kind of fees are associated if you do use your cards in a foreign country or if there are any partnered banks to look for.