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Traveling to a foreign country for the first time can feel incredibly intimidating. I mean, how many people do you know who have it on their bucket list to travel abroad but have yet to act on it? Probably as many as I do: tons!
What they, and perhaps you, don’t realize is that traveling to a foreign country doesn’t have to be stressful. This is especially true if you plan ahead. Having been abroad several times now, here are 5 tips that were helpful to me, to hopefully make your trip a mind-blowing, anxiety-free experience.
Ready Your Documents
If you’ve yet to travel outside of the U.S., you will need to apply for a passport. While the process itself isn’t complicated, it can take a good amount of time to receive your document. You can find details on how and where to apply here.
Be sure to also bring copies of your IDs (including passport), emergency info, flight details, addresses, and transportation info and keep them in a separate place than the originals. And no, I don’t mean keeping all that info on your phone or tablet.
Electronic devices can break and the last thing you want to happen is to be stuck in a foreign country, trying to find a computer, and not being able to explain your situation because you do not speak the language.
Be Smart About When You Book Your Flight
Typically, the sweet spot for booking flights is around three months in advance. I’ve found that Tuesdays and Wednesdays seem to be the most affordable times to travel. Also consider red-eyes, especially if going to Europe or Asia, since you’re already going to have jet lag and it can be a big money saver. Try to avoid visiting during the peak season, too, which is usually summer.
I also like to use sites that show me the best rate for that week. This is where being flexible can be helpful, as you can save a ton of money. Also consider signing up for alerts from websites like airfarewatchdog or Google Flights. Lastly, I typically say don’t take off work or book anything else until you find the best flights. That way you won’t feel pigeonholed into booking a flight that is too expensive.
Choose Accommodations Based On Your Minimum Needs
Accommodations can be a way to save big bucks when traveling to a foreign country, especially if you consider something like a hostel. But, at the same time, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t sacrifice things that are non-negotiable like a/c, wireless internet, etc.
In addition, depending on how you will being getting around the city, consider the best location for you. It doesn’t make any sense to book a cheaper lodging option if getting around is hellish.
Check multiple sites for reviews and if you have any questions, contact the lodging facility before booking. Whether you’re look for a hostel, hotel, or via AirBnb, you’ll want to do your due diligence to make sure you are booking the perfect place.
Nail Down Transportation
Once you know where you will be staying, it’s time to figure out your transportation. If you are traveling within Europe and certain parts of Asia, you’ll find that they typically have very substantial public transportation systems. They also have a huge network of trains, which can be a restful way to travel longer distances.
Also check out airlines that fly shorter stints; you’ll be surprised how cheap they can be. Lastly, a rental car is certainly an option to consider, but they can be particularly expensive. If you’re traveling with a group, though, it may be an affordable option when split equally among your friends.
Plan Itinerary Based On Your Lifestyle
Traveling to a foreign country can be a once in a lifetime experience, and you will certainly want to take advantage of as much as the location has to offer, but don’t overdo it! You may feel pressure from veteran travelers to visit a certain museum or neighborhood or natural wonder, but if it isn’t going to be enjoyable for you, what’s the point?
For example, if you don’t typically exercise or hike, you will want to give yourself plenty of time to navigate the streets of Venice or climb the Inca Stairs at Machu Picchu in Peru (or maybe even reconsider that last one altogether). If you are a major art or history buff, you will want to give yourself extra time at the Louvre in Paris or the Vatican in Rome instead of rushing off to the next of a long list of things to see. And if you can’t live on little sleep, don’t wake up at the butt crack of dawn just so you can get more into your trip. You’ll just end up miserable.
We want to hear from you? Do you have any other tips on what to do before traveling to a foreign country?