HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR FIRST FOREIGN TRIP

International travel is exciting, but it can be nerve-wracking if you aren’t prepared

By Caitlyn Callihan

AAA World Article

Traveling can help reduce stress, boost happiness and satisfaction, enhance creativity, and increase your mental resilience. The U.S. Travel Association reports international travel spending totaled $256 billion in 2018.

Traveling internationally is an exciting time, but it can be nerve-wracking if you aren’t prepared. Fly stress-free by following these tips:

RESEARCH

  • Talk to your doctor about any vaccinations you may need.
  • Consider travel insurance. This can cover you if you have to cancel your trip for certain reasons, or need health coverage for injury or illness.
  • Read about the country’s culture and traditions. For example, some don’t allow tipping. In others, certain hand gestures that are common in the U.S. are considered offensive. Understanding the culture helps you avoid standing out as a tourist and instead fit in with the locals.
  • Know the primary spoken language. Will you be able to speak English? Or do you need to learn basics of another language? 

BEFORE YOU GO

  • Book all flight and accommodations before leaving the U.S.
  • Download guidebooks, apps, and maps prior to traveling.
  • Buy tickets for places you know you want to visit, and research events going on while you’re there so you’re prepared with an itinerary.
  • Activate your phone’s global capabilities or purchase an international SIM card.

DOCUMENTS

  • If you don’t have your passport, don’t wait to get one. It can take several weeks to deliver, so send in the paperwork early to ensure you have it before you go. If you do already have a passport, make sure the expiration date is still valid. Other documents you may need are a visa, driver’s license, birth certificate, or certificate of citizenship. Check your airline or Department of State website to learn more.
  • Make copies of all documents—give one to a trusted friend or family member at home, and keep one in your luggage in case the real one gets lost or stolen.

MONEY

  • Create a budget for your trip and start saving early.
  • Notify your credit card company and bank and of your travels to avoid holds on your accounts.
  • Credit cards don’t work in all countries, so you may need cash. Research money conversion and if necessary, have some foreign currency before you leave. Also know exchange or ATM fees so you can be prepared.

PACKING

  • Check your airline rules for checking bags. Pack light, wear or bring layers, and wear comfortable shoes.
  • Bring charger adapters and power strips so you can charge and use electronics and won’t surge power.
  • Take any medications you may need. Some countries don’t sell traditional U.S. products.
  • Pack an extra set of clothes and all necessities in your carryon in case your luggage gets lost.
  • Bring a fanny pack, money belt, or cross body bag to keep money and important documents close to you when traveling.