Congratulations on booking your first international trip, so now what? Here are 9 useful tips for your first and every international trip!
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Have a Passport
I recommend already having your passport before booking an international flight. If you do not have your passport, apply now! It can take 6 to 8 weeks for routine processing and 2 to 3 weeks for expedited processing of an application. If you already have your passport, make sure it is valid for at least six months after your intended return date and has 2 to 4 blank pages available. If not, renew your passport to avoid the risk of not being permitted into your destination. A smart travel tip is to have copies of your passport hidden in different places, like your luggage, wallet, and with your travel companion. If your passport is lost or stolen, you can prove your identity and citizenship using a copy of your passport.
Check Visa Requirements
A Visa is an official document permitting you into a country for a certain amount of time. A Visa can be a stamp in your passport or a paper document. Search Travel.State.Gov for Visa requirements for your destination and how to obtain one, either upon arrival or before departure from authorized airlines, travel agencies, at embassies or consulates, or electronically online.
I like to compare the cost of vacation rentals on Airbnb to hotels on Orbitz and decide what suits my needs. I recommend Airbnb for group travel because of the variety of vacation home rentals available to meet the needs of a group. If you’re traveling solo, I recommend hotels for an extra layer of safety. Many hotels provide concierges, 24-hour front desk staff, security cameras, and will be a known address for booking transportation and tours. A smart travel tip when staying in Airbnb is to use the nearest hotel as a meeting point.
Signup for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
Anything can happen while you’re abroad. STEP will inform you of the nearest U.S. Embassy, alert you about safety and security situations, provide updated travel advisories, and assist you in an emergency by using the contact information you provide for your trip.
Read Health Recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
CDC Travelers’ Health is committed to helping travelers prevent illness and injury during international travel. CDC Travelers’ Health urges international travelers to be up to date with their vaccinations and to drink bottled water in countries with poor sanitation.
Reserve Experiences, Tours, and Activities
I prefer to reserve everything in advance to avoid missing out. If it requires a ticket or time slot, there is a chance it could sell out! I use TripAdvisor for itinerary ideas and reserve my experiences, tours, and activities on sites like Viator that provide customer reviews.
Purchase Travel Insurance
You booked a flight deal, now use some of the money saved to invest in travel insurance! Check with your health insurance first to verify if you’re covered abroad. If not, then research travel insurance companies such as Allianz Travel or GeoBlue for your travel needs. Fortunately, I have never had to use my travel insurance and cannot give a recommendation, but I do know it is better to be safe than sorry.
Travel Notice on Debit and Credit Cards
Put in a travel notice for your debit and credit card to prevent transactions from being declined while abroad. A smart travel tip is to use your debit card at an ATM within the airport to withdraw foreign currency at the exact exchange rate with fewer fees than a currency exchange booth like Travelex. International travelers should invest in a travel credit card to avoid foreign transaction fees, earn bonus points towards free flights, and to take advantage of other perks such as primary car insurance and baggage delay insurance! The travel credit card I use and highly recommend is Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Most importantly, get excited and do not let anyone put negative thoughts in your head. Every trip I prepared for, there was always someone without any firsthand experience to warn me of dangers. The same common sense you need in your hometown is the same common sense you must use when you travel. As a solo female traveler, I can honestly say I have never felt unsafe during my travels!