Travel: Tips for preparing for international travel

It’s summer time and now it’s the time for people to be traveling or start looking at their fall traveling. In a few months, a whole group of my friends and I will be heading to Asia for a few weeks and eventually meeting up at a wedding in Taichung, Taiwan. We’re all planning our own separate trips involving different countries and different experiences. It’s been really interesting having these conversations with my friends as we all begin our planning and I’ve realized that planning for an international trip (especially to a place you’ve never been) can be daunting.

Here are just a few tips that I’ve collected over the years and through my friends:

Pick a country
Check for visa and passport requirements. I recommend the US Government travel website as a starting point. If you’re traveling to Western Europe, you’ll probably be okay visa wise but definitely check the passport requirements. Many places require 6 months of validity left on your passport from arrival. Along with that, many countries require visas.  The process can be a full set of paperwork like applying for a visa to China or an online form and $20 such as applying for one for Turkey. I highly recommend checking this out as soon as you make a decision to go somewhere. Sometimes the process may take time which could put a damper on your travel plans if you’re trying to be spontaneous.
Check for medical requirements. You know your health better than anyone else. Make sure you take the right precautions. I recommend the US Government travel website and the CDC.  Combined you’ll get a good idea of what is recommended and what is required. You don’t always need the recommended, but it’s good to review and see how it might apply to you.
Check out the weather for where you are going (not at the moment you’re booking but typical seasonal trends for when you plan on going).  We’re going to Asia at the end of monsoon season which means we have to be prepared for rain, but probably not torrential downpours. But it makes for a different type of packing than if we were going a month later or a month earlier
Check out reviews for airlines, mainly if you’re flying the discount airlines. Those discount tickets are great, but that doesn’t mean you won’t pay for it later. Ryanair and Jetstar offer great ticket deals but you’ll get caught on the fees. Also, don’t expect too much from the discount airlines, you definitely get what you pay for.
Check out luggage requirements for airlines in other countries. If you’re flying the major operators that fly worldwide, you’re probably fine to abide by what you are used to. But the smaller airlines go by slightly different rules which can sometimes be stricter on luggage size, liquids, etc.
Get good travel essentials. I know it seems ridiculous but I purchased a quick dry microfiber blanket for camping on a whim and it was the best decision I’ve made. It’s been to Europe twice and has been used countless times. It’s great for even just doing an overnight slumber party because it’s thinner than a regular towel, works just as well (sometimes better) and dries so much faster. Mine is almost the same size as me and packs up smaller than a pair of jeans. Also, I have a jacket and vest that pack up into small bags which is great if you’re trying to pack light
Research hotels and public transportation. There are some sketch places in every city. Make sure you stay somewhere safe, and easy to get to from public transportation if you have an early flight.
Do some research on where you are going. I say some because if you plan too much or do too much research, I feel like it ruins the surprise of the place you’re going. I love finding the key thing that needs to be seen or experienced in a city and leaving it at that.  The rest of my trip will be up in the air and allow me to fly by the seat of my pants.  Also, I have done extensive research before on places and convinced myself that I’ve made a terrible decision to go to that place.  You don’t want that.
– Talk to people who have been there. I always get recommendations from friends on where to go, what to eat, how to get places, best places to stay, etc. You have so much to learn from your friends.

These are just a few things I do before I start planning a trip.  If you have any other tips or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Until next time, I’m off to start preparing for my next trip.

Now

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