If you’ve only traveled domestically, you’ll quickly discover that international travel is an entirely different beast. Between passports, luggage, travel insurance, customs and immigration – it’s a new experience. Begin preparing yourself for international travel months in advance to guarantee that you have a seamless travel experience.
However, be ready for unforeseen issues; since you will likely be dealing with different airlines, countries and governments, you must have a certain degree of flexibility and patience. Fortunately, by planning as much as possible, you’ll be ready for your international trip.
Prepare Your Passports and Visas
Immediately after deciding to take an international trip, begin applying for your passport and any required visas. Passports can take some time to receive depending on your home location and the time of the year. Visit government websites to find information regarding how to apply for your passport. It will typically require a fee, paperwork and passport pictures.
Visas are stamps within your passport that allow you to enter your destination country. Depending your country of origin and destination, you may not require a visa. Alternatively, you may not even be able to board the plane without a visa for your destination. Again, visit the government’s website for your destination to view their rules for entry. The rules can vary dramatically for each country. However, generally, you will receive your visa by taking your passport (or safely mailing it) to that country’s consulate within your own country. Depending on your age, you may also require a medical release and travel insurance to enter the country.
Airfare, Packing and Lodging
Once your visas and passports have been approved and received, you can safely assume you’ll be able to travel to your destination country. You will then be able to proceed with making the necessary travel arrangements: airfare, packing and lodging.
- Airfare – Typically, you will be flying to your international destination. If you are traveling by boat, car or train, you will need to make reservations on your desired mode of transportation as soon as possible. Otherwise, you will need to begin browsing flights to your destination. As a rule, the sooner you purchase your ticket, the better.
– One element to consider when flying internationally is the possibility of interacting with different airlines. When flying domestically, switching between airlines is seamless; however, when it comes to international travel, it can be much different. At any international layover, you may have to completely leave the airport, obtain your checked back, and check back in to your new airline.
- Packing – Consider the amount of time you will spend in your new country. Pack as lightly as possible, and remember you’ll be able to do laundry at your destination. You will likely be fine with two or three articles of each clothing type. Packing lightly not only means you have to carry less around with you, it will also save you money on bag check fees. When packing your carry-on, make sure it is an appropriate size for the airline you will be flying.
- Accommodations – This step is perhaps the most similar between domestic and international travel. Put quite simply: you will need to find affordable and available accommodations for the duration of your trip.
Familiarize Yourself with Your Destination
While the above steps are all that’s required to travel internationally, you can go the extra distance by researching your new destination. Investigate the local laws, customs and cultures. Your destination country evolved differently from your home, so it will be a striking contrast. Familiarize yourself with these differences by visiting travel forums and the destination country’s website. This may alleviate some awkward interactions, but it also may keep you out of serious trouble.
International Travel Can Be Easy
With proper planning, your international trip will be stress-free and an enjoyable experience. Begin preparing as far in advance as possible so that you can deal with any issues that may arise. Have your passport, any required visas and reservations at every step of the way taken care of beforehand. Go a step further, too, and familiarize yourself with your destination’s laws and customs to effortlessly travel around the region.
About the Author: Owen Collins is a contributing writer and jetsetter from outside of Portsmouth. Ever since he got his first job after college, he regularly saved up money to travel to exotic destinations. As an adult, he has visited nearly every continent, booking Expedia flights and his accommodations ahead of time.