Sure, you may be a seasoned pro in terms of traveling around the United States, but when it comes to traveling internationally, you may have far less experience. Doing anything for the first time presents a number of questions and worries that you may not have the answers to, but no worries! Check out these international travel tips for first-timers and you’ll be a few steps ahead of the rest.
1. Check the State Department’s website for important information
Check with the United States government’s State Department online for a lot of resources pertaining to the country you are visiting. You can search by the country and see any sort of danger alerts, entry and exit information, local laws and even the addresses for the US embassies and consulates. Check out their country information section here: “The U.S. State Department’s Country Information Site.”
2. Make sure you have all the right paperwork
Make sure you have a passport, and if you do already have one, make sure it is current and updated. Again, check the State Department’s website, this time under the passport section for all sorts of information and answers to questions you may have about getting one. You can also apply for one and check the status of your application on the same site. Find all that information here: “The U.S. State Department’s Passport Site.”
3. Familiarize yourself with the destination
Purchase a travel guide about the country you are headed to. Read it before you travel. These can provide tips and cool ideas for you during your trip as well as help you understand cultures so that you do not inadvertently offend someone. It may also be a good idea to learn a few key phrases in the native tongue. Things like, “where is the bathroom,” “hello,” “goodbye” and “thank you” can certainly help you when you are in an unfamiliar place.
4. Be aware of time zone changes
These changes can effect when your flight is leaving or landing so make sure to be aware of time changes and what time zone you are currently in and the one you are headed to. Furthermore, try and acclimate yourself to the time that it will be in your destination. It will make it easier to sleep and function when you arrive. We have all heard about jet lag, but taking precautions can sure help to eliminate it.
5. Check out the money situation
Check out the currency and exchange rates of the country you will be visiting. You can probably get a couple dollars’ worth of that currency at your local bank. Don’t take a large sum of money, just grab a few bucks for cab fees or for use at a local coffee shop. It may also be a good idea to give your credit card company a heads up that you are leaving the country and what countries you will be visiting, just so they don’t cut your spending off in the middle of the trip.
6. Carry-on bag
Your carry-on luggage is essentially your lifeline until you get your full set of luggage back. Anything of value or something that you may need like, medicine or a change of clothes should be packed in your carry-on bag, this way if you are separated from your luggage you still have all the essentials you will need. If you take prescription medicines, make sure they are in clear and clearly labeled bottles for customs. It’s also a good idea to take photocopies of all your important documents (driver’s license, passport, etc.) and keep them in a separate place with you, just in case you happen to lose the originals.
7. Planning on driving?
Some countries will require a tourist to have an international driver’s permit before sitting behind the wheel of a car, rental or otherwise. The AAA website offers a signup sheet for an international permit that will last one full year at the cost of $15. Check out the list at the bottom of the signup sheet for what countries you may need a license for. Read more on the AAA website here: “AAA International Driver’s Permit Application.”
8. Security check points and customs
Be prepared for the security and customs check points. Researching the State Department’s website, as referenced in tip number one, is a good place to start. Each country has different laws when it comes to coming and going. Also, make sure when scheduling flights that you leave enough time to make it through these checkpoints and still make your connections. There is no better way to forget something than by being rushed.
9. Make yourself comfortable
International flights can tend to be a lot longer than most domestic ones, be sure to wear something comfortable as it will make your flight a lot less painful. Also, remember to try and stretch during your flight and stay hydrated. All these things may seem like normal doings, but they can make the difference between feeling fine and having minor aches and pains that can ruin your trip.
10. Pack lightly
Although this seems to come up in just about every tip list for flying, make sure that you pack lightly. It will cut down on extra bag fees and also save you the time of waiting for luggage. Obviously sometimes you need to bring a bigger bag, but keep in mind that the less stuff you bring along the less of a hassle it will be for you and your companions.
So there you have it. Although there are a few key differences between international and domestic travel, if you follow the tips and prepare you will have no problem making the adjustment. Sundance Vacations is dedicated to making you a pro when it comes to travel and we hope that these tips help you on your first, second or any trip out into the world!
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