There is not much that compares to the thrill and excitement of planning your very first trip abroad. While it may be fun to plan your itinerary and look forward to a whole new culture and environment, there are some essential pointers that you need to keep in mind before you pack your bags and head to the airport.
After all, good travel comes with good planning and while it may be tempting to book your trip and fantasize about a special getaway, there is a lot of paperwork and travelling formalities that you need to check off your list.
From finalizing lodgings, booking a taxi service beforehand, getting all your vaccinations and testing done, and checking the security situation to your travel destination, there is a lot that needs to be done to ensure that your international getaway is a successful and memorable one.
1. Obtain a Valid Passport and Apply for Visas
Before you make your travel plans, check your passport’s expiry date. You will not be able to travel if your passport is close to its expiration. In such a case, you may need to apply for a new passport and ensure that it is valid throughout the duration of your trip.
It is best if your passport is valid for at least six months or longer after entering another country, but this is not a strict rule for every country. The best action to take is to refer to the country’s State Department’s website and read through the details and requirements needed for a visit visa to be granted.
More importantly, you cannot enter a country without the appropriate visa for it. If you are visiting, you will most likely apply for a tourist visa which spans from six months to a year in most countries. This key piece of information on your passport is your permit to enter a foreign country. Without a valid visa, you will simply not be allowed to board the plane.
To apply for your tourist visa, you will need to log in the country’s visa portal and complete the application process, upload necessary documents, and pay any visa fees. Some countries may require an interview between granting the visa.
Some countries may be flexible and may not require a visa at all, but that is rare. It is best to check your State Department’s website to determine if you need to apply for a tourist visa for specific countries.
The approval or denial of your visa application may take a few weeks, and, in the meantime, you can plan your itinerary but be sure to not making any reservations until your visa is granted.
2. Get All Necessary Vaccinations and Keep a Stock of Medications
Depending on your travel destination, you may need to get special tests or vaccinations done as precautions against diseases and viral infections. Evidence of your vaccinations will need to be attached with your visa application.
You may need to provide evidence for polio vaccinations, COVID-19 shots, injections for meningitis, etc. If you do not get all the necessary vaccination, your visa application may be denied.
For comprehensive and up-to-date information about vaccinations, we recommend going over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s webpage where you can skim over health advice and requirements by country.
Even after you get your vaccinations, you should ideally carry all necessary medication with you when travelling. If you are diabetic or have any other condition that requires daily medication, make sure you keep them with you.
Additionally, you can keep painkillers such as aspirin, cold medication, mosquito sprays, and anti-diarrheal pills like Imodium, etc., to save you from emergencies during travelling to remote regions.
3. Always Check for Government Advice and Travel Warnings
It helps to refer to the State Department’s Consular Information Program for Travel Alerts and Travel Warnings to ensure your safety. Due to political turmoil, extremism, or even terrorism, your government may not advise travelling to some locations.
It is important to pay heed to these warnings and consider you travelling plans accordingly. We recommend checking these notices before booking a trip and once before you depart. Unforeseen lockdowns or terrorist incidents may make it harder for you to fly back, especially in a state of emergency.
You can create an account with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) which allows the state department to convey emergency messages and assist you in troubling situations. Keep their contact at hand and the number of your embassies or consulates when you are travelling.
4. Ensure You Have Enough to Finance Your Trip
It goes without saying that you need to have enough saved up to travel and participate in your dream adventures and exploration missions.
Travelling overseas can sometimes make it harder to access your bank accounts, so always call your bank or credit card providers and inform them about your travelling destinations so they do not block your cards when they notice a foreign transaction.
It can be embarrassing and annoying when you are swiping your card to pay for dinner in a foreign country and your card continues to decline.
You should always be aware of the exchange rare and the average price of food and clothing items in your destination location. Budgeting is also vital before you book a trip so calculate and assess your expenses beforehand and ask yourself if you will be able to enjoy all experiences with your existing budget.