Though we love trip planning of any kind, there is nothing quite like the excitement of planning a vacation overseas. The thought of immersing yourself in a new culture, stepping away from the virtual overflowing inbox, and disconnecting from your immediate world may make packing your bags without thinking twice necessary (we’re with you!). That said, spending extra time up front considering how to plan your trip accordingly can make your entire vacation run smoothly from start to finish. Once you’ve decided where you’re headed, these six tips will have you well on your way—the perfect international getaway.
Check Visa and Passport Requirements
It seems like a no brainer, but doing your homework when it comes to visas and passports can save you time and trouble in the long run. If you’re applying for a passport for the first time, make sure to give yourself at least four to six weeks to receive it. Many countries have stricter regulations than you might expect and may require more than a valid passport and plane ticket only. For example, France requires a passport remain valid for six additional months at the time of your visit. Before traveling, always check the State Department’s Country Information page to determine what kind of passport and visa requirements your destination requires. Though visas are less common for most popular tourist destinations, it’s still important to do your homework in order to avoid surprises upon arrival. Even countries like Brazil and Vietnam, both popular spots for tourism, require a form of visa for travelers from the United States.
Travel tip: Leave an extra copy or your passport, visa, and driver’s license with a friend or family member at home. This can be a lifesaver if you lose your passport while overseas.
Map Out Important Locations
When you arrive in a new country after a long plane ride (after tight layovers and the often inevitable annoyance that your luggage is last on the carousel) spending extra time figuring out where your hotel is a waste of energy. Prep before you leave home! And luckily, we live in the age of the iPhone, which has made traveling infinitely easier. There are several apps you can use to map out important sights on your trip before you depart. Apps like City Maps 2Go and Maps.Me allow you to input addresses located in your destination city and access them while on your trip without using WI-FI or data (yes, really!). No need to pay for expensive roaming fees or spend time pouring over a guidebook on the side of the road (we’ve been there!) ever again.
Travel tip: Spending a few hours before your trip to input the addresses of hotels, museums, shops, and restaurants you’re planning to visit will save you hours upon hours once you arrive at your destination. Also, this will allow you to understand the layout of the city before arriving. You’ll know which sites are grouped near each other, and be able to plan your days accordingly.
Review Travel Warnings and Alerts
At the risk of sounding ominous, checking official travel alerts and warnings prior to your trip is incredibly important when traveling internationally. There can be major warnings related to serious issues like political unrest or more common and minor alerts for things like transportation strikes or peaceful demonstrations. While these alerts relate to things that won’t typically derail your trip, they can often save you time and frustration while abroad. Find out about a taxi driver strike a week before traveling to Italy? No sweat—you have time to learn about bus routes and alternative transport options.
Travel tip: Make sure to check the travel alerts and warnings before booking logistics, as well as a week or two before your trip to cover all of your bases. To check on these notifications, visit the State Department’s Warnings and Alerts page.
Create a Daily Budget
Your trip will run much more smoothly if you determine a daily budget for yourself (and stick to it!). First, figure out what your total trip budget is and subtract the initial necessary costs like flights and visa fees. From there you’ll be left with the total amount you can spend while on the trip. Divide that amount by the number of days you’re traveling for an estimate of how much you have to spend per day. Next, determine the amount you have to spend on lodging, food, activities, and shopping. A daily budget takes much of the guesswork out of a trip, but be sure to factor in wiggle room for unexpected expenses.
Tip: Don’t forget extra costs like foreign transaction fees and the exit and entry fees that some countries require or baggage fees.
Learn Key Phrases
There’s a good chance when traveling internationally that English may not be the native language. Learning a few key phrases in the given language of the country you’re visiting can make a huge difference. Simple phrases like “How are you? How much is this?” and “Thank you” will help you immensely. Locals should be more receptive with tips or assistance, and it’s a wonderful way to pay respect to the country and culture(s) that you are a guest of. If you’re visiting an English speaking country, it’s still important to learn a little bit more about their customs (e.g. Is tip necessary?) so that you can arrive feeling well-versed in the cultural norms.
Travel tip: Duolingo and Memrise are two great language resources that combine fun, interactive learning techniques that will have you on your way to learning a new language in no time.
Flights, train schedules, taxi locations, museum tickets, and hotel bookings can be hard to wrangle in one spot. Should you travel with a stack of 100 confirmation printouts? Risk the chance of losing the email confirmation to the spot you’ve been dying to visit? Avoid the mess and agony by organizing all of your travel details and confirmations in one place with mendo (and change your travel game forever). Mendo compiles all of your travel confirmations and bookings to create one master itinerary that can be accessed at any time, even without WI-FI. Say goodbye to lost flight numbers or confusion about scheduling logistics. mendo erases the guesswork and helps organize your trip from start to finish. The concept is simple: Once you sign up, forward all your travel-related confirmations and emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. The app combines them all to form your master itinerary with minimal effort on your part.