Tips for International Travel
By A'Dia G
Are you thinking about traveling to your first international destination? If so, Congrats to you! It’s great that you want to explore a new country! This opportunity will allow you to immerse yourself in another culture and learn more about yourself in the process. However, there are a few things you may want to consider before booking your trip. Here are my six tips for international travel.
Tip #1: Know Your Budget
If you have already done your initial research, you may have noticed that there are some exciting activities that have grabbed your attention! Excursions, parties, tours- you name it and it is possible. While planning your trip, it is important to know your budget. I’m not just talking about the cost of flight and accommodations. It is important to also determine the amount of money you need for spending! How much do you want to allocate for food (if not included in lodging)? Are you bringing any souvenirs back for friends and family? What about activities while in the country? These are critical questions to ask yourself before your vacation. My recommended approach is over-budget than under-budget.
Tip #2: Research the Currency
While on the topic of money, it is essential to know beforehand the country’s currency. Generally, I use country-hosted websites to pull currency and other related information to help with my travels. Regarding currency, I have noticed that many countries have their own preferences. Some countries prefer widely accepted currencies (i.e. British Pound, European Euro and the United States Dollar). While others will only take their currency. Again, knowing your budget will allow you to determine how much money to take with you. Yes, I said money. CASH. Let me explain why.
If you have never traveled outside of the US, then you may not know about what I deem the “no debit card” rule. Although most countries allow you to use your debit card, it becomes difficult if a discrepancies or dispute arises. It is better to use your credit card, since companies generally provide a temporary credit to you while investigating an issue.
My recommendation is to take up to 50% of the spending budget with you in the country’s currency. The rest will remain in your accounts, to be used to pay off any purchases from your credit card. Now, hold up, you may think that this is a lot of cash to have on hand. This is when using a money belt or a similar product will help you with keeping your money close to you.
Tip #3: The Weather
This may sound redundant but please make sure to look up the weather. Now I don’t mean a quick “oh it’s going to be seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit and clear skies”. NO! Dig a little deeper. It may say seventy-five degrees but it is important to look at the feels like temperature. I’ve been to Africa and South America, with destinations located below and above the equator. Seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit in those countries can feel like eighty or pushing ninety degrees depending on where you are from. Especially if you are not used to humidity! Again, when it comes to weather, dig a little deeper!
Tip #4: Culture
Now let’s talk customs! Researching what not to wear, not to say, or not to do ensures that you are respectful to the country your are visiting. It is important as a tourist to not bring negative attention that could have been avoided with a little research. For example, in the Caribbean attire is extremely flexible and is based on your comfort level. In contrast, most Islamic nations favor a more conservative approach to attire. Gestures are also just as important. The peace sign with your palms facing inward can mean a not so peaceful gesture in some countries. When I travel to a new country, I try to make sure that at least the clothes I wear and the gestures I use don’t stand out too much.
Tip #5: Best Time to Fly
You might be wondering when is the best time to fly. It is all about your preference! If you are anything like me, then you do not like airline delays. It is ideal for me to travel either the first flight out, or the last flight out. Selecting between the two options depend on the duration of my flight. If I am traveling to a country with a flight that is seven hours or less, then I will most likely take the first flight out. Now, with that being said, I haven’t even touched the fun part! Time zones! For a flight were I will experience a time difference (greater than three hours) and a flight duration for more than seven hours, I will always prefer the last flight out. Getting on the last flight can help with falling asleep to assist your body with adjusting to the time difference. I also find it best to fly during the weekday. You can purchase cheaper flight and find less crowded flights during these days.
Tip #6: Your Carry-on
I saved the best tip for last! What’s normally in your carry-on? Your headphones, wallet and even prescriptions ( or in my case allergy medicine) , are definitely items that you need for your trip. However, have you considered packing a change of clothes? When traveling internationally, it is important to have a change of clothes in your carryon. This is helpful to have just in case your luggage does not make it to the destination at the same time as you. Other helpful items to have in your carry-on (or in your money belt) are copies of your important documents- passport, credit cards, health insurance. If the original documents are lost or stolen, having copies will help you void travel related complications.
The tips in this article, although geared towards international travel, can apply to travel within the United States. Okay, minus the tips regarding currency. Yes, even the culture aspect mentioned is important. The US may be one country, however customs can vary across state lines. I hope these tips are helpful! Make sure you do your research to know before you go!