Hope you guys enjoy today’s guest post from my friend, Mila! Let us know what you think!
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that most of us have got travel on the brain. And if you don’t, you should, because traveling is amazing. I love to travel, it’s such an enriching experience every time. I’ve been to Mexico, Japan, and South Korea, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the list of places I want to visit.
If you’ve got the world-explorer bug like I do, you know what I’m talking about. But when you want to go everywhere and see everything, how do you decide where to go first/next? Also, how are you going to pay for it? There are so many things to think about when you’re going to plan a vacation, and having a handy dandy guide can only be helpful! Here are some things to consider:
Yes, unfortunately traveling costs money, and that’s what stops us from traveling as much as we want to. But there’s good news! There are ways to save! Thinking way ahead is the key; like, at least a year ahead. If you’ve got a list of destinations in mind, check to see when the peak travel times to that country is, then avoid it! If you’re not worried about participating in peak season activities, traveling during the off seasons is the best way to find some really great deals on flights and accommodations. I like to use hipmunk.com because it compares several sites for you at once, so you don’t have to. Be sure to also take into account the weather in your chosen destination. For example, tickets to Japan are fairly cheap in June, but it’s also the rainy season – not great for sight seeing. When you combine the information of the flight prices with the weather, I’m sure you can get a good deal and a great experience.
Accommodations can also be a big expense, but with the internet they don’t have to be. There are so many ways to find affordable accommodations, and I mean, do you really want to spend tons of money somewhere on a room that you’re only going to be sleeping in? I, and many of my friends who travel, swear by airbnb.com. It’s such a great site for finding decent places to stay in while on vacation. You can choose between shared rooms, individual rooms, and full apartments/houses. When using airbnb, I highly recommend you read through reviews and find places that have a lot of good ratings, so you know it’s legit and safe. If airbnb isn’t your thing, you can also try hostels. Hostels sometimes have a bad reputation, but with the internet, you can weed out the bad ones and find the good ones. I’ve stayed at a few hostels that were really nice, and doing research on them before going was crucial to finding those nice ones.
Once you’ve looked into flights and accommodations, you can gage about how much money you need to save. I would recommend you always be saving, even if you don’t have current plans to travel. I am always putting money aside specifically for travel, so that whenever the need arises, I can work around my travel budget and don’t have to save for as long for a specific trip. If you feel like your life budget is already pretty tight, find ways to cut. Every time I feel the need to eat out, I think about the awesome cuisine I could be eating in Italy one day and put that money aside. When I want to buy clothes, I think about the local shopping I could be doing in France in the future, and put that money aside. I probably save around 100-300 each month, so about every 2 or 3 years I can take an awesome trip abroad, with some small in-country trips in between.
Choosing a destination
If you want to see the whole world like I do, choosing just one destination can be tough. The world is filled with interesting places, and it’s hard to narrow down where to go. There are some things you should look into to help you make a decision, especially when traveling abroad. Always look up current events in each place. If a country is currently in a civil war, or if there are disease outbreaks, you’re going to want to know about them. For those of us in the US, the government provides a page to look at for travel alerts and warnings, so we can be well informed of places that are currently unsafe to travel to.
You also need to look into the relationships between your country and the countries you want to visit. Different levels of relationships have put into place different requirements to visit that country. Some countries require a visa for any amount of stay, while others will allow up to 90 days without one. Look up the embassies of the countries you are looking to visit for full information on what is required to travel to that destination. You might decide that the country with the easiest guidelines for entry is the country to start with.
On the money front again, you might look into the exchange rate between your country and the one you want to visit. It could be a great persuader if the exchange rate is highly in your favor. Along the same lines, research the average cost of living in each place to see how much you might be spending each day on things like food and souvenirs. You can use that to budget and see which destination most closely fits your budget.
Prepping and packing
A lot of the preparing for your trip has been taken care of with all the research that went into choosing your destination, but unfortunately, that is not the end of it. There are still many things you need to gather and pack before you can hop on the plane. Especially if you’re traveling abroad, it is very important that you have all of the documents you need, and that your passport is current and valid. If you don’t have a passport yet, definitely get one as soon as possible. Passports can take up to 3 months to process. If you require a visa for the country you’re visiting, that can take another couple of months to approve and get in order, and requires a passport before you can start the process. Luckily, once you have a passport, it’s valid for 10 years, so you don’t have to worry about it again for a while. Once you have your passport, make copies of it and leave one with a friend and take one with you. You will be happy to have that if the off chance you lose your passport while abroad.
Prepare your money beforehand as well. You might be used to using your debit or credit cards at home for everything, but many countries don’t use cards quite as much and prefer to deal in cash. You can exchange money at your bank, or you can exchange it at the airport. Also, credit and debit cards will charge an international fee and exchange fee every time you use them abroad, which can add up fast and take valuable moola from your spending budget. I recommend exchanging cash beforehand, but also take a card with you for emergency money in the (likely) case you overspend. Whichever card you decide to take, call the number on the back and let the bank/company know you will be traveling, and where you will be traveling to. It’s no fun to have your card locked when you’re in a jam. Also be sure to write down the card number and the international phone number on the card and keep it separate from your actual card. If you lose your card, that will be a lifesaver.
Packing might be the actual worst thing about traveling, but it’s a necessary evil. You have to find a balance between being prepared and not packing your entire house. Doing some critical thinking will help you pack what’s necessary, and stop you from over packing. One big rule I have is to pack comfortably. You are going to be walking around A LOT, so those black pump heels, while adorable, probably aren’t the most practical choice. Depending on how long you are going to be on your trip, you should try keep the items to a minimum. I make it a general rule of 2-3 bottoms and 3-5 tops for each week, then add 1 bottom and 2 tops for each additional week. Pack clothes you can mix and match easily, so you can create a lot of outfits from a small amount of items. The only place you probably shouldn’t skimp on clothes is underwear. Clothes like shirts and jeans can be worn more than once, but underwear can’t, and chances are you won’t have access to a washer and dryer. Besides clothes, you need need to think about toiletries and personal care. Do your best to stay healthy while traveling abroad by packing a small medical kit with some medications and first aid. With medications, make sure you have a note from your doctor, and have filled out any necessary customs forms for bringing prescribed medications. Many countries have different rules for even over-the-counter medicines, so be sure to look into that also.
You’re probably thinking now that all of this a lot of trouble to go through, but I guarantee that it’s all worth it for the incredible experience you’ll have. Traveling is the best way to open your mind to new ideas and cultures and see things from a new perspective. So, get out there and see the world! It’s waiting for you!
Mila is a writer with a BA in English Linguistics living in beautiful Boise, ID. Her ambitions include traveling the world, studying languages, and taking pictures of her dog, Baymax. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram!
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