Before You Go: Preparing for a Trip Abroad
Preparations to make sure that everything goes smoothly.
Everyone loves a good vacation. You might prefer to relax and chill out for the whole time, getting some sorely needed rest. Or, you might be the more adventurous type, looking to explore and discover new places and new ways to have fun.
Of course, not everyone goes abroad for a vacation. Traveling to another country provides all kinds of opportunities and experiences. Many people choose to go on a travel program of some kind at least once in their lives. This might be for a gap year, to study abroad, to volunteer, or even to make money.
Regardless of why you’re going on your trip abroad, you need to make certain preparations to make sure that everything goes smoothly.
1. Secure Your Passport
If you ever plan on leaving the country, then you need a passport. This means that, before you even start planning, you should make sure that your passport is valid and up to date. A passport application can take months to go through, so this isn’t something that you should leave until the evening before your plane leaves.
Even if you’re pretty sure that your passport is valid, dig it out 6 months before your trip anyway. Without your passport, you can’t enter another country, it’s as simple as that. If your passport is valid when you leave for your trip, but will expire before you return, do the cautious thing and get it renewed anyway. Some countries might deny it even if it’s due to expire within six months of your trip.
Different countries have different requirements for passport applications and renewals. Sometimes, you can renew your passport online. Even in this case, you still need to provide an updated photo and at least your old passport. Some countries require you to apply in person, along with proof of citizenship, an extra ID, and the photos that you’d need. You will also likely need to pay for your passport.
2. Plan and Budget for Your Trip
This might seem like it should be the first step and it very well could be, as long as you start planning over six months before you go away to give you enough time to get any required paperwork sorted out. Chances are, you’ll start planning as soon as you decide to go away anyway.
First, you want to plan the purpose, dates, and location of your trip. Most countries offer all kinds of opportunities. For example, Portugal has great weather, stunning beaches that allow you to relax, as well as cultural and historic sites to explore.
The date is important so you can plan your life around your trip. Do you need time off work? Do you need to arrange for a pet-sitter or someone to water plants while you’re away? The sooner these things are arranged, the less you have to worry about.
Next, you need to determine your budget and the guest list of your trip. The number of people will influence the budget, as will the location, the length of time, and the itinerary. The average cost of a vacation comes to about $1,200 per person, but it depends on plenty of factors.
A backpacking trip is far cheaper than a luxury vacation, for example. Your budget should include the costs of flights, accommodation, food, spending money, and ideally, an emergency fund.
In any case, a trip abroad is rarely cheap. Flights are often cheaper if you manage to book them early unless you want to risk booking last-minute flights. This is yet another reason to start planning early.
3. Research and Visa
Many counties require visitors to get a visa to enter their country, and the visa may differ depending on why you’re visiting the country. However, because every country has its own visa specifics, you need to do your research.
About sixty percent of countries around the world require visas for any stay, and it’s always best to apply early for visas. Government institutions can take a painfully long time to get things done, and you’re far better off getting the visa well before your trip rather than cutting it close.
4. Doctor’s Checkup, Vaccinations, and Tests
If you’re going on a long or strenuous trip, you should consider visiting your doctor for a medical checkup before you go. The best time to find out that you have a medical issue is before you leave, not in the middle of your trip.
Vaccinations have always been a concern for some countries, so you should research any local diseases or recommended vaccinations before your trip. Neglecting these shots can lead to serious illnesses, such as malaria or typhoid fever that can wreck your trip. Get them at least a few weeks before you leave, so that you’re sure they’ve kicked in completely.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made this concern far more common. Many countries require passengers to be vaccinated and to have recently had a negative test for Covid. Even if the country you’re visiting doesn’t have these requirements, you may need to get a test before you’re able to travel back home.
5. Travel Insurance
When disaster strikes when you’re away from home, it’s so much worse than if the same thing had happened at home. There might be language barriers or extra expenses that you don’t expect, and you might even struggle to get back home.
This is where travel insurance comes into the picture. Travel insurance has saved many a vacation and has saved even more money. With the right policy, you can make sure that your baggage is looked after and that canceled flights don’t need to end your trip before it begins.
If you have a preexisting health problem, you should consider travel insurance with medical conditions. This kind of insurance will make sure that your trip can be as stress-free as possible, even with your health problem.
The final step before leaving for your trip is the all-important packing. Think before you pack, and make sure that you only take what you need. You probably don’t need a bikini for Siberia, for example. Just be sure to remember any medications or anything else that you can’t buy.