We always receive tons of questions regarding traveling overseas whether the traveler is a seasoned or a novice traveler. This article I found on msn.com does a really good job of giving advice on some of the most common concerns. (http://travel.msn.com/Guides/article.aspx?cp-documentid=414416)
Here are some of my thoughts on the points he brings up:
1) Passports - The second you decide that it's a possibility that you would like to travel overseas, start the paperwork on your passport! It can sometimes be a time-consuming process that just leads to undue stress wondering if you will receive it in time for your trip or if you'll have to cancel trip if you don’t receive it.
2) Getting Sick - Even if you aren't traveling to a country that you have to worry about malaria, etc. you still face the possibility of getting sick. The nature of travel itself can leave you tired and your immune system weakened. The best thing to do is make sure you are receiving adequate sleep and drinking lots of (safe) water and liquids. I would definitely suggest bringing the basic medications with you (aspirin, etc.). If you are going to be traveling somewhere which will be experiencing summer-like weather, don't forget the sunscreen or the bug spray (and the aloe and anti-itch cream). The environment you are traveling to could be completely different from your home environment. Differences in weather or location on the earth (whether the ozone is thinner thus making the sun stronger) can make a huge impact. While you can purchase most of these medicines overseas, it's also good to have a small quantity of it on you so you can have it available when you need it on the spot. There is no such thing as over-preparation when you are traveling to a place that is unfamiliar to you.
3) Insurance – If for anything, just for the peace of mind you will receive knowing that you have a safety net for the unpredictable situations that seem to always come up when you are traveling.
4) Money – I completely agree with his strategy of using your credit cards or debit cards when you can (and I also stress how important it is to contact your bank and credit card companies to let them know you are going out of the country and asking them their policies on foreign charges or withdrawals, this might make it easier for you to choose which ones to use) and carrying the majority of the rest in travelers checks. The positive to travelers’ checks over cash is that if they get lost or stolen, you can trace them based on their serial numbers, etc. The negative side is that is most situations, you will receive a worse conversion rate on travelers’ checks vs. what you would receive on cash. In my opinion, having a balance of both is a good thing.
5) Current Events – It’s always good to be aware of the political environment of a country before you travel there, you can be prepared for what you are going to experience and may give you the option of cancelling your vacation before you actually depart if you feel uncomfortable.
6) Phones – I have one word to describe my experience with phones in other countries… yikes! You might as well leave your cell phone at home because unless you have international calling capabilities (and have contacted your cell phone provider to inquire what the fees associated with its use are) it will only serve as an alarm clock (speaking of which, I highly suggest packing some sort of a travel alarm clock even if you are planning on staying in hotels with alarm clocks provided… you never know when you will need it!) [-- Update 11/16/07 -- You will not want to plan on using your phone as an alarm clock because depending on your cell phone provider or the country you are visiting (and their concentration of cell towers), the time update features on your phone might not work and charging your cell phone with international outlets might be an issue]. Using the phones that are provided or pay phones are a nightmare. Not all of them work properly and sometimes trying to figure out how to use them is completely impossible. I suggest keeping in touch with e-mail. If you are in a major city, there is usually an internet café on every other block (check out local libraries for free access) and even in some remote locations, you would be surprised with how available internet access is.
7) Weather – It is always good idea to look into what they typical weather is like before you pack! When traveling, wearing layers is always the best policy. Packing items that can be utilized, such as a long sleeved shirt that can be placed under the other shirts you are packing, with the wardrobe you are bringing will only make you feel prepared to face any situation. Three essentials for travel include a good pair of sturdy walking shoes, an outfit for weather cooler than you anticipate, and an outfit for weather warmer than you anticipate. You might also want to take into consideration what you can buy in way of souvenirs (sweatshirts, etc.) that can add to your clothing options while on vacation.
Advice from my mom: It's always better to pack light (when you are packing clothing) and add while you are traveling than to over-pack and have no room for your souvenirs. Also, always have a flashlight (like the paper thin, touch flashlights you can get at bookstores) in your purse, backpack, etc. because you never know when you are going to get stuck in an elevator.
The best way to get travel advice specific to the country or countries you are planning on traveling to is to talk to someone who has traveled there!
Want to share any of your travel expereinces or advice? Make sure to comment back to this blog.