It’s about this time of year when plans start being made. Trips back home to visit family and friends are booked and adventures overseas are plotted. Last minute travels can always be fun, but when you’re taking that bigger dive and jumping across the pond, a little more planning can make a world of difference in how your stay pans out. I like to think that no matter what happens during a trip there is a lesson to be learned. You can avoid some of the more stressful lessons–and live to tell the tale long after your return–if you partake in pre-travel prep. So if you’re looking to open your eyes and heart sometime in the next few months, here are 5 things to consider when planning to travel abroad.

What to know when traveling abroad

Add a few local words to your vocabulary.

Unless you’re going on a guided tour or traveling with locals, it’s best to assume that there will be language barriers during your trip. Luckily, familiarizing yourself with key phrases isn’t all too difficult and is greatly appreciated by locals. To prepare for your stay, try practicing phrases at least three weeks in advance. Depending on where you live, you can take crash courses that cover language basics while also teaching you about your host country’s customs. And if all else fails, bring along an app that will teach you all you need to know on the fly, like Google Translate.

Pay the right way.

It is always wise to have multiple methods to pay for items on hand. You can have travelers checks, credit cards, cash…the list goes on. But what you need to research before deciding on any of these is what is preferred in each country, what is the current exchange rate, and will your payment type change when you visit a different city. If you’re visiting rural areas, it’s always best to carry cash and keep small bills or change with you–you never want to be stranded at a pay restroom!

The oh no tip: Unfortunately we have to consider the ugly side of travel too–theft. If you’re taking credit or debit cards, make sure to take pictures of them and give them to someone back at home. If your bag or cards are stolen, you can contact someone with the numbers and put a hold on the accounts immediately. 

Have all of your paperwork in order.

Backpacking trips usually have more of the “fly by the seat of your pants” format, but knowing what’s necessary for each place you’ll visit–from visas to passports to plane and train tickets–will make the entire trip more relaxing. Every country is different with regards to the type of documentation you need in order to visit, so research your destination and make sure you have all necessities well in advance (it can sometimes take months if you need a visa). Then keep everything together and add to your travel bag essentials.

Leave your schedule open.

Having an itinerary means you’ll be organized and are sure not to miss a thing, but sometimes the best days while traveling are those that had no true plan to start. Depending on the length of your stay, put together 5-10 places you absolutely don’t want to miss, then leave room for unexpected treasures and relaxation. Ever heard someone say they need a vacation to recover from his or her vacation? That’s from planning too much! You never know, during an impromptu stop, the greatest story of your life may unfold.

Know your daily transportation.

It’s vital to know the local transportation methods before heading to a new place. Each car, taxi, train, subway and bus is different. One method can charge outrageous fees. Another stops running after 10 pm. And another yet, isn’t completely safe to take after dark. If you’re a female or traveling alone, this can be even more important. Thanks to technology, most major cities now have metro system apps for your phone. But to get a jumpstart on how you’ll get around, check out the visitors site for your destination and review blogs to make your travels safe, affordable and efficient.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg. If you have any tips for readers wanting to travel abroad share them in the comments below.

<3 Mish



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