Where to begin? What do do? How to start? A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step! Let’s get started.

Proper planning can not only help you get the most out of your trip, but can also help you avoid making costly mistakes, avoid health and safety problems and more easily cope with the unexpected… let’s start with a simple checklist:

  • Give Yourself Time: Any required visas may need anywhere from 1 week to several months to receive. Any required vaccinations can usually can be completed in a week, but some tropical ones can take up to 6 months to complete the full series.
  • Decide Where & How Long: You need to answer two basic questions: Where are you going and and how long are you going for. Realize that when you go and the weather may play a big factor on what you can do.
  • Research your destination: Before traveling, do some basic research of your destination to understand the local culture and customs. Create a list that includes all the places you want to visit and the activities you want to do - but don’t over-plan.
  • Passport: You need this - check the expiry date as you need at least 6 months validity, also make sure you have blank pages for any visa stamps.
  • Visas: Check if the countries you are going to need visas and give yourself time as some countries are slow to issue Visas.
  • Book Flights: Doing this several months in advance can save you money, don’t wait till the last minute to get your tickets.
  • Travel Insurance: Don’t leave for a trip without it. Accidents can and will happen sometimes.
  • Budget: Your main expenses will probably be the flight and accommodations, after that you will want to have a daily budget and include some extra for splurges.
  • Health Checkup & Shots: Make sure your shots are up-to-date and check if you need to be worried about Malaria, Dengue or anything else. Stay hydrated, eat well, and get enough sleep.
  • Pack Light: You probably don’t need half the stuff you think you do. Most of what you actually need can be bought when on the road. Packing light makes traveling a lot easier.
  • Keep Safe: Keep an eye on your surroundings at all times and be aware of any potential safety risks. Avoid going to areas that are known for crime or danger, and always keep your valuables close to you.
  • Respect the local culture: Be respectful of the local culture and customs. Learn a few key phrases in the local language and try to immerse yourself in the local customs.
  • Contacts: Let the important people know that you will be gone so they don’t worry. For safety, someone should always know where you are going. Also have some way for people to get in touch with you in an emergency - e-mail works great.
  • Be flexible: Travel can be unpredictable, so be prepared to adapt to any changes in your plans.
  • Have fun: Finally, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy your trip!

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Where to Go

The first step in planning your trip is deciding where you want to go. Consider factors like budget, climate, culture, and available activities when selecting your destination.

Most travelers already have a general idea about where they would like to go based on their personal interests. They may even have taken a course at university, seen a program on television or read a book that highlighted an interesting country or city in the world.

Thinking about where to go is, however, a very important part of planning a trip for several reasons. There are many places in the world today that are not safe enough to warrant backpacking there. The risks are simply too great. Different parts of the world are more or less safe depending on your race, nationality or gender. As this article is written, there are several places that come to mind immediately. But as you read this, these places may have become safe once again while other places have developed their own volatile issues. It is best to consult an up-to-date resource, like Fielding’s Dangerfinder or the Travel Warnings page.

When deciding on where to travel to, consider the popularity of the destination. Are you looking to get away to a foreign country to become immersed in their culture and travel in relative peace, or is your desire to hang out with literally thousands of other tourists from the same country as yours? I can’t help but think of Europe in the summer when talking about extremely busy travel destinations.

After refining your travel destination to one or two regions, consider the cities or parts of the region you will visit. Where will you begin your trip? How do you plan on getting from place to place? How much time will you have to cover your intended destination? How much money will you have? In what order will you visit each place? Some of these questions are important to answer ahead of time to help plan your trip. Some of them will simply be answered along the way. But all are important to consider when planning where to go. You shouldn’t over-plan your trip — just plan enough so that you have an idea about where you would like to go and what you would like to see.

Consider flying into one city and out of another to avoid wasting time and money. For example, if you are going to Europe, you could fly into London, travel through Europe heading south, then catch a flight out of Rome without having to loop back to London for an added cost and waste of time. Remember that this strategy will be cheaper if you can use the same airline for both your incoming and outgoing flight.

If your travel itinerary includes several different countries, try to begin your trip with the country that is most familiar to you (language, customs or just similar to your own). This way, you will hopefully get off to a good start and begin to establish the many travel habits that should become instinctive after a bit of experience. Travelers arriving in an extremely unfamiliar country may be overwhelmed by the many differences in culture, etiquette, etc.

Define Your Interests

Start by identifying what excites and motivates you about travel. Your interests will play a significant role in narrowing down potential destinations. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Historical and Cultural Exploration: If you love delving into the past and learning about different cultures, consider destinations with rich histories and vibrant cultural scenes, such as Rome, Athens, Kyoto, or Cairo.
  • Nature and Adventure: For those who crave outdoor activities and natural beauty, look for places that offer hiking, wildlife, and stunning landscapes, like New Zealand, Patagonia, Iceland, or the Canadian Rockies.
  • Relaxation and Leisure: If your goal is to unwind and enjoy a slower pace, tropical beaches, and resort towns might be ideal. Think about the Maldives, Bali, the Caribbean, or the Greek Isles.
  • Urban Exploration: If bustling cities and modern amenities appeal to you, explore major metropolitan areas known for their attractions, nightlife, and shopping, such as New York, Tokyo, Paris, or Dubai.

Budget

Your financial situation will significantly influence your choice of destination. Here’s how to align your budget with your travel plans:

  • Luxury Travel: If you have a high budget, you can consider luxury destinations like the French Riviera, Dubai, or exclusive resorts in the Maldives.
  • Mid-Range Travel: For a moderate budget, look for destinations that offer a good balance of affordability and experience, such as Thailand, Portugal, or Mexico.
  • Budget Travel: If you need to travel on a tight budget, consider destinations with lower costs of living and budget-friendly options for accommodation and activities, such as Vietnam, India, or Eastern Europe.

Goals & Objectives

Clarify your primary travel goals. Are you looking to relax, seek adventure, learn new skills, or experience different cultures? Your goals will guide your destination choice:

  • Relaxation: Choose destinations known for their serene environments and luxurious accommodations, such as Bora Bora, the Seychelles, or the Amalfi Coast.
  • Adventure: Look for places with opportunities for adventure sports and outdoor activities, like Costa Rica, New Zealand, or the Swiss Alps.
  • Cultural Immersion: Opt for destinations where you can engage deeply with local cultures, such as Morocco, India, or Peru.
  • Skill Learning: If you want to learn new skills, consider destinations offering classes and workshops, like cooking in Italy, surfing in Hawaii, or yoga in Bali.

Trip Duration

How much time you have for your trip will affect your destination choice:

  • Short Trips (1-2 weeks): Focus on closer destinations or those with direct flights to minimize travel time. European countries, the Caribbean, or parts of North America are ideal.
  • Long Trips (3 weeks or more): You can consider more distant locations and even multiple destinations within a region, such as a Southeast Asia tour, exploring Australia and New Zealand, or a multi-country trip in South America.

Safety & Accessibility

Safety and accessibility are paramount when choosing a destination:

  • Safety: Check travel advisories and research the political and health situation of potential destinations. Websites like the U.S. Department of State or the UK Foreign Office provide up-to-date safety information.
  • Accessibility: Consider the ease of travel, including visa requirements, language barriers, and transportation infrastructure. Destinations with good infrastructure and English-speaking locals, like Western Europe or Australia, may be easier for first-time international travelers.

Cultural Considerations

Language and cultural differences can significantly impact your travel experience:

  • Language: If language barriers are a concern, consider destinations where you speak the local language or where English is widely spoken.
  • Cultural Fit: Reflect on how comfortable you are with the cultural norms and customs of potential destinations. Research local customs and etiquette to ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience.

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When to Go

Choosing the best time to travel can significantly impact your overall experience.

Deciding on when to go may or may not be an option for you. If you are a teacher, for example, you will probably only have two months in the summer to travel and thus, relatively little choice in the matter. But if you do have some flexibility in your life, your decision on when to go should be influenced by where you are going. You will want to look for agreeable weather conditions and most likely avoid peak travel season if at all possible.

Peak travel seasons are accompanied by large crowds and quite often more expensive prices. Their timing varies from place to place. Peak travel seasons usually fall into the most pleasant weather patterns for a particular place — not too hot, not too cold, little rain — or when the majority of world travelers have vacation time (probably the greatest factor).

If you are looking for a warmer climate (which allows you to pack lighter by the way), stay away from extreme north and south latitudes in the winter (obviously) and stay closer to the equator. However, you may not want the temperature to be so hot that it saps all your energy. The key word here is moderate, as in moderate temperatures and weather patterns. This is what most travelers are in search of.

Try traveling just before or after the peak season of a region — often called the shoulder or ‘edge’ of peak season. This way, you will avoid the huge crowds but still have relatively pleasant weather, cheaper prices and access to still-open attractions.

A well known example of peak season travel is Europe. Europe is extremely busy in the summer (particularly in August when many Europeans take their summer holidays). Traveling here in the summer makes finding an available hostel bed difficult, trains and ferries are packed, prices for almost everything are more expensive, and long lines are the norm at all tourist attractions. However, all hostels and tourist attractions are open, tourist attractions often have extended hours and the weather throughout Northern Europe is generally more pleasant. Europe is best visited in the off season unless you are into any of the above.

Several factors need to be considered to ensure you pick the ideal travel dates:

Season & Weather

  • Peak Season: This is when the weather is most favorable, and tourist activities are in full swing. However, it can also mean higher prices and larger crowds. Examples include summer in Europe or winter in tropical destinations.
  • Shoulder Season: This period falls just before or after the peak season. The weather is still pleasant, but there are fewer crowds and better deals. For instance, late spring or early fall in Europe.
  • Off-Season: Traveling during this time can save money and avoid crowds, but the weather might be less predictable, and some attractions may be closed. For example, visiting the Caribbean during the hurricane season.

Festivals & Events

  • Research Festivals and Events: Check if there are any local festivals, holidays, or events that you would like to experience or avoid. Festivals can offer a unique cultural experience, but they can also mean higher prices and limited accommodation availability.
  • Avoiding Peak Tourist Events: If you prefer a quieter experience, avoid traveling during major events or school holidays.

Travel Deals

  • Travel Deals and Discounts: Look for flight and accommodation deals. Off-season and shoulder season often have better deals. Use travel websites and sign up for alerts on platforms like Skyscanner, Kayak, or Travelzoo.

Personal Preferences

  • Activity-Specific Travel: Choose travel dates based on specific activities you want to do. For example, ski trips require winter travel, while hiking might be best in spring or fall.
  • Weather Preferences: Consider your tolerance for different weather conditions. Do you prefer warm, sunny days, or do you enjoy cooler, more temperate climates?

Work Schedule

  • Vacation Time: Align your travel dates with your vacation time from work or school. Plan ahead to make sure you can take the necessary time off.
  • Personal Commitments: Consider any personal events or commitments that might affect your availability to travel.

Crowd Levels

  • Tourist Crowds: Decide if you prefer a lively atmosphere with many tourists or a quieter experience with fewer people.
  • Popular Destinations: Popular tourist spots tend to be crowded during peak seasons, so plan accordingly if you wish to avoid large crowds.

Special Events

  • Wildlife Watching: Certain wildlife activities, such as whale watching, bird migrations, or safari experiences, are best during specific times of the year.
  • Natural Phenomena: Plan your trip around natural events like the Northern Lights, cherry blossom season, or fall foliage.

Peak Season Travel

If you have to travel during a region’s peak travel season, try to get off the beaten path and you will get away from the usual tourist crowds. This might entail walking the back roads of a city, away from the touristy-type areas, or you may want to steer clear of the larger cities all together and experience smaller towns and villages.

You will also find that getting up early and visiting major attractions before the rest of the crowds show up will help reduce your queue time. Tour groups seem to appear out of nowhere on their large busses, causing major congestion as they swarm the hot spots. However, they don’t usually like to get up too early and they take more time to get organized, leaving the morning relatively quiet for others. The end of the day is also usually a good time to see the sights, after the tour groups have moved on.

Accommodations are worth more than gold in the busy season. Your best bet is to book beds in advance. Purchase a Hostelling International card before you leave so that you can make hostel reservations from city to city at any HI hostel. If you are staying at a private hostel, try to call ahead and to book a bed. By simply arriving in a city and expecting to find a place to sleep, you are setting yourself up for hassles and headaches.

One travel strategy in Europe is to visit the southern countries like Italy and Greece in the early spring and then travel further north as summer approaches, using the improving weather to your advantage. This will also keep you away from the European tourists, who flock to the Mediterranean in the summers while on their own holidays.

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Research Destination

Take the time to learn about the local customs and etiquette of your destination. Familiarize yourself with common phrases and greetings in the local language, as well as cultural norms and expectations. This knowledge will not only enhance your travel experience but also help you build positive connections with locals.

Researching your next international excursion is a great way to build anticipation in the weeks leading up to your getaway. With today’s resources at their fingertips, travelers are in a better position to plan their trips than ever before.

The most popular travel resource is a guidebook. While these can never be as up-to-date as their online counterparts, they represent some of the most dedicated research available to travelers. Travelers in the planning stages can also make use of everything from word-of-mouth to magazines.

Since it’s impossible to know how things have changed since the last round of reviews, it’s a good idea to keep things flexible. Line up a couple neighborhood backups in case your hotel or restaurant of choice has closed its doors or raised its prices.

Above all, make it a point not to over-plan your trip. There’s only so much that can be done on this side of the journey, and too much stress and planning will drain all the fun out of the experience. It’s hard to anticipate the last-minute opportunities that may come up, and the option to tweak or altogether change your plans in-travel is key.

Why Research

Researching a travel destination before embarking on your journey ensures that you make the most of your time, stay safe, and have a memorable and enjoyable experience. Here are some key reasons why thorough research is important:

  • Maximize Your Experience: Understanding what a destination has to offer helps you plan your itinerary effectively, ensuring you don’t miss out on must-see attractions, hidden gems, and unique experiences.

  • Stay Safe and Informed: Researching travel advisories, local laws, and health precautions ensures you’re aware of any potential risks and how to mitigate them. Knowing about common scams, local customs, and areas to avoid helps you stay safe and respectful of local norms.

  • Cost Management: By researching accommodation, food, transportation, and activity costs, you can create a realistic budget and avoid unexpected expenses. Additionally, finding deals and discounts in advance can save you money.

  • Smooth Travel Logistics: Understanding how to get around, what transportation methods are available, and how to handle currency exchange can significantly reduce travel stress.

  • Cultural Awareness and Respect: Understanding local traditions, dress codes, and social behaviors fosters respectful and meaningful connections with the people you meet.

  • Health and Safety Precautions: Traveling to new environments can expose you to different health risks. Researching necessary vaccinations, and health advisories ensures you’re prepared for any health-related issues.

  • Optimize Your Packing: Understanding the climate, terrain, and activities at your destination helps you pack appropriately.

  • Enhance Your Travel Experience: By researching the history, culture, and significance of the places you visit, you enrich your travel experience. Knowing the stories behind historical sites, the traditions of local festivals, and the meanings of cultural practices deepens your appreciation and enjoyment of your journey.

  • Avoid Common Pitfalls: Learning from the experiences of other travelers can help you avoid common mistakes and pitfalls.

  • Personalize Your Trip: Every traveler has unique preferences and interests. Researching allows you to tailor your trip to your specific desires, whether it’s finding vegan restaurants, locating accessible attractions, or identifying activities suitable for children.

Purpose and Interests

Before diving into specific details about potential destinations, it’s crucial to understand what you want from your trip. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the primary purpose of your trip? (e.g., relaxation, adventure, cultural immersion, business)
  • What are your main interests? (e.g., history, nature, food, shopping, nightlife)
  • What activities are you looking forward to? (e.g., hiking, museum visits, beach lounging, culinary tours)

Knowing your goals and interests will help narrow down your options and focus your research on destinations that align with your preferences.

General Info

Once you have a clear idea of what you want from your trip, start gathering general information about potential destinations:

  • Geography and Climate: Understand the location, geographical features, and climate. This will help you determine the best time to visit and what to pack.
  • Cultural and Historical Background: Learn about the culture, history, and customs of the place. This can enrich your travel experience and help you show respect for local traditions.
  • Language: Check the primary language spoken and consider learning a few basic phrases if the language is different from your own.
  • Visa and Entry Requirements: Check visa requirements for your destination and apply well in advance if necessary.
  • Travel Insurance: Consider purchasing travel insurance for coverage in case of emergencies, cancellations, or lost luggage.
  • Emergency Contacts: Note down important contact numbers, such as local emergency services, your country’s embassy, and your accommodation.

Travel Advisories

Safety is paramount when traveling to a new destination. Look up the latest travel advisories from reliable sources such as:

  • Government Websites: The U.S. Department of State, the UK Foreign Office, and other national agencies provide updated travel advisories and safety information.
  • Health and Vaccination Requirements: Consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO) for health advice and vaccination requirements.

Accommodation Options

Researching accommodation is a crucial step in planning your trip. Consider the following factors:

  • Types of Accommodation: Hotels, hostels, vacation rentals, and guesthouses each offer different experiences and price points.
  • Location: Look for accommodations that are conveniently located near the attractions you want to visit or public transportation.
  • Reviews and Ratings: Use websites like TripAdvisor, Booking.com, and Airbnb to read reviews and compare ratings.

Activities & Attractions

Creating a rough itinerary of activities and attractions can help you make the most of your trip. Here’s how to get started:

  • Must-See Attractions: Identify iconic landmarks and popular attractions. Look for lists of top sights on travel blogs, guidebooks, and tourism websites.
  • Local Experiences: Research unique local experiences, such as festivals, markets, and cultural events. Websites like Lonely Planet and Culture Trip can provide insights into off-the-beaten-path activities.
  • Tour Options: Consider guided tours, especially for destinations where local knowledge can enhance your experience. Look for reputable tour operators and read reviews.

Sources

Rely on multiple sources to get a well-rounded perspective on your destination:

  • Travel Blogs and Websites: Bloggers often share personal experiences and tips. Websites like Nomadic Matt, The Blonde Abroad, and Expert Vagabond are great places to start.
  • Guidebooks: Traditional guidebooks like Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, and Rick Steves provide comprehensive information.
  • Social Media: Follow travel influencers on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok for visual inspiration and real-time updates.

Connect

Joining travel forums and online communities can provide valuable insights and advice:

  • Travel Forums: Websites like TripAdvisor, Reddit (r/travel), and Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum are excellent for asking questions and reading discussions.
  • Social Media Groups: Join Facebook groups or follow Twitter hashtags related to your destination to connect with fellow travelers and locals.

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Visas & Passport

For any international trip there will be some important documents you will need to get and take with you. However, getting them together for a long trip isn’t as much trouble as it may sound - you just need to give yourself time before the trip to acquire such things as your passport and possibly a visa for the country you are going to.

Before booking your flights and accommodations, ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended return date. Many countries also require visas for entry, so research the visa requirements for your destination well in advance. Keep in mind that obtaining a visa can take several weeks or even months, so don’t delay the process.

You “important documents” that need to be kept safe should contain the following: Passport and Visa’s, Yellow Card, Insurance Papers, any International Drivers license or other important official certificates, your ATM cards, bank cards and your Airline and travel tickets.

  • Take all your documents, credentials and important papers and photocopy them twice, both front and back Leave one set at home with a friend or relative. Keep the other set with you, but separate from the originals.
  • For all your important documents you will want to keep them in a waterproof holder of some type and in your carry-on luggage. Checked luggage sometimes gets lost and it can be very time consuming and expensive to replace some of these documents.
  • Documents (other than your passport or other official documents) can also be protected by laminating them. You can do this yourself with peel-and-apply laminating materials from an office supply store. It can also be done fairly inexpensively at most copying centers such as Kinko’s.
  • You can also scan your important documents (especially your passport) and e-mail the scanned documents to yourself. This always allows you to print a copy out on the road and allows for easier replacement should they get lost or stolen.

Passports

Your passport is one of the most important documents you will have while traveling and you should do everything you can to make sure it is safe. The passport certifies your identity and nationality and is the property of the government of your country. A passport is required to enter almost any foreign country and even to re-enter your own home country.

Visas

There are some countries that require a visa to allow you to travel into or through their country. A Visa is a stamp placed into your passport as proof that the countries government has allowed you to travel to and stay in their country. Visas are issued by embassies and consulates.

Other Documentation

  • Yellow Card: The International Certificate of Vaccination (the “yellow health card”) is the document for recording all of your travel immunizations. About the only thing this is currently used for is checking for Yellow Fever vaccination when coming from an infected areas such as sub-saharan Africa and the Amazonia regions. Very rarely some border guards may also check for a Cholera vaccination in some third world countries.
  • International Drivers License: On September 19, 1949, the United Nations established the International Driving Permit to facilitate the travel of motorists in foreign countries where language barriers create difficulties for both motorists and police. This document establishes the right for a person to drive in another country. The International Driving Permit (IDP) must be accompanied by your valid state driver license. It is not valid in the country of issue.
  • Student cards and hostel membership cards Can be used to save money - something I’m sure that everyone likes to do.

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Vaccines

Vaccinations are a vital part of travel preparation, protecting both you and the local populations from preventable diseases.

Most really dangerous diseases have been all but eliminated in developed countries. But when you travel in some third world countries, exposure to these diseases is a real threat. If you will be traveling in underdeveloped countries, it is a good idea to look into the assortment of shots that you may need for immunizations.

Plan Ahead: Some vaccines require multiple doses spread out over weeks or months. Start your vaccination schedule well in advance of your trip. Some vaccines offer immediate protection, while others may take several weeks to become effective.

Keep a record of your vaccinations: Including dates and types of vaccines received. Some countries require an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP), also known as the Yellow Card, particularly for Yellow Fever.

Stay Informed: Regularly check resources like the CDC’s Travelers’ Health page, the WHO’s International Travel and Health page, and your local health department’s travel advice. Stay informed about outbreaks or new vaccination requirements for your destination.

Why Get Vaccinated

The principle behind a vaccine or immunization is to expose your body’s system to the disease after it has been rendered harmless. By doing so, the body can build up its own natural protection so that if it encounters the virus, the body will be “immune” to its effects. This immunization effect takes time, so it is a good idea to give your body at least a month head start to condition itself before getting on the plane or boat. Another reason to begin your immunization program early is that many of the programs require a series of shots over several weeks or months. As well, some vaccinations cannot be administered at the same time. Ask your physician about your immunization requirements.

Unluckily, many of the diseases that have been eliminated in the more developed countries are still common in other parts of the globe. Travelers to tropical and subtropical regions will need to get vaccinated against diseases like hepatitis, polio, typhoid fever, diphtheria and others.

Which Vaccines

As to the travel vaccines required, each traveler should obtain information on the country, or countries, they plan to visit. Note that even experts disagree on various details and may provide you with conflicting advice.

Therefore, travelers should calculate their own risk by reflecting upon the nature of their journey; a business traveler who only visits hygienic, air-conditioned places for a few days can certainly not be compared with somebody who extensively tours rural areas in the same country where the risks of catching a disease are significantly higher and access to medical services is restricted or poorly developed.

  • Required Vaccinations: Different countries have specific vaccination requirements. Check the destination country’s health regulations well in advance.
  • Routine Vaccinations: Ensure your routine vaccinations, such as measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTaP), varicella (chickenpox), polio, and annual flu vaccine, are up to date.
  • Recommended Vaccinations: Depending on your destination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend vaccines for diseases such as: Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Cholera, Rabies, Japanese Encephalitis and Yellow Fever.

Side Effects

  • Common Side Effects: Mild side effects such as soreness at the injection site, fever, or fatigue are common and usually short-lived.
  • Severe Reactions: In rare cases, severe allergic reactions can occur. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms such as difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and throat, or a severe rash.

Consult Professionals

The Content on this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.

  • Travel Clinics: Visit a travel clinic or your healthcare provider for personalized advice based on your health history and travel itinerary.
  • Special Conditions: Discuss any pre-existing health conditions or allergies with your healthcare provider to determine the best vaccination plan.

Preventive Measures

In spite of successfully preventing illnesses, vaccines are not 100 percent effective all of the time. You can never assume that you are at no risk of catching the disease you have been vaccinated against. For that reason, all usual safety measures should be followed cautiously since these can be as imperative in avoiding sickness as vaccines themselves.

  • Mosquito Protection: In areas where mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue, and Zika are prevalent, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves, and sleep under mosquito nets.
  • Food and Water Safety: To avoid illnesses like travelers’ diarrhea, consume bottled or treated water and eat well-cooked foods.

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Create an Itinerary

Now that you’ve booked your flights and accommodations, it’s time to create an itinerary for your trip. Research the top attractions, activities, and events in your destination, and make a list of your must-see sights. Organize your list by location to maximize your time and minimize unnecessary travel.

Don’t forget to allocate time for relaxation and spontaneity. While it’s essential to have a plan, it’s equally important to be flexible and open to new experiences.

Creating a detailed day-by-day itinerary for a trip can help you make the most of your time and ensure a smooth, enjoyable experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you plan:

  1. Outline Your Trip

    • Duration: Determine the total number of days for your trip.
    • Arrival and Departure: Note your arrival and departure times to plan your first and last days effectively.
  2. Research and List Must-See Attractions

    • Attractions: Make a list of must-see attractions and experiences in your destination. Opening Hours: Check the opening hours and any special closing days for these attractions.
    • Distances: Group attractions by proximity to minimize travel time between them.
  3. Allocate Time for Each Activity

    • Priority: Prioritize your list based on what you absolutely want to see or do.
    • Realistic Timing: Allocate realistic amounts of time for each activity, including travel time, meals, and breaks.
  4. Balance Your Days

    • Pacing: Balance busy days with more relaxed ones to avoid burnout.
    • Flexibility: Leave some free time or flexible slots in your itinerary for spontaneous activities or rest.
  5. Create a Daily Schedule

    • Morning Activities: Plan activities for the morning when you’re fresh and attractions are less crowded.
    • Afternoon Activities: Schedule visits to museums, parks, or other indoor activities to avoid the midday heat.
    • Evening Plans: Include time for dinner, evening strolls, or local entertainment.
  6. Include Meal Breaks

    • Local Cuisine: Plan your meals at local restaurants or food markets to experience the local cuisine.
    • Timing: Allocate sufficient time for meals and consider making reservations for popular spots.
  7. Plan for Transportation

    • Local Transport: Research local transportation options such as buses, trains, taxis, or rental cars.
    • Travel Time: Include travel time in your schedule to avoid rushing between activities.
  8. Be Prepared for Changes

    • Weather: Check the weather forecast and have backup plans for rainy or very hot days.
    • Health: Plan for rest periods if you’re traveling to a place with high altitudes or unfamiliar climates.

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Travel Insurance

Buying travel insurance is an extremely important part of planning your holiday because without it, you could risk getting in thousands of dollars of debt. You can never guarantee a problem-free holiday as illness can strike at any time and accidents can happen anywhere in the world and are actually more common when people are on holiday as they are unfamiliar with their surroundings.

Without doubt, the growth of the internet has ensured that insurance prices are kept low because competition is so stiff. This, along with the relative ease of booking insurance online, saves time and money so there is no excuse for not buying it.

Before you take out a policy, there are a few things to bear in mind and also a number of things which will need to be done.

  • Preparation is extremely important as you need to know where to look, what cover you need, how much money you have budgeted for insurance and whether you will be going on more than one holiday a year.
  • If you are a student, there are many insurance brokers specifically aimed at students, offering the best prices.
  • Always compare the quotes you receive before choosing a policy. Make sure each policy offers the cover you require and then you can make an informed decision.

Never risk it and assume that you’ll be okay without insurance. The only time you won’t need to buy any travel insurance is if you are sufficiently covered with another valid policy such as home insurance or life insurance. Without travel insurance, you could face medical fees of up to US$20,000 for a minor operation.

Make sure that the cover includes the following:

  • At least US$7 million medical cover
  • At least US$5,000 cancellation cover
  • At least US$2,000 cover for loss or theft of personal belongings
  • Financial compensation for delayed flights
  • Personal liability cover up to US$20 million

It is of the utmost importance to declare all pre-existing illnesses. If you try to hide the fact you are suffering from an illness and this is discovered, your entire premium will be void and you will not be able to make a claim. Also, make sure you pay for extra cover if you are going skiing or taking part in any extreme activity such as bungee-jumping or mountain climbing.

Choosing which company to get insured with can be very confusing. There are many agents offering good deals for all ages and all kinds of trips. If you are on a gap year, some of the best companies include:

  • Club Direct: www.clubdirect.com
  • Columbus Direct: www.columbusdirect.com
  • Global Rescue: www.GlobalRescue.com
  • STA Trave: www.statravel.com
  • Student Universe: www.travelguard.com/studentuniverse
  • World Nomads: www.worldnomads.com

If you are going on an annual holiday and only need short-term cover, the following companies offer some of the cheaper premiums:

  • Access America: www.accessamerica.com
  • American Express: www.etravel.americanexpress.com
  • Atlas Direct: www.atlasdirect.net
  • Insure My trip: www.insuremytrip.com

As long as you have carried out the appropriate research and can make an informed decision, you are bound to find the cheapest and best insurance cover for you and your family. Comparing individual quotes is one of the best ways to do this.

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Money!

Your money is undoubtedly the most important component of your trip. Without it you wouldn’t be going, and if you run out or lose all of your money while you are traveling, your trip might be in jeopardy. Not only is budgeting so that you have enough money for your trip important, but planning ahead, getting the right bank-cards and knowing how to handle your money internationally can save you huge amounts of money.

Biggest Cost Factors

  • Your Route and Speed of Travel: Traveling slowly, going overland and minimizing the number of flights will greatly decrease your expenses. Air tickets will be one of the most expensive parts of International travel. Ticket prices vary so much from day to day that you have to be constantly watching for deals and bargains as they come up. Your airline ticket purchase allows for the greatest opportunity to save money if done properly.
  • Which Countries you Visit: Developed countries like Australia, Europe, Japan and the United States will double or triple your daily budget compared the the developing world. You can travel for $25 a day in Southeast Asia, but this will increase to $75 or more per day in most developed countries.
  • Where you Stay: Your choice of accommodations leaves room for financial flexibility. Hostels are obviously your cheapest bet and are actually quite affordable. But there are even cheaper ways to sleep than hostels. A nice, clean budget room in Southeast Asia can be had for $15 / day, while a luxury hotel room can set you back $250 / day. Stay at one of the top luxury resorts… then expect to shell out over $1,000 / night.
  • Where you Eat: Deciding on where you eat and what you eat will change your food budget considerably. Buying your food at supermarkets and making it yourself will be cheaper than eating at tourist-type restaurants all the time. Alcohol can be another expensive food purchase, if you can call it ‘food’. Food stalls and mom-and-pop restaurants are perfectly safe so long as you take a few safety practices and can be a window into the local culture.

Cash

Although easy to use and always accepted, cash has one major drawback — once lost or stolen, it cannot be replaced. It is a 100% loss of your funds. And this is the great strength of cash alternatives like ATM cards and traveler’s checks. If they are lost or stolen, they can usually be replaced within a short period of time and with a minimal financial loss. Carry little money and stick with ATM and credit cards for this reason.

But you will (and should) always have a cash reserve on you for any occasion that may arise. Whether you need a small amount of money for a tip, or the place you want to stay at doesn’t accept other methods of payment, you should always have some cash at your disposal. The importance then is how you are going to carry your money and ATM cards safely and conveniently. Here are some valuable tips to help you hold on to your money and make using it in a foreign country as convenient as possible:

Carrying Your Money

  • use a neck wallet to keep your finances organized. You should be able to keep your money, cards and passport all together and secure on your body.
  • your neck wallet with your money and passport in it should never leave your body! When you sleep, wear it or at least stick it in your sleep sheet. When you shower, hang it IN the shower (preferably somewhere where it will stay dry).
  • try to get a money pouch with a small change compartment in it or take a small pouch with you. Because so many countries in the world rely on coins rather than paper currency (because it lasts hundreds of years longer), you will find that you will have a lot of coins on you.
  • look into purchasing a small, plastic, waterproof pouch to put your cash and passport in. Similar to a Ziploc bag but stronger (and the same size as a passport), it will keep your papers dry when swimming or showering.
  • put your money in a money belt to conceal your wealth. BUT…put some money in your front pocket too! If you do get approached by a mugger, give him your pocket money to ease his needs and then plead poverty. This also helps when ever you buy something because you won’t have to keep pulling your money belt out.
  • don’t remove anything from a concealed money belt while you are in public. Instead, as with the above tip, keep some money and one piece of identification in your pocket to use. If you need to get more money out of your money belt, find some privacy in a washroom first.

Cash Tips

  • in some countries it is beneficial to carry some US currency. I found some things (like hostels) to cost less if paying with US money on occasion. Plus, you can sometimes avoid paying the extremely high (approximately 17%) tax that is on everything in many countries, including all of the EEC (European Economic Community) or EU (European Union) countries.
  • if you are going to Europe, you will find that the north is a lot more expensive than the south. Scandinavia and the cities of London and Paris are easily the most expensive places to hang out.
  • when traveling in some countries, look into the VAT (value-added tax) rebate for foreigners, which can run as high as 25% in some countries. If you keep all of your receipts, you can usually get all this tax returned to you when you leave. In Europe, you can re-claim the VAT when leaving the last EU (European Union) country you are traveling in.
  • in some countries the VAT will be waived if you pay in cash, depending on what you are paying for. It doesn’t hurt to ask about such deals if you know that you will be charged the VAT.
  • don’t spend all your time worrying about saving money. You may only do your trip once so enjoy it while you can and do it comfortably.

ATM Cards

  • make sure that your ATM card is in sync with either PLUS (VISA) or CIRRUS (MasterCard). Ask your bank about this before you leave (and don’t forget your PIN number).
  • remember your PIN number numerically (with numbers) rather than using letters. Many international ATM machines only have numbers on the key pads. If you only have the letters memorized, use a phone key-pad to convert the letters into the appropriate numbers.
  • try to get a PIN number with only 4 digits. Many foreign ATM machines only accept 4-digit numbers, yet many people have up to 8-digit PIN numbers, which won’t work.
  • always have some cash on you. There may be times when you won’t be able to use your ATM card.
  • consider taking a second ATM card with you. The magnetic stripes on them are surprisingly fragile.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are an excellent way to pay while you are away. They offer a virtual bounty of money at the blink of an eye (assuming you don’t already have your card maximized) to cover any financial emergency. But today’s credit card programs offer much more than just accessible money. The Power of Plastic

Travel Assistance: Credit card companies can serve as a travel assistance service. You can call a toll-free number provided by your credit card and receive information that will help you plan your trip. These benefits can be real time-savers, and the money transfer features that are offered can save you money.

Emergencies: One of the most useful aspect of these services is that the card travel service center can serve almost as a secretary and message center in an emergency. Credit card assistance centers will pass along emergency messages to friends, family and business associates. This allows you to make only one call to the assistance center - they do the rest.

Legal Trouble: Card companies can also help if things go wrong during your trip. In case of arrest, an automobile accident or need of other legal assistance, they can save you a lot of time by offering easy access to worldwide legal referral assistance, referrals to English-speaking attorneys and contact with embassies and consulates.

Emergency Medical Assistance: They also offer emergency transportation and medical assistance. If you become ill or are injured during a trip, most credit card assistance centers will help make arrangements to bring you home or transfer you to another hospital. If you are traveling alone and have a travel emergency, they will also assist in making travel arrangements to bring a family member or close friend to you. The credit card companies in most cases will not pay for any of the charges to change flights as all expenses are paid for by the card member. Both Visa and MasterCard Gold cards will also assist in filling prescriptions. If the prescriptions are not locally available, they can arrange for delivery.

Choosing a Card

Besides all of the benefits mentioned above, credit cards are great for the real reason they were made - making purchases. But there are many things to learn about this method of payment that will help save yourself some money and make it convenient for you.

Which credit and debit cards you use on your trip can actually have a dramatic impact on your budget. There are a lot of travel cards that can not only save you a lot of money, but also earn you reward points that can be very valuable. There are several things to look for when choosing a card:

Withdrawal Fees: This is a big one - If you withdraw from an out-of-network bank, most ATMs charge a fee. Added to this, many banks will charge a withdrawal fee as well. This can really add up quickly, especially if you make many smaller withdrawals. It is important to research your bank fees before-hand and get cards that minimize these fees. Schwab in the US not only has no withdrawal fees, but reimburses you for any foreign withdrawal fees.

Transaction Fees: Many cards tack on a 1% to 3% foreign transaction fee to the price of what you buy which is terrible for longer-term travelers. Again, it is important to research your bank card ahead of time.

Blocked Countries: Some smaller credit unions will flag or ban some countries because of high fraudulent activity. Other banks are just more internationally friendly. It is important to carry two separate bank cards just in-case this happens so you have an emergency backup till you sort out why your other card is blocked.

Online Banking: Make sure you can access your account from abroad and handle any issue from overseas. Some companies will only replace a lost card in person or ship it to the address on file, which can be impossible to get if you are away in another country. American Express is great in this respect as they can replace a card at any of their extensive international offices.

Not only is carrying more then one card important (in-case something goes wrong with one of them) but carrying different brands (Visa, MasterCard, AMEX) is important as some countries mostly accept just one brand. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted.

Before you embark on your journey, inform your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans. This prevents your accounts from being flagged for suspicious activity when transactions from a foreign country appear. Also familiarize yourself with the current exchange rates of your destination country’s currency. This helps you understand how much things cost and avoid overpaying for currency exchanges.

Ensure you have access to online banking to monitor your accounts, pay bills, and transfer money while abroad. Download any necessary banking apps for ease of access.

If you plan to travel internationally, you want the Charles Schwab debit card. This free checking account is a must in any frequent traveler’s wallet because it means you’ll never pay ATM fees… in the U.S. or abroad. When withdrawing money many from ATMs internationally, almost all debit cards charge 1%–3% per transaction, so having a Charles Schwab card can save quite a bit.

Tips

  • contact your credit card company in advance to let it know which countries you will be using your card in. Your credit card company, suspecting something is amiss when you’re overseas, may cancel or put a hold on your card when charges from some distant country show up on a card that previously had been used only locally.
  • if you plan on taking a card that you haven’t used in a while, use the card several times in the months preceding a trip to a foreign destination or the credit card company may get suspicious and cancel it in mid-trip.
  • take two credit cards with you as well as your bank card. That way if one doesn’t work (as sometimes happens) you will have a back-up.
  • don’t keep both credit cards together while traveling. Keep them separate so if you lose one or get mugged, you will have a backup card in another location.
  • write down the phone number of the credit card company to report a lost or stolen card immediately
  • check the expiration dates of your credit cards before you leave and give yourself at least a couple of months leeway before they expire
  • don’t leave your credit cards in the small safes offered by some hostels and hotels. Staff have keys to these so-called security devices and could ‘borrow’ your card to either make purchases (which you probably wouldn’t find out about until you got home) or make a copy of your card which could then be used over and over. Putting your cards in a signed and sealed envelope before locking them in the safe is an excellent preventative measure.
  • when you make credit card purchases, don’t let your card out of your site for more than a couple of minutes. It takes very little time for someone to make an extra charge or two while you are waiting for your card.
  • be sure to write the currency beside the final cost on your receipt.
  • using a credit card may provide you with some sort of insurance policy for theft, loss or breakage, depending on your card company.
  • make sure that you have a four (or five) digit PIN number for your credit cards. This way you can use your credit card for cash withdrawals. This is important because foreign banks don’t always have the same bank card system as you do. The PLUS and INTERAC system (popular ATM systems) aren’t always available. Your ATM card will just get spit back in your face. However, almost all bank machines accept Visa and MasterCard.
  • before you leave, put a cash advance payment on your credit card (pay more on it than is required). This will prevent you from getting dinged with HUGE interest rates from taking out cash advances.
  • when making purchases, don’t hesitate to use your credit card. These companies usually offer better exchange rates than the store or shop you are in. Keep in mind that the exchange rate used by the credit card company is the one that is current at the time you get billed, not when you make the purchase.
  • always have some cash on you. There may be times when you won’t be able to use your credit card.
  • visit Visa and MasterCard for details on using their cards.

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