“Thank you for booking.”
As discussed last month, once you determine where, when, and what type of international experience you want and book it, you are in for a life-changing, memorable time!
Now all you need to do is pack. Easier said than done, right?
*Packing: The most significant issue people (myself included) often run into while traveling is overpacking. Overpacking leads to unceremoniously struggling to drag your belongings all around. Remember, even if you booked a beautiful B&B, you still must get there. An unfamiliar language or area, dealing with Customs, and racing to catch the nearest transportation can be stressful. Add in multiple hours of travel, hunger, jetlag, and an oversized suitcase you’re now expected to lift onto the train, and you have a recipe for a breakdown. (Tip: Don’t assume you’ll find elevators or escalators everywhere.)
So… TRAVEL LIGHT. Yes, it’s possible! Backpacking is liberating, and you will grow from living simply. If you insist on bringing the big bag, have a plan as to who is going to lift it. Can you arrange for an airport shuttle? A wheeled suitcase can ease some of the strain. I purchased a High Sierra bag that I carry-on for trips. It rolls, reverts to a large backpack, and has a detachable daypack. *Tip: Keep your height and weight in mind, and always test it before you travel- the wheels, zippers, everything!
You can visit many stores online including Amazon, or check out our local Base Camp, Scheels, Ross, or T.J. Maxx to find travel necessities. (Refer to Trip Advisor and the Facebook “Travel Community” Group for helpful tips.)
- Sunscreen–Travelers often forego packing this because their resort sells it. FYI- it’s probably overpriced.
- Bug Spray, Medications, and Vaccinations– Bring DEET insect-repellant, and spray your clothes, bag, and swimsuits. Though the Zika Virus is not as prevalent in the news; it hasn’t been eradicated.
– Check with RiverStone Health or the CDC website (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel) for vaccine information (I.e., If you’re traveling to Africa, you need to avoid Malaria, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Hepatitis…) Some shots are scheduled as a series, so don’t procrastinate.
-Common over-the-counter medications may not be available or labeled in English! Bring a first-aid kit just in case.
- Electronics– You will need a travel adapter to use and charge devices in some foreign outlets. You can purchase one online, locally, or borrow one from a friend. Save where you can!
– Will you take pictures? Did you bring an extra memory card, tripod, and charger? It’s so disheartening to realize you forgot something, so make a thorough checklist.
- Laundry– Clothesline, clips, and travel detergent are my must pack If you’re packing light, you will still want to feel fresh in your limited undergarments. These items take up little room when all is said and done. There are laundry mats abroad, and I’ve visited a nice Italian one, but remember this takes time and money, and sometimes you’re not willing to spend either.
Passport and Visa– You want to make sure your passport is current. Some countries (Russia, for instance) require a passport and visa to enter the country (especially for an extended period). https://www.us-passport-service-guide.com/travel-visa.html
- Miscellaneous– Most places offer towels. Tip: Pack an empty duffle bag and fill it with your dirty clothes when you’re headed home to make room for souvenirs in your original bag.
-Do you need binoculars, a lock, collapsible cooler, or water bottle? Walking shoes, a parka, umbrella, rain or winter jacket, or a hat? *Tip: Bring your Student I.D. for discounts!
Now that you’re packed keep in mind…
Use common sense and play it safe. Ask the hotel staff if there are areas to avoid, or if they have any tourist advice. Use the “buddy system.” Dissuade pickpockets with purses/pockets with zippers. A cross body purse that you can hold on to securely works well. Don’t leave your bags unattended. Don’t approach just anyone to take your picture… What did we do before selfies?
Your bank will have travel safety measures to implement, contact them before you leave. (I never travel with a lot of cash. I typically wait until I’m in the country and use my credit card for the most part. It’s a matter of preference.) Don’t wave your money around. Be smart.
Leave a copy of your passport/visa at home. *Tip: Newlyweds- Bring a copy of your marriage license to get “honeymoon” deals!
Research the culture ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is come across as an ignorant American. On a Florence Cathedral tour, an obnoxious woman loudly asked for the “American” tour. An Irish-accented gentleman in front of me corrected her by saying, “You mean the ‘English Speaking’ tour.”
Remember to look for “English Speaking” tours (menus, etc.) yet, do not expect everyone to speak English. Know the critical words in the main language. (If you have a medical condition or food allergy, you should be prepared to explain it.) There are translator apps you can download, or traditional language guidebooks to assist you.
Above all, do your research and play it safe! Once you’re there, enjoy your time making exciting memories and getting off the grid whenever possible. Eat with the locals and experience a bit of culture away from the main “tourist traps.” Share your travel pics with us on our Facebook page.
about the author…Katie Jones Backer is a former History teacher with a passion for travel, history, writing, music, and helping others. She is happiest though when spending time with her husband, daughter, and two adorable Pomeranians!
Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s June 2018 issue.
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featured photo by Jana Graham Photography