International Travel Tips, part 1
by katie jones backer
You want to go where? Why don’t you wait until you have a steady job? Have you ever been met with these responses when sharing your travel dreams?
For some, international travel seems very overwhelming. And while yes, it can be, that’s also the beauty of it. When traveling internationally, you are not only seeing and experiencing a new country, but you are also growing as an individual. Your perceptions change. You challenge yourself in new ways. And you run the risk of falling in love with travel.
That's what happened to me. You see, travel is in my blood. I always wanted to see the world but dreaming of it and doing it are two very different things. Making my dream become a reality was a lifelong goal, and has now become a lifelong hobby. I've stood on four continents and experienced everything from volunteering at an Ethiopian Orphanage, to walking the grounds of Auschwitz and Pompeii, to splashing around in the waters of Southern Australia or France.
Travel IS very attainable—even on a limited budget—IF you take the right steps.
Where to, and why?
Vacation- Time to relax!
-If you desire a glorious, relaxing getaway, consider All-Inclusive Resorts in Mexico, a cruise, or renting a Villa in the French Riviera.
Volunteer- Ready to work!
-If you want to volunteer, find an organization that will help you through the whole planning/volunteering process such as a local church Mission trip, Habitat for Humanity, or a credible non-profit that you can team up with to work in underdeveloped communities.
Trip- Museum, please!
-If you’re up for a bit of adventure, worn out shoes, and toting a heavy backpack around rather than resting up, you’ll want to find a map of Europe and run with it. Or perhaps, join a tour or take a language class to then test out your new vocab globally.
To have a great travel experience, one needs a realistic expectation and objective. If you hope to suntan on a picturesque beach while your spouse hopes to explore the local sights, you may end up with shattered expectations and an ill-timed argument. Trust me, get your wants out in the brainstorming phase BEFORE you’re suffering from jetlag, time changes, dealing with local currency/transportation … a.k.a. The stresses of travel. Compromise is a necessity when multiple travelers are involved! My husband and I have found a happy balance by ensuring we save a little relaxation time for him and cram in as much history and culture as possible for me. By mixing it up, we try to have “Trip/Vacations” with a lot of sightseeing at first and end with leisure.
When are you going?
You’ll want to think about the best time of year to go. When I traveled to Australia, I went in July. I was in college, and the flights were cheap because it was their winter. Aha! Did you catch that? While traveling to another part of the world, you need to take into account that their seasons may differ from yours.
Is the country you’re visiting in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere? Do they have seasonal hurricanes or a “rainy season”? Are there local holidays going on which could affect travel itineraries? Do you need a travel visa or shots to go there? These are all things to consider. If you're hoping to lie on a beach in Australia, you'll want to go in January not July. If you're up for a trip and aren't concerned with the weather, check out the off-season deals when you'll find the best prices on airfare and lodging. NOTE: Many 8th Grade trips are in May, and many high school international trips are in the early summer. To avoid long queues, you’ll want to be aware of school trips and avoid travel during those times.
RESEARCH… then… BOOK!
Trip Advisor is a fantastic source for your initial planning. Seeing what worked for REAL travelers with pictures of places and tips on the best restaurants, sights, transportation, and neighborhoods to avoid is super helpful. You can also check out Lonely Planet, STA Travel, and Rick Steve’s books. Once you narrow down the type of travel, the place(s) to visit, and the dates (season) desired, then you can begin to book it. Many hotel websites offer deals, so I recommend checking them out individually. And if you’re backpacking Europe, for example, or limited on funds, look for hotels/hostels/B&Bs with complimentary breakfast. It all adds up, so save where you can.
This is truly the tip of the iceberg as far as travel planning… Remember, having a dream can become your reality with some forethought, research, and good ‘ol fashioned budgeting. Forsake eating out or that fancy coffee in exchange for a REAL French café or Italian pizza while abroad! You won’t regret it!