Traveling Abroad Checklist - Part 1
International Travel Tips
It is amazing what you can learn from traveling as traveling is the best form of education. You get to see new cultures and traditions, taste new foods and you may pick up a few words of the foreign language.
For a safe & enjoyable journey as well as to stay on budget, plan ahead your travel itinerary and get current travel information.
This article will cover the initial planning stage including preparing the budget, buying air tickets and booking your accommodation.
Part 2 will cover topics on how to pack, what to do before you take off on your journey, what to avoid at your holiday destinations, and what to do if you suffer from jet lag.
Traveling Abroad Checklist
Do Your Travel Budget
There are instances when your travels can be planned months ahead, and some that are last minute decisions as in the business travels.
Advance planning can reduce travel cost as airline tickets, hotels, car rental, etc. can be a lot cheaper if you buy them well ahead of your travel dates. Gather as much information as possible and make sure these are current information.
For this article, it is assumed that:
- This is a not a last minute travel plan
- You had confirmed your travel destination
- You will not be traveling on group tours, but as a Free Independent Traveler (FIT).
The first step is to do online research to get a rough estimate on cost of living at your travel destination. Visit several travel sites and check the prices for hotel, food and transport.
Is there any requirement for any specific vaccination or other conditions that might change your budget? Check the destination country's tourism website for these info.
Check the US Department of States for any alerts and warnings as these risks might cost you more.
For easier budget planning, the budget should be split-up into 'Before' and 'During' the trip expenses and are as follows:
Pack Smaller Items
Buy smaller bottles of all toiletries and other personal items, for easier and lighter packing. The free perfume samples (in a tiny bottle about 1 inch high) are great for your 1 - 2 weeks travel, or even for a 1-month journey!. You may want to try the 'once a week' deodorant during your travel (it actually works!). This way, you don't have to carry the bulky deodorant stick when traveling abroad.
'Before the Trip' Expenses
This will cover cost for the followings:
- Photo and Passport
- Vaccination cost
- Visa cost
- Flight tickets
- Travel insurance
- Currency exchange loss/gain
- Travel gears (luggage, clothings, toiletries & personal items)
- Other related needs for the trip (if you intend to go scuba diving or mountain climbing or forest hiking or golf.)
'During the Trip' Expenses
This will cover cost for the followings:
- Food & drinks
- Local transport/car rental/gasoline/toll charges/parking charges
- Phone calls/internet access
- Sightseeing cost (joining the local tours, entrance fee to certain places like museums)
- Entertainment (cinemas, local cultural or musical shows)
Do Your Budget - Where Should You Splurge?
Your Once a Week Deodorant
I have tried this and it works for me! I use it all the time when I travel. Since you use it only once a week, it's very convenient if you are mostly outdoors.
Buy Airline Tickets
Book a Direct Flight
In order to minimize any possible missed connections, always book a direct flight. If this is not possible, get a one stopover flight, but the continuing journey must be with the same airline or its partner airline. Should there be changes in your travel plan, you liaise with only one airline. However, if your flight booking is made through a travel agent, then contact the travel agent for the changes.
Compare Prices on Both Airline Website & Travel Websites
It is cheaper to buy air ticket online as you don't have to pay the additional travel agent fee. However, check with several travel sites and the airline websites. Sometimes, ticket price can be cheaper through the airline website compared to the travel websites such as Travelocity or Hotwire. Spend time to do these research and you will be rewarded with some best buys.
Book Your Seat in Advance
Most airlines will give you the option to book your seats in advance, for a fee!. But if you wait, some airlines will let you book your seats for free. This usually happens 48 hours before your travel time. This last minute seat booking may not get you your prefered seat, but at least you save some money and can spend on other things.
Book Your Special Meal
When you buy your ticket online, you can also book your special meal if required (e.g. vegetarian meal etc.)
Most airlines offer online check-in or via other modes such as SMS on mobile phones. This will saves you the hassle at the airport especially if there is a long queue at the check-in counter. However, you still need to join the queue to check-in your luggage, if any. This will be at the baggage drop off counters. Some airlines provide a self-service baggage drop off counters at selected airports. Check with your airline for these facilities.
For Hotel Rooms, Check Hotel Website & Hotel Reviews
Prepare Your Travel Itinerary
Do your research and check what are the sights and activities you want to do. Prepare an itinerary. It may not be the final plan, but at least you have a rough idea of what you intend to do. This will help you with accommodation decisions as well as in your travel budget preparation.
Then Book Your Hotel Room
If your travel plan or itinerary is still unclear, then book your hotel room for only 1 or 2 nights at your first destination. This will at least help you recover from any jet lag and gives a better orientation of the place.
Book hotel that is near the subways or along the local bus route or within walking distance to shops and restaurants. This will save you a lot of time as well as money on taxis.
As security can also be an issue, book a hotel that is in a 'safe location'. Depending on your budget, you may want to stay in the larger hotel chain group for better security control. Hotel rooms that are on levels two and above are another added security measure to consider; to deter any possible break-in from ground level.
Stay at Airbnb
This is the online marketplace where people can rent out their spare rooms or even the entire property to guests. It is cheaper than hotel rooms and the location may also be better.
Compare with the hotel rates before you decide.
Travel Tips - Did You Buy Travel Insurance?
Travel Plan - You May Want to Pre-Book a Local Tour
If this is your first trip to this destination, then you may want to pre-book a local tour to give you an overview of the city. Check if they offer the hop on, hop off tour. If they do, then there's no need to pre-book a tour. Just get on this hop on hop off tour, for the initial overview of the city. Once you have familiarized yourself with the place, (and after feedback from the hotel staff and tour operators), then book other local tours there.
Travel and See the World
To quote James Michener, an American author who wrote sweeping family epics that were set in exotic locations:
"If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home."
So, plan ahead and travel the globe and learn a little of people in other parts of the world.
For your next travel plan, let's check out Travel Abroad - Traveling Tips and Advice Part 2. for tips on how to pack for the journey, check list before you leave for the airport, how to handle Jet Lag and things to watch out for when you are at your foreign destination.
© 2012 Mazlan