(4 minute read)
If you are retired or close to retirement now is the perfect time to hop on a plane and see the world. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to taking an international trip. However, if you plan it right and know what you’re getting into it can be a transformational experience. Exploring a new culture means trying new foods, experiencing new music, and seeing things that you’ve only read about. In order to help make your trip as smooth as possible here are some tips for preparing for your trip, traveling, and ways to make your destination as enjoyable as possible.
Before You Travel Abroad
Whether you decide to take a pre-planned and tightly scheduled group trip or a by-the-seat-of-your-pants solo adventure, research is key. Check out websites like Lonely Planet or Frommer’s to get an idea of what your destination will be like. They offer advice on things to do and where to stay as well as how safe your destination is for foreign travelers. If you know someone who has traveled to your choice location, don’t hesitate to pick their brain about what to expect. The more you know the more fun you’ll have when you arrive. It’s also important to know what travel papers you’ll need. While many countries allow Americans to travel between borders with only their passports, it’s crucial to know whether or not you’ll need a travel visa once you plane lands. Some countries, like Vietnam, will allow you to obtain this document at the airport, but other countries require a lengthy and relatively costly vetting process to cross their border. This might require you to send your passport to your destination’s nearest consulate or get a letter of invitation. The bottom line is that if you need a visa, make sure to take care of this at least a month before you travel. If you’re planning a last-minute trip and need a visa, don’t fret too much as there are usually options to expedite the process for a fee. Once this is set make sure to contact your bank to let them know that you will be travelling out of the country. If you don’t they may put a stop on your debit or credit card as they may assume it is being used fraudulently.
The last bit of practical advice before you board your plane is to take some time to learn some common phrases in your destination’s native country. While Google Translate (an app that is essential to travelers around the world) can help you communicate, you might not always be in an area with wi-fi or 4G. For this reason, it’s important to either make a list of key words and phrases that you will need to know once you land. This not only ingratiates you to the locals (even if you can’t quite pronounce things correctly) but can get you out of a tight spot if you are lost or need help. While it might be difficult to memorize phrases like “take me to the hospital” or “call the police” simply learning words like “hello” “yes” or “no” can be really helpful.
Tips for the Airport and Beyond
Travelling can be so stressful that 37% of people have canceled or delayed a trip because of it. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce this stress in order get to your destination feeling relaxed. If you are travelling with meds or a chronic illness there are some steps you should take. One important thing you need to do is make sure that you schedule a ride to the airport well in advance. For most international flights you need to be at the gate at least an hour before takeoff. Not having to worry about parking and taking a shuttle to the terminal can help shave a good chunk of time off your trip to the airport. Nobody likes going through airport security, but it can be a lot easier if you keep all of your relevant documents in one spot for easy access, so you aren’t fumbling through your things to find everything. It’s also a good idea to put all of your electronics the same section of your carry on so you can easily find and remove them at the security checkpoint.
On a long flight there are a couple of indispensable items that will make your flight as relaxing as it can be:
- A good pair of headphones so that you can hear inflight movies, music, or books on tape in case you happen to be seated near noisy children.
- Earplugs and an eye mask if you want to get some sleep.
- A pen (as well as the address of the hotel or resort that you are staying at) so you can fill out your international arrival card on the plane. Doing this while in the air allows you to whiz by a lot of people who waited until they were on the ground and help you get through the security checkpoint faster.
Once you are through the checkpoint and have collected your bags, it might be a good idea to buy a SIM card at a kiosk at the airport. This will allow you to have internet access on your phone anywhere you go within the country which will help you immensely. Getting from the airport to your hotel or resort is easy in many cases. Usually, your accommodations will provide a car or shuttle to get you between places with little hassle. Make sure you contact them beforehand so that they know when you land and can direct you to the location where your transportation will pick you up. Now that you’ve arrived it’s time to take in some local flavor.
Make the Most of Your International Experience
There is one simple rule for international travel: Keep an open mind. Things are going to be strange and different and communicating will be difficult. Just try to relax and go with the flow. While it’s convenient to take care of your currency exchange at the airport, depending on the exchange rate and ATM fees it might be cheaper to just take cash from an ATM or just use your debit card for all of your purchases. Make sure that you contact your bank or credit card to see what these fees are and you might just find that you can skip the currency exchange altogether.
If you have any questions about where to go your concierge will probably speak English and help you find cool local places to check out as well as tell you what sections of town to avoid.
When it comes to the local food it’s easy to be intimidated. Just remember, if you happen upon a popular dish that seems a little off-putting, that this meal is popular because people like it. While it might take a time or two to wrap your palate around it, you may find that really enjoy it. Remember the best way to make the most of your trip is to be accepting of new and different things while not stressing out about minor roadblocks–accept them as part of your adventure. Bon voyage!
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