Tips to Prepare for an International Trip
Let's just say I am a fairly well traveled individual having been to 33/50 states in the U.S. That however is where my travel experiences tend to end. My one spot outside of the continental U.S is the Bahama's. Let's just say there isn't really any culture shock effect there. On the other hand, my partner Thomas has been around the world and then some. So when I pretty much demanded that I had to go somewhere, he was on board.
This for me is really a trip of firsts. My first big culture shock experience. First 13+ hour flight. My first time with a layover longer than 4 hours. Plus the first time leaving my dogs (aka my children) for so long. I did start feeling the panic of all this as the date of our trip continued to approach. I was hunting around and asking everyone for as much information as I possibly could to prepare. Below are a few tips on what to remember as you plan for an international trip. (I figured I would save you all the hassle of the million thoughts that ran through my head!) To save you all the misery of remembering all that I am about to talk about there is a free printable checklist at the end of this post. Use this as a resource to help you with your next international trip!
Just taking the time to Google your destination(s) can help you understand what current events or holidays may be happening at the time. Not necessarily to learn every little detail but it will help give you a good idea of generalities of what may be occurring.
For example, our trip to Thailand in May 2017 was just half a year after the King of 70 years passed away. His son had just recently stepped in as the next King. A good major piece of information that was good to know before getting there.
Do not, however, take my grandmother's advice which was to look up what poisonous snakes live in the place you are traveling to. I made that mistake and now I forever regret it. And am also never ever going to Australia, don't ask, just accept it.
Ask Friends & Family for Recommendations
Chance's are you know someone somewhere who has visited the destination you are planning to go to. It is amazing how many people might have visited the same country or countries you are planning to. This was a fun way to see someone else's photos and hear from them about their favorite things they did.
Look Into Necessary Vaccines & Medicines
Since I have never traveled outside of the country to experience a new culture I was certain I needed some sort of vaccine. Sure enough, Thomas and I were both due for a couple things. Also, I had never had a Hep-A shot before which is pretty crucial if you're leaving U.S. soil. Luckily, the Doctor who gave us our shots treated me the kid's way since I have such an unnerving fear of needles.
The other big thing to plan for is medicine that you bring with you. The doctor who does the vaccines for you should also write you a script for anti-diarrheal medication to bring that way if you do get sick from the food. In addition to this with all the tight quarters involved in travel we brought, Dayquil, Zicam, ibuprofen, Tylenol and Dramamine.
Check Your Passport and Verify the Country's Requirements for Entry
Luckily, this trip we went to Thailand who doesn't require a visa. As the date of our trip approached I read something that said your passport cannot be expiring within the next 6 months from when you arrive or else you will be denied entry. I was fine but Thomas's passport was expiring at the end of July, only 3 months from when we would be entering the country.
We found this out a whole 8 days before leaving. With a few phone calls and some research, we learned that he could go in person to a federal agency to get his passport renewal expedited. No big deal if you live near an agency but for Utah, the closest one is in Denver, CO.
I helped load the car and Thomas set off over state lines in a rush to get his passport. A sketchy motel stop and eight hours of driving later he made it and luckily the passport did arrive in time. Lesson learned and shared with you all to check into all this right when you first book your trip!
What to Wear for the Culture and Climate
This is more of a two part section. Culture and weather if you will. Thailand is a mostly Buddhist and then Muslim influenced country. It was important to know that because of this for visiting temples I was going to have to cover my knees and shoulders. But I had to cover up with breathable fabrics since it is always a minimum of 100 degrees. Always check if there is a recommended dress code and what the weather will be like when you visit your out of the country destination.
Exchange your Currency
Give yourself at least a weeks time ahead of flying out to order some foreign currency. Based on the exchange rate, researching what you will be doing and your in-country transportation you should have a daily budget that you try to stick with. Thomas and I tried sticking with $20/person each day and we covered most of the trip with the money we brought.
The second half to exchanging your currency is to also plan what credit or debit cards to bring with you. We each had our debit cards for emergency's if we needed to withdraw cash and we each had a credit card. Try to bring a credit card that has zero foreign transaction fees. It's better to prepare for an emergency that way there isn't an additional problem.
Pack, Repack... Then Repack Again
We were able to pack down enough to each have a small carry-on size backpack with us. On top of that, we still had space in our bags to fit souvenirs and clothes that we purchased. I think the magic in this was how many times we kept repacking.
The trick is to gather all the items you think you will want with you about two weeks out. Then a couple days later go back through and remove some items you think you would be fine without. After that wait a few more days and remove some more items that you think you can live without during your trip.
As a gift to all of you click below for a free printable checklist on how to prepare for international travel!
Let me know if you have any additional tips to help prepare for someone's first, or even fiftieth, trip out of the country!