There are a lot of pages out there giving you tips & tricks of international travel, these are just some of the things I have learned over the years when it comes to travelling outside the country.
Know your destination
Seems simple right? Well not so much. You need to know where your destination located (Northern/Southern Hemisphere), what season it’s currently experiencing (summer/winter/monsoon), whether you need a visa to visit it, whether it’s easily accessible, are there any travel restrictions and whether it’s peak or off-peak season. All of these things can affect your travel plans. Just because you want to go to Cuba doesn’t mean that it’s going to be as easy as you think, or want it to be.
Research is key for any travel, whether you are going for a week, a month or a year. As much as some people think they don’t need a plan and it will all work out when they get there, sure that could happen the first 4 or 5 times you travel. But maybe the 6th time you will be stranded at the airport, bus or train station in the middle of the night on a public holiday when everything is closed and you have no hotel room, that could put a dampener on your holiday. Find out what festivals, holidays etc are on at your destination when you are wanting to travel. Not only can price of pretty much everything can jump exorbitantly depending on what is happening in the area but there could be more people than you bargained for. On the other side of the coin, if you are going for a specific festival, you also need to be prepared and plan for it, usually well in advance.
Don’t overpack. It really is that simple. You are not going to wear every single item in your bag and you really don’t need to take 15 pairs of shoes. Be sensible in what you pack, again think of the destination – high heel shoes and cocktail dress are not going to do you any good in the middle of the Cambodian jungle so don’t take them. For me the most important thing whilst travelling is comfort. I am often out visiting the sights or going on buses around a city so I like to be comfortable. Another tip is to pack your carry on sensibly. Put a change of clothes in there, just in case your luggage is lost or you’re stuck in Abu Dhabi for 15 hours (true story). Don’t forget to put in there the things you must have: medicine, book to read, electronic device, chargers for the electronic devices, international plug to be able to use the chargers for the electronic devices!
Be Realistic About Costs
Travel is expensive. I’m not going to lie, it is really expensive. There are people out there that would disagree with me and that’s ok. I am talking about the every day costs associated with travel that I have experienced. I am not the ‘sleep on a strangers couch, eat only from street markets’ kind of gal, but I am also not the 5-star kind either. Some places are more expensive than others, usually the bigger cities like London, New York City or Sydney. You can still find cheap deals in these places but you are definitely going to spend more in places like that than somewhere like Bali or Vietnam.
Look For Deals
Leading on from the last point, you can get some great deals if you look for them. From cheap airfares, to accommodation specials or two for one coupons. While personally I don’t sign up for travel deals like flight special notifications because I don’t like my inbox too cluttered, but it can be a good idea if you want to keep an eye on specials. I will, however, look at airfares all the time, especially between Australia & New Zealand. I am constantly checking out the Air New Zealand site to see if they are having a special so I can maybe have a quick weekend at home. Read blogs and forums to find out the tricks people have found over the years, like the fact that The Met museum in New York City has a recommended admission of $25 for an adult. What they don’t say on their website is that if you hand over $1 they will not turn you away (personally I paid $10 because I felt guilty).
Plans Can Change
Picture this: you’re on a flight to London and have to transit in Abu Dhabi for about 2 hours. You have everything planned, checking on the inflight information screen about which gate you need to be at and calculating how long it might take you to get there and whether or not you can make a quick trip to the toilet, when you hear the captain come over the PA. “Folks we’re going to be a bit delayed because of fog at the airport and a problem with the runway lights”. First thing that goes through your mind “I didn’t know they got fog in the Middle East” and the second thing is that you wonder how this is going to affect you. Around 24 hours later you arrive in London after being stranded in Abu Dhabi for 15 hours. My point is, the best laid plans can be changed by things that are out of your control.
I use to think that I had to have my entire trip itemised right down to the minute. Now I like to have a couple of days up my sleeve so that I can just go with the flow and see where the day leads me. Believe me, as a perpetual planner, this is something that I am still learning.
So there you have it, some of the things I have learned over the years of travelling internationally. Now I am not the utmost expert in these matters and I think that anyone claiming to be is, quite frankly, wrong. What works for someone else might not work for you. You have to find your own system but I hope that I’ve been able to give you some tips that will help you on your way.
Oh and one last thing – this is one thing that I do on all my trips: don’t go back to work on Monday. Especially if you have been away for a period of time, having to go back to work for a full week after a trip can be a killer. I like to give myself at least two days, so I add a couple of annual leave days to my vacation and go back to work on the Wednesday. This might not work for everyone but it really helps me.
Do you have any tips when it comes to international travel?
Are there things that you absolutely must do in preparation for travel or whilst away?