This is a response to The Joys of Traveling Abroad.
After coming back from my semester abroad in Europe last year, I honestly wasn’t sure when I would be traveling internationally again. Sure, I had the travel bug and missed the spontaneity of picking a country to visit every weekend (then promptly Venmo-ing my amazing planner of a friend), but I had just finished four months of living abroad. Meaning I was broke. This summer, however, I’m looking forward to my first trip abroad since, this time in Japan. As I brush off the dust on my suitcase and passport, I thought of five things that are important to do before traveling abroad.
1. Check that your documents are updated ahead of time.
I’ve heard the passport horror story multiple times: someone’s in the security line for their upcoming international trip and is told that their passport is expired. They are told to step out of line with the little dignity they have left and their partner, sibling, parent, or any traveling companion staring at them in disbelief. To avoid this nightmare, be sure to check that your documents, especially your passport, are up to date. If you’re leaving the United States and your passport is expired or will expire in the next six months, you have to renew it as soon as possible. Trust me, you’ll come back from your trip with great stories based on transportation mishaps anyway.
2. Do research about the place that you’re traveling to.
As someone who studied abroad, I’m obligated to say this. Researching the place that you’re traveling to not only enhances your experience but ensures that you’re respecting the culture around you. It’s understandable wanting to be surprised at your destination, but it’s also important to be aware and respectful of your temporary home. Also, you can start a list of the places you want to visit and things you want to see when you arrive!
3. Check in with fellow travelers about each other’s must-dos.
Let’s be honest, every person is different when it comes to traveling and visiting a new place. You have the friend that’s obsessed with history, the friend that stares at paintings for hours, the friend that would love to hang out at the beach more than anything, and the “phone eat first” friend. The beauty and curse of being in a new city or country is that there’s so much to do, see, taste, and experience. While traveling, my friend and I would talk about what each of us really wanted to do and decide the plan from there. The goal is that everyone has the best time that they can with the limited time that they have in that place, right? In the same vein, it’s important to talk about each other’s expectations for the trip as well as their comfort with branching off on their own.
4. Stock your wallet with local currency and your carry-on with your prescriptions.
Your bank is usually the easiest and cheapest place to exchange currency, so be sure to get a good amount of your destination’s local currency before leaving for your trip. This is a good time to become aware of currency exchange rates between your resident and destination countries! Similar to checking your passport’s expiration date, be sure that you have enough of your prescriptions to last you throughout your trip and keep them in their designated prescription bottles.
5. Set aside time to make a packing list. Then actually pack.
Listen, we’ve all been there before. Your flight is in six hours and the excitement is kicking in… and so is the stress because your suitcase is empty and you haven’t packed anything. Remember that stress the next time you start to procrastinate. Set aside twenty minutes to figure out what you have to pack, keeping in mind the research that you did earlier. What’s the weather going to be like? Are you going to be doing a lot of walking? Then set aside to complete that list, preferably by the night before your flight. You can do it, I believe in you!