See elephants in their natural habitat in Africa. Explore the streets of London or the boulevards of Paris. Eat sushi in Tokyo or zipline in Brazil. Once you know where you want to go, international travel is all about doing what it takes to have the best experience possible.
International travel can change your life in so many ways – but you need to be prepared before you head to the airport! Here are a few of my tips, along with tips from the experts, about what it takes to create a phenomenal international trip.
Apply for Your Passport Far in Advance
If you already have your passport and it’s not going to expire before your trip, then that’s wonderful! Skip right along to our next tip.
But if you don’t have your passport yet or if it expires soon, make sure to take care of applying for your passport before you do anything else. The wait times can be extremely long, and it’s much better to be too early than too late. After all, you don’t want to miss out on the trip of a lifetime because you didn’t get your paperwork in on time!
Stay With Friends (If Possible)
If you have friends who live abroad, ask if there is a good time of year for you to come visit (and stay with) them if they haven’t already offered. Of course, staying with friends or family is cheaper as you won’t be footing the hotel/Airbnb bill, but there are many other advantages.
When you stay with friends, you’ll have an insider’s view as to what local culture is like – without having to do hours of research beforehand. You’ll get to visit the coolest places, see the most important sights, and eat at the best restaurants because your friends know about it all already. That’s a major perk!
Pack Appropriate Clothes and Converters
What will the weather be like where you’re going? What will you be doing? Just like for any other trip, for an international trip you’ll want to pack the appropriate clothing – but that’s not all.
Make sure you purchase any converters or adapters that you may need for your electronic devices. Your phone will be no good to you if you can’t charge it! Find out well in advance of your trip what converters or adapters you might need, and then keep an eye out for a good deal.
Research the Highlights
Find out what famous sights are a must-see in the cities that you’ll be visiting. Which museums, parks, etc., are the ones that you can’t leave the city without seeing? Check out travel books and blogs first, and then make your list.
Travel books have tons of great, credible information, but they may not be as up-to-date as some online resources. Reviews on TripAdvisor, for example, can be as recent as the previous week or even day.
What’s true for travel books is also true for travel blogs. Keep an eye out for the travel bloggers that update their posts. If the information on the blog post is more than five years old, you may want to find a different blog post for your research.
That said, not all travel blogs are created equally. Some posts from more than five years ago will contain better information than a post from a blogger who visited your destination last week, especially if that blogger just wants more views on their page for ad revenue. Be critical about where you get your information!
Come up with a list of the famous destinations that you can’t leave the city – but don’t stop there!
Make Your Personal List
After you’ve found out what famous sights you have to see, make your own personal list of must-sees. This list should be all about you and your priorities.
For example, I couldn’t leave London without checking out the 221B Baker Street museum dedicated to Sherlock Holmes. Was it a tourist trap? Yes. Did I still enjoy it? Of course!
Before you go to the airport, take the time to find out if there’s anything at your destination that aligns with your personal interests. This includes any restaurants or cafes that you think you’ll love!
Plan Your Itinerary
Once you have your two lists — one list of the famous can’t-miss sights and one list of your personal favorites — it’s time to plan out your itinerary. Plot out all the places on your favorite map provider (Google Maps has excellent tools for this, and you can download them for offline use, too).
Then, it’s time to check hours. Will any of your sites be closed on certain days or during certain hours? Make sure you note that before you start working on your itinerary.
Next, it’s time to make a day-by-day itinerary. You know where you want to go and which days you can visit specific places. Put it all together in an itinerary so you know that you’ll get the most out of your trip!
Arrive at the Airport Three Hours Early
While it might sound unnecessarily early, the experts all agree: three hours before your flight is the best time to arrive at the airport for an international flight. Give yourself plenty of time to get through customs and to arrive at your gate. You’ll be so glad that you arrived early – and so much less stressed!
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