10 Tips to planning a trip abroad

So, you have decided to travel! Congratulations! Travel is one of my favorite hobbies, and something that I think can really help you find who you are. Living in America, we are lucky enough to be able to travel far distances, and have the same culture that we are used to. After having went abroad this past year, and two trips planned for the upcoming year, I have some set skills and tips that I personally use. These are my 10 tips to help you travel go smoothly and worry free!

  1. RESEARCH! I cannot stress this part enough. I was born with this crazy thirst for knowledge, and I think this has been my number one thing that has truly helped me in my travels. Not only can it save you some money along the road, but it can also save you some embarrassment in whatever country you are traveling to. The last thing you want to do is offend anyone because you did not take the time to research their customs and morals.
  2. Attempt to learn some of the language: Luckily for me, when we visited France this past summer, I had eight years of French under my belt (I somehow remembered things, it was amazing!). While your accent and pronunciation will not be perfect, I think being able to say “yes”, “no”, “thank you”, and other basic phrases will show your respect to their nation, as well as break you off from a typical American!
  3. Learn how to eat!: Manners are not something that is stressed in this country sadly, people pretty much just do what they want. I love etiquette and using proper manners personally, and my grandmother enforced those on me like you would not believe! For example, I am traveling to Japan in just a few months, and sticking your chopsticks upright in the bowl could remind someone a funeral. It is part of their culture to place chopsticks upright in the coffin before sending their loved one away. Trust me, you don’t want to be disrespecting people in other countries.
  4. For my parents out there, give your kids a history lesson! I never thought this would have to be a tip, and especially when I actually had to use this on my own cousin. While planning our trip to London, he did not understand why we were going to “old buildings” as he called them. This prompted me to make a short power point to show him on the plane that highlighted the history of the locations we were visiting, and how they had an impact on the world as we know it, even if they are old. Seriously though, who does not know about the Tower of London?!
  5. Figure out your transportation options BEFORE you get there. I cannot stress this enough. There is nothing worse that going somewhere and not knowing how to get back, or how much it could cost. I literally had a nightmare about being stranded last night, and that was just across the town I live in! Most major places have some sort of public transportation in place which is a huge help, and with companies like Uber, it makes it much easier to get around during your vacation. Learn about ticket prices, and most places have an option for tourists, or a re-loadable card that can easily be done through your laptop or phone. I also usually carry a train map in my bag with me just in case we get lost.
  6. Think about what you actually plan on purchasing. I knew that I was going to buy quite a few things while I was in Europe, and somehow pulled it off with only an international carry on and a backpack. My aunt loves luggage, and actually purchased a suitcase at Disneyland Paris to bring back with souvenirs for her kids. I also suggest packing a lightweight shopping tote so that you can back some extra items you cannot fit into your backpack or suitcase. It also acts as a great bag when you are out shopping as most places make you pay for a shopping bag now!
  7. Look into an international phone plan. I know that we should be focusing on our trip and our experience without worrying about our phones. There are definitely a few reasons that we may need a phone overseas though. One of the biggest reasons we used ours in Europe last summer was for directions, easy translations, and obviously to take photos. It also is a great way to ensure your safety in case the worst happens.
  8. Don’t book every day up! This is a huge pet peeve of mine when people travel. Leave some days open to explore the area you are going to, be a local for one day, it won’t kill you. Seeing different sides to new places is a great memory to have that a lot of people don’t get to experience. Go to the museums, go to the monuments, but be sure to explore. Plus, great photo opportunities may present themselves.
  9. Use Airbnb, seriously. I know that this is a “modern” kind of hotel deal which is not comfortable for everyone, but I cannot say enough about it. It is just a great way to feel like a local in a place, and usually way cheaper than any hotel you are looking at. You can rent anything from a room to an entire home or apartment depending on your needs. If you have not looked at the site before, I highly suggest just giving it a look. It is also fantastic for experiencing a city before you make the big move there, but that is a different post.
  10. If you are catching a plane to your next location, hope for a layover! When we flew back to Washington DC from Paris, we actually got a day layover in Iceland due to some air strikes, but that was one of my favorite parts of the trip. It is a great way to see places you would never get to go normally, and it is like your vacation gets a bonus. We are utilizing our layover on our trip to Japan this summer to experience Dubai, so get out there and explore!

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