How to Travel

You know you’re ready to hit the road and travel the world, but you need some assistance getting out the door. With some forethought and careful planning, you could be on your way to adventure sooner than you think. Start making plans for your escape!

Part 1 Deciding Where and When to Go

1. Determine how much money you have available for a trip. You don’t have to be wealthy to travel, but knowing how much money you have available will most likely influence all other aspects of your trip. If money is tight, you may decide to postpone your trip until you can save more. Where you go, how you get there, and where you stay may all be determined by how much money you have.

Remember that, in addition to any travel expenses, you must also pay your rent and bills at home. Before you spend money travelling, make sure you have enough to cover these necessities.

Be astute and avoid making small, unnecessary purchases wherever possible. Eating in, avoiding ATM fees, and skipping the $4 lattes are all quick and easy ways to save money for travel.

If you can’t afford to fly to a distant location but want to explore, look into places within a day’s drive of your home. Look for national parks, strange roadside attractions, or even a travel guide for your area. If you don’t have your own wheels, you can rent a car or take the bus for the day.

2. Determine how long you will be gone. Check how much vacation time you have saved if you work. Check your calendar for any important dates that may conflict with your travel plans; you may need to postpone your trip a few days to avoid missing your grandfather’s 100th birthday.

Remember to account for travel time; if you only have a long weekend, it may be best to stay close to home. Divide the total number of hours you plan to spend on the road by the total number of hours you plan to spend at your destination to calculate the percentage of your vacation you will spend travelling.

3. Choose when you want to leave. Look up the high, low, and shoulder seasons for tourists at your destination’s tourist bureau online. The date and time of your trip may also have an impact on the price of your ticket. You can plan your trip around the lowest fares if you aren’t picky about dates.

High season is when there are the most people, the best weather, attractions are sold out, and the prices are the highest.

Low season typically means great deals, fewer tourists, the possibility of bad weather, and the possibility that some attractions will be closed. You may also find that the locals are a little friendlier.

Shoulder season is thought to be the best time to travel. You get the best of both worlds: you avoid the crowds, get the best deals, and still have nice weather. To take advantage of shoulder season, book right before or right after high season.

4. Determine the type of trip you want to take. Consider what you want to get out of your vacation. Consider planning a relaxing beach vacation if you need a break from your hectic schedule. If boredom is driving you insane, consider an adventure vacation such as white-water rafting, zip lining, or rock climbing. Visit a national park to reconnect with nature, or travel halfway around the world to gain a new perspective.

Many travel websites will provide inspiration and ideas for various types of trips, such as family, ecotourism, road trips, and others. Try a website like Triptuner, which will make recommendations based on your preferences.

Inquire with friends and family about places they’ve visited. They may have some excellent suggestions and insights into what to do, where to stay, and what to eat.

Part 2 Preparing for Your Trip

1. Make a budget. Make an educated guess about how much your entire trip will cost. Travel expenses (plane or train tickets, gasoline if driving), hotels or hostels, travel insurance, passport or visa fees, transportation at your destination (taxis, buses, car rental), and the average cost of a meal should all be considered (or set the total amount you are allowed to spend on food each day). Make sure you leave yourself some money to splurge on something special, as well as some extra for emergencies.

Investigate the costs of the activities that interest you, such as the admission fee to the Musée d’Orsay or the cost of a Broadway show ticket. The more precise your cost estimates, the better you can plan your trip.

Many cities provide some form of tourism pass, which grants free or discounted admission to popular attractions such as museums, tours, and historical sites for a set fee.

If your plans exceed your budget, you may have to make some concessions. Stay in a hostel rather than a hotel, and skip the four-star restaurant. Being adaptable will help you stick to your budget.

If you’re travelling abroad, don’t forget to research the currency conversion rate and factor it into your budget.

2. Make your travel plans. There are dozens of websites where you can search for cheap flights all over the world. Check multiple booking search engines because they don’t always have the same deals. Also, check out the airlines’ direct websites. If you don’t want to fly, you can also book train and bus tickets online.

If you have a layover in another city, make sure you have enough time to change planes.

According to studies, the best time to purchase a domestic flight ticket is between 100 and 50 days (3.3-1.5 months) before your departure date. International flight tickets are typically the cheapest between 171 and 50 days (5-1.5 months) before departure.

If you’re not sure how to get to your destination, a website like Rome2Rio will provide you with estimated costs and travel times for almost every mode of transportation.

Train travel is popular in Europe, and websites such as Seat61 can help you plan a route and find deals.

3. Make your reservations. There are numerous options for where to stay, ranging from hostels to luxury hotels, tree houses, campgrounds, and private apartment rentals. Think about how you intend to use your accommodations. A hostel may be a good option if you want to meet other travellers and don’t mind sharing a bathroom. If you want to sleep late and order room service while wearing a fluffy robe, you should probably look for something upscale.

There are even ways to arrange for a free place to stay, such as signing up at couchsurfers.com to crash with a local or WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) to exchange work for room and board.

Make reservations in advance. It may reduce the spontaneity of your trip, but it’s no fun to arrive and discover that every hostel in town has been booked for the night and you have nowhere to stay.

4. Make a rough schedule. If you intend to visit multiple cities during your trip, try to figure out how many days you will spend in each one. Determine which attractions are top priorities and find out if you need to purchase tickets ahead of time. But don’t be too strict. You (and your travel companions) aren’t going to have a good time if you’re stressed out because you’re 15 minutes behind your itinerary schedule.

Investigating the transportation system will help you plan and budget your time more effectively. Learn how to use the metro before visiting Paris, or discover which train lines will take you to Pisa from Florence and how long the journey will take.

Add the addresses and phone numbers of any hotels or car rental agencies so you have them all in one place and can quickly refer to them.

Share your itinerary with your family, including all of your travel details. It is critical that someone knows where you are and how to contact you in the event of an emergency.

Send yourself an email with your itinerary so that you can easily access it.

5. Make a list of what you’re going to pack. Check the average weather at your destination for the time of year you will be there. Many travel blogs and websites have compiled packing lists, so if you search “what to pack for a week in Bali,” you should get a lot of good suggestions.

Pack as little as possible. Choose basic clothes that coordinate so you can mix and match throughout your trip.

If you’re flying, keep the 3-1-1 rule in mind: each passenger can bring one 1-gallon bag of liquids, gels, or creams, each in a 3.4oz container. Most drugstores sell packable travel-sized shampoos and moisturisers.

Make sure you pack any medications you need and that you have enough for the duration of your trip plus a little extra.

Other essentials include a light rain jacket, a backup battery for your phone or other electronics, and something to read or do to pass the time on planes and buses.

Think about the weather. It could be snowing, raining cats and dogs, windy, or as hot as the desert sun outside. It all depends on the weather, and the type of weather determines the type of weather activity you’ll engage in.

When packing, roll your clothes up. Roll your clothes instead of folding them! You’ll have a lot more room in your bag. Roll up each outfit into one big roll to make things even easier. That way, you can get everything at once, without having to search for it.

Part 3 International Travel

1. Obtain your passport. First and foremost, you will not be able to travel abroad unless you have a valid passport. The average processing time for a US passport is 4-6 weeks, and the fee ranges from $110 to $135. If you are applying for a new passport, you must submit your paperwork in person at a passport agency or approved facility (typically a post office), and some are only available by appointment. Get your passport in order before you do anything else to save yourself a lot of stress.

It is possible to expedite the process and receive your passport in less than 4-6 weeks (even as soon as 24 hours in an emergency), but you will have to pay an additional fee.

If you are renewing your passport, you can avoid the lines by submitting your application by mail.

When you get your passport, take a photo of it and email it to yourself. You should also make a copy and keep it in your suitcase. These copies will be extremely useful if your passport is lost or stolen while you are travelling outside of the country.

While travelling, keep your passport somewhere safe—a jacket with an inside pocket or a money belt that goes under your shirt can help you avoid losing or having your passport stolen.

2. Determine whether you require a visa. Visitors to some countries must obtain a travel visa in order to enter the country. You should apply well in advance, just like you would for a passport, because it could take days or weeks to process.

You may need to book a hotel room before applying for a visa, and you may be asked to provide your address and contact information when you apply.

3. Visit your doctor and get vaccinated. Tell your doctor where you’re going and what vaccines you’ll need. To enter some countries, proof of certain vaccinations is required. Your doctor can issue you an International Certificate of Vaccination, also known as a Yellow Card, as proof of immunisation.

Vaccines can take several weeks to begin working, and you may require multiple doses, so don’t put it off until the last minute. Consult your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip.

You can also get vaccines at a travel clinic, where the staff specialises in travel medicine and is well-versed in the precautions you should take while abroad.

4. Study the language. Even a few key phrases, such as “hello,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” and “where is the restroom?” can go a long way. People are often more willing to assist you if you make an effort to speak their language.

Although English is widely used as a second language in many countries, you should never assume that everyone will be fluent.

5. Investigate the customs of the country you’ll be visiting. Traveling somewhere unfamiliar can put you at risk, and the last thing you want to do is offend the locals. What is perfectly acceptable in your home country may be frowned upon in your host country. To get tips, buy a travel guide or visit the forum on a travel website like Lonely Planet.

Consider how locals typically dress (some countries are more modest than others, and showing skin may attract unwanted attention), if tipping is expected, and how much “personal space” is normal (you may find people standing and talking much closer than you’re used to).

Check for travel advisories or warnings for the country you intend to visit. You may decide to change your plans if you learn that certain areas are experiencing conflict or are considered unsafe to visit.

6. Notify your bank or credit card company that you will be travelling internationally. Your card may be flagged for fraud if your account shows unusual activity in another country. A quick phone call will prevent your card from being declined or, in some cases, being lost to an ATM machine that will not return it.

Inquire with your bank about any international partners or branches you can visit. Fees for ATM withdrawals in foreign countries are fairly high and can quickly add up.

Using your ATM card to withdraw money will almost always result in the best exchange rate. Just keep an eye out for those fees.

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