The best adventures are the ones that take us out of our comfort zones. We grow and learn when we take off and discover an entirely new culture and country. The majority of Flytrippers’ flight deals are for international destinations, so you’re in luck!
If you check our cheap flight deals page regularly, you’re going to find crazy low prices for different destinations like these fantastic deals: roundtrip to Europe for $247, roundtrip to Asia for $499, roundtrip to South America for $289, roundtrip to the Middle East for $399, and sometimes roundtrip to Africa for $552!
If you’re among the many who have yet to travel outside of North America (excluding all-inclusive getaways because those don’t need much planning), you’re probably a bit nervous at the idea of planning your own international trip.
This is normal! It’s a big step! But that shouldn’t stop you from doing it!
If you ask any of your friends who have been to a foreign country on their own, they’re going to tell you that it was hands-down the best form of travel. No doubt.
If you’re well-prepared, international travel opens up a whole new world.
It’s not that complicated. To share the words of one of our readers, millions of people on earth eat, sleep, and get around… in every country. Therefore, you’re able to, as well!
So, here are 8 tips on how to prepare your next adventure abroad.
How To Prepare For An International Trip
These steps are for those of you who want the most bang for your buck, and a little adventure. If you want convenience in an entirely pre-planned and organized trip, you can have that; however, it will cost you much, much more.
Like everything else, it’s not traveling that’s expensive; it’s wanting travel to be convenient that is expensive. That’s where the myth that travel is expensive comes from: most of us have been told that convenient (and expensive) travel packages are the only way to travel.
Moreover, organized trips are often very tourist-y, which can make your experience less unique and even superficial, by only seeing the famous sights. You won’t get to experience life with the locals.
If you want a truly exotic and different experience while abroad, organize your own trip with these tips in mind.
We won’t talk about finding cheap international flights in this article, since we’ll soon publish an article, our Ultimate Guide to Find Cheap Flights, which will be very useful for that. For now, let’s concentrate on how to prepare for the actual trip.
1. Do Your Research
If you don’t take the time or have the desire to research, you may not fully benefit from your first trip abroad.
You must invest time and create an itinerary based on your preferences, as well as on what expert travelers recommend.
I admit, yes, it takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. And it’s the number one piece of advice to follow on your first international trip. Some people leave for a trip without having done any prior research. They land in a new country with no preparations and then discover it with the help of locals or by following their gut feeling.
For the spontaneous type, this is great. But if it’s your first international trip, it might not be for you. Eventually, however, with our advice, you’ll be comfortable enough for such a spontaneous adventure!
But, as you prepare yourself for that, do your research—it’s key to a successful trip. Take advantage of the wealth of information online.
2. Familiarize Yourself With Travel Advisories
On the Canadian government’s website, you can search for travel destinations and learn a bit more about each destination.
Let’s be clear: don’t take the travel advisories at face value. They’re written to make the world seem scary, and if you strictly listen to the Canadian government, you will never leave your house. Later, we’ll have an article explaining this further.
These advisories are primarily for the most inexperienced travelers—more so for tourists than well-seasoned travelers. The info is available so that they know the basics of a country’s situation. It’s good to read this for context, but just don’t overreact.
You can certainly visit countries where there are travel advisories (literally millions of people do it every year). But if it’s your first trip abroad, you might prefer to pick from “less unsafe” countries, at least as you start.
The government is alarmist as they understandably don’t want to take responsibility if someone goes abroad and has a bad experience. (The truth is that if you’re careful, those are infinitely less likely than a car accident back at home statistically.) This way, the government can say: “We are not at fault; we did our job, we posted an advisory.”
Therefore, if you’re a beginner, take their advisories into account—especially where non-essential travel is not recommended. But one thing I want to point out: EXERCISE CAUTION does not mean to avoid the destination. It means to EXERCISE CAUTION. France is rated as EXERCISE CAUTION, like many other countries. It’s fine. You can go to France. And the other countries with the same advisory. (We’ll cover the different types of advisories in more detail in the upcoming article.)
And also, advisories may not apply to an entire country. It may suggest avoiding certain regions, but some parts of the country are perfectly fine to visit. For example, when we went to Turkey a few days after the 2017 referendum and during the purge, the travel advisory said to avoid the Syrian border. That’s a tiny part of the country, the rest was fine.
This is just an example that it’s always good to know about these spots and why, because some regions really do have to be avoided. But there are a lot less than the media and people who are scared of everything want you to believe.
The best example of these advisories being a bit exaggerated is that France was recently classified as “exercise caution” as I just mentioned. We still went many times, as did millions of other tourists. I mean, it’s literally the world’s most visited country. It’s just as safe as it is back in Canada. The main rule is to avoid big crowds. Other than that, don’t go to less desirable districts, like in any other city in the world in 2019 when using common sense.
So, that alert seems alarming, but you shouldn’t worry too much; always combine these advisories with your own judgment, or talk to someone who has actually been there, not someone who heard something bad on the news.
You can even register your trip to notify the Canadian government of your whereabouts if you want. Even if 99.99999% of the time you will do it for nothing, it only takes two minutes.
Lastly, remember to inquire about the necessary vaccines for traveling to different areas of the world. It’s always good to be up-to-date on your vaccinations, especially for travel to exotic locations (you don’t need any of them if you are going to Western Europe).
3. Inquire About Entry Requirements
Before booking your flights and hotels, don’t forget to check entry requirements for Canadian travelers (visas).
Most European countries have no particular entry requirement (which will change come 2021), but each country differs. You can read our series of articles coming soon on how to check Canadian citizen entry requirements.
To travel in most countries, you need to ensure that your passport is valid for 6 months after your expected return date. So, if this isn’t the case now, renew it!
This 6-month rule doesn’t apply to travel in the United States. We’ve been asked about this often, but don’t worry. Even if your passport expires a week after your expected return date, you’ll have no issue (I tried it myself before my renewal).
On the other hand, we recommended having a copy of your passport saved online or in your phone directly, in case you lose it during your travels, or it’s stolen. (Theft can be avoided if you pay attention to your surroundings. Always be aware of your belongings and bags, or get a secure handbag as mentioned in our article about the most common travel scams.)
Another requirement that you should verify is whether you have the proper license to rent and drive a car abroad. If you plan on renting a car, you may require an international driver’s license.
Double-check your destination because it’s not the case everywhere. For example, I rented a car in Iceland, Spain, Moldova, Cyprus, South Africa, Oman, and Bahrain without an international license when I booked through well-known car rental companies, which the number one rule with car rentals anyway.
4. Plan Your Itinerary
If you don’t want to do this important planning on your own, it’s best to book a pre-paid trip or hire a tour guide. But for better results, you should do it yourself—it will cost less and give you more freedom.
Create your itinerary so you can visit whatever you want, at your own pace. And one thing is for sure: the internet has so much more information than any single tour guide could ever have. However, that means you need to put in the time for research.
We use a site that has tons of information on logistics, things to do and places to see in and around any city. There are, of course, many sites and blogs about specific cities and countries, and it’s free. If you prefer, you could find your info from travel guides.
So, put in some time and effort to research using Google, find attractions you want to visit, and use planned itineraries to inspire your own (pro tip: steal the itineraries from expensive tour companies and start from there, it’ll save you a lot of time in your research and a lot of money too). This way, you’ll have a great itinerary for less and you can adapt the itinerary to tailor it to your interests.
It’s our most crucial tip. Maximize your time traveling by researching the places you want to visit beforehand. The more you read, the more likely you are to have a good trip.
Remember: take time to read personal accounts of others’ trips to get great info. Their experience will enhance yours.
5. Plan A Budget
First, it’s essential to avoid the mistake of saving more than is necessary. Everyone overestimates how much they will need because they don’t deduct all that they would have spent staying home (food, activities, gas/transit). Deduct that from your travel budget.
Another common mistake is not knowing the costs of living country-to-country. You only need $25 a day by becoming a budget-traveler and most importantly choosing the right countries. So, even though the price of a flight is substantial, if you spent twice the amount on a flight to Thailand compared to a flight to California, it will still cost you much less overall. Considering the cost of living is much lower in Southeast Asia, your total expenses will be a lot less.
For accommodation, use different online tools to compare all of your options. This can give you a better idea of the costs for your destination. You can get hostels for as low as $5 a night in some countries. Accommodation is one of the biggest expenses, and it depends on what you prefer: a hostel, a hotel, or an Airbnb… and if you are traveling solo, or with others. Once you have a better understanding of the accommodation costs, you can make better decisions.
ALSO READ: Our tools for finding the cheapest hotels
Finally, familiarize yourself with the local currency. Also, understand that exchanging money before you go is not the best idea. ATMs often have lower fees than banks here, but we know that leaving without money can stress some people out. So, worst-case scenario, you only need to exchange a small sum of cash at home to get you through the first day. We know that this is a subject that is confusing to many, so we’ll share a definitive guide to saving on foreign transaction fees / ATM fees / exchange fees.
6. Check The Weather
Next, on a more logistical note, check the weather for the dates you plan to travel. This awesome map shows high and low seasons for every country.
Personally, it doesn’t bother me to travel to a country in its low season, usually when the weather is worse. In fact, it’s the best way to save money because everything is ridiculously cheaper. Not only is the plane ticket cheaper but so are all the costs there, especially accommodation. But, knowing the weather ahead of time helps you pack appropriately and plan your itinerary appropriately too.
Going back to the Turkey example for a moment, we went towards the end of April and beginning of May. Yes, it was colder, but it wasn’t too bad, and there were fewer crowds of tourists. Flytrippers’ other co-founder Kevin is in Central America right now during the rainy season and it’s great, there’s just a short rainstorm and that’s it. Traveling outside of peak season has its benefits, but make sure you know the details.
We will also write a series of articles about travel essentials and other advice about packing your bags. Many of our readers seem very curious about our obsession for #teamcarryon.
7. Get Travel Insurance
Yes, we definitely recommend travel insurance—avoid being featured in one of the countless articles about people who had to fork out thousands of dollars because they traveled without insurance.
Just so you know, it’s easy to be insured for free (in fact, it’s better: it’s being paid for being insured).
It’s possible thanks to travel credit cards, which we highly recommend. Firstly, because they help you get free travel—which we call travel hacking—but most good credit cards also include free travel insurance, in addition to hundreds of dollars in free travel as a signup bonus.
You can see the best Canadian credit cards, and we have a very detailed article on travel insurance in general. We are re-launching our travel hacking section very soon to have even more info on rewards and insurance, don’t miss it.
And most of all, always buy your plane tickets with a credit card because it covers you in case of a delayed or cancelled flight.
It’s a must and it’s ridiculous to go without this; planes are often late, so make sure you get your expenses covered! At least for those occasions when the airline won’t offer free hotel stays and food vouchers because your flight was canceled due to the weather. Airlines don’t owe you a thing in those cases (which makes sense: they don’t control the weather).
Don’t worry; your card will pay for this—I’ve taken advantage of it countless times!
8. Be Open-Minded
The last thing to prepare yourself for your first international trip is to do so mentally. You will discover so many new cultures but also new ways of living; you’ll need to have an open mind.
It won’t be like you’re at home. If you want it to be like you’re at home, stay at home.
If not, accept the differences, even the ones you might not enjoy. Globally, the experience will be very, very enriching, and open you to new ways of life!
Traveling is not meant to be perfect and without obstacles. It’s just supposed to be. Period. If you want something that won’t challenge you, you don’t want to travel, you want to vacation (and that’s perfectly fine, it’s just not the same thing though).
But if you want to travel and appreciate the experience as a whole, then always have an open mind.
Because famous quotes are always a great way to end an article, here’s Mark Twain:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”
We share new articles on our website nearly every day, so come back for more articles that discuss these tips even further.
Or, better yet, subscribe to our free newsletter to receive new articles in your inbox more easily.
Adequately preparing for your first trip abroad will give you an entirely new and exciting experience simply because you’ll find yourself in a new place, living life in a way you never knew before. By following these tips, you’ll surely be ready to have your own epic adventure!
Do you have any specific questions? Any more tips you’d like to add to the list? Tell us in the comments below!
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You’ll probably enjoy this article:
Travel Hacking: Free Travel (really)
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