Going on vacation requires careful planning, and the pre-vacation logistics of domestic and international travel can become quite stressful. To simplify the process, here are 10 tips to help you get the most out of your trip.
1. Plan ahead.
Finding a destination is the first and most important step. Consult travel agents, research online, or ask friends and locals about potential destinations. Careful planning will help you fill up your itinerary with the best possible activities.
2. Stick to your budget.
Finding a hotel off the beaten path or staying in a hostel can greatly reduce the cost of a vacation. Pre-paying for room and board and purchasing event tickets and tours ahead of time will ensure less stress and more savings. Find discount activities and look for group discounts if traveling with family or friends.
3. Notify your credit union or bank before you leave for vacation.
Financial institutions may cancel your card if they believe unauthorized purchases are being made. Making your credit union or bank aware of your travel plans will keep your purchases from being flagged for suspicious activity. For international travelers, your financial institution may also be able to exchange currency.
4. Check your medical coverage.
Some insurance policies do not apply internationally. Becoming injured during your vacation is a very unwelcome experience, but then getting hit with significant medical expenses on top of your travel expenses could be difficult to manage. If your policy doesn’t cover these types of emergencies overseas, it is wise to add extra coverage.
5. Prepare your credentials.
Ensure your driver’s license is valid. When traveling abroad, make physical and digital copies of your passport, leave a copy at home with trusted family or friends. Have access to digital copies either in your personal email or online storage services. It is not uncommon for people to lose their passport while traveling abroad. Having multiple copies available will make getting home easier if you lose your real one.
6. Know import and export restrictions.
You will mostly likely want to bring some type of souvenir back from your travels. It would be a shame to have a cherished memento confiscated by customs officials on your way home. Be sure to have a clear understanding of what you can bring with you when you travel domestically or internationally—and be especially aware of plants (including common fruits and vegetables) that are restricted.
7. Practice safety.
Always travel in a group or hire a guide when exploring off-the-grid locales, and be sure to keep your passport and other credentials secured when you leave the hotel. Try not to advertise your absence from home on social media either, and have a friend come check on your house from time to time.
8. Notify your embassy.
This may not be necessary for most travel destinations, but for daring travelers who are visiting politically unstable areas, it may be a wise decision to enroll in the U.S. Department of State’s STEP program. If a problem arises while you’re overseas, a U.S. embassy will be able to contact you and help get you home safely.
9. Stay flexible.
This is especially important if traveling with family or friends. Not everyone will have the same interests or expectations. Being open to a change of the itinerary is an important way to ensure everyone is enjoying the experience together. While planning is critical, too much planning can begin to feel restrictive.
10. Be in the moment.
Often times, traveling can feel like a checklist of destinations to conquer. It is easy to get caught up in the minutiae of where you want to go next, making it harder to enjoy where you actually are. The journey will be over before you know it, so don’t forget to take a deep breath and return to the present moments that make travel special.