Traveling to a foreign country can be more complicated than a domestic vacation but with good preparation it can be a rewarding experience.
Your most important document: The passport
If you do not possess a valid passport, you need to be sure to allow at least eight weeks to apply for and receive your new passport. Particularly in the summer, both the national passport office and the passport services at your local post office are swamped with applications. When you do apply, make sure you have all the required documents and photos so that your application is not returned for additional information. And if you already have a passport, check its expiration date. Too many travelers have gotten to the airport to learn that their passport had expired. And if you are traveling to a destination other than a European one, you need to have at least six months left before your passport expires. If you have less, consider getting a new passport.
Choosing your flight
Are you overwhelmed by the number of travel and airline sites and don’t know where to start? There are some great sites, like www.kayak.com, that do not sell tickets but which give you an overview of the current prices sold by different agents. You can type in your destination and dates and get hundreds of choices of airlines, times and prices. There is no obligation to purchase from one of their featured sellers. But don’t ignore regular travel agents, either. If you want to do something a bit out of the ordinary, such as fly to one location and fly back from another, or make different stops, a travel agent can often find very good deals.
Packing for an international trip
Generally international destinations require far more walking than a domestic vacation so the first tip is to pack light! Coordinate your wardrobe so that many items can mix and match. Pack some good, comfortable walking shoes. The voltage in almost every country outside of North American is 220v as opposed to our 110v. You will need a minitransformer for your electric appliances unless you have dual voltage equipment. Laptops are always dual voltage and many hair dryers and curlers also come in dual voltage. Even for things that have the proper voltage, you need to check the configuration of the electrical outlets where you’ll be traveling. Much of Europe is two round pins but the UK is three square. A kit of adapters for different countries can be a good investment.
Careful preparation will mean that you can concentrate on the people, food and culture of your vacation destination. You’ll have a wonderful time!