One of the greatest joys in life is seeing the world a moment at a time because each place brings forth a new adventure, every adventure a memory, and every memory a story to tell. I like the way T.S. Eliot puts it, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” But how we get there, well that is an experience in itself. In today’s post, you will have a basic rundown on the necessary steps that you should take in order to start your travel off well.
Step 1- The Passport
One of my least favorite things to do is wait in line. And when i say least favorite, I mean literally cannot stand long lines, almost as much as I dislike decaf coffee. Unfortunately, applying for a passport often requires spending time waiting. So in order to avoid having to spend any more time twiddling your thumbs, here are the 4 things you will need to do. First, you will need to fill out the proper form. For first time passport applicants, children under 16, applicants 16-17 applying, or anyone not eligible for an adult’s passport will need to fill out the DS-11. If you are an adult renewing your passport, you will fill out a DS-82. And finally, if you are changing a name within a year, correcting an error, or replacing a “Limited Validity” passport with one or two years, you will need a DS-5504 form. [Hint- if you click on any of the form names above, it will direct you to the government website that hosts all of the forms.] Second, you will need to track down your supporting documents. There are two that you will need as an adult, and three if you are under 16. These documents include citizenship evidence, identification, and proof of relationship (for children under 16). Depending on the form you use from the first phase of this process, the form should tell you the specific documents it requires. Third, it is time to be a model. This is the fun part. Lights. Camera. Makeup (if you are in to that sort of thing). Get your photo! You will need a 2” by 2” color passport photo. [Hint- if you click on the word “photo,” it iwll take you to the requirements and photo examples- https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/photos.html%5D Fourth, it is time to pay the man. Depending on a number of factors, your bill will be different. Click on the following link to find out what your passport fee is. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/fees.html
A big thing to keep in mind with passports is that it takes time. For a routine passport, it takes roughly 4-6 weeks, assuming everything goes as planned. If you are fancy and can expedite it, you are looking at 2-3 weeks. And if you expedite at agency, then you could get it as soon as 8 business days. So our tip to you, try to start this about 3 months before leaving on your trip. It is a necessary step that is not too hard to do, but without it, there’s no traveling outside of the US. Don’t let this be the thing that stops you.
Step 2- The Destination
I think the most fun part of the trip is deciding where to go. The options are virtually limitless. Do you want to see elephants? Go to India. Do you want to ride in a gondola? Go to Italy. Have a craving for “Slănina afumată” (smoked bacon)? Go to Romania.
As you decide where your travels will take you, consider the following things- each country has a different set of norms, be as familiar as you can with differences in other countries (tipping, dining etiquette, monetary systems, typical greetings/common phrases, transportation norms). Do you think this is something you are willing to embrace? While there is totally room for sharing some of your country’s charms, it is extremely important to remember that you are in their country, and you are there to learn from them. What about the weather? Are you traveling in a season that you feel comfortable encountering that type of weather in an unfamiliar place? How about the food? Do you think your stomach can handle it? If not, or unsure, find some light (but filling) snacks that are easy to transport with you. [Pro tip- individual packs of peanut butter are incredible, as are Quest Bars, Cliff Bars, and peanut butter balls.] Also, do you think you are going to need vaccinations? If you are unsure, check out Passport Health.
Step 3- Getting Your Ducks in a Row
As you get closer, make sure you do each of the following-
1. Check weather/local news at destination – I once had a friend that was traveling to Paris, only to find out that there was a taxi strike in the heart of the city. This obviously caused a lot of problems with transportation and safety, so be sure to stay in the know on what is going on at your destination.
2. Call bank/credit card companies to tell them when you’ll be out of the country – Random credit card charges in foreign countries sound alarms. You don’t want your card to be declined or shut down because your bank is worried it was stolen!
3. Send copies of itinerary to friends/family at home in case of emergencies – This is hopefully just a precaution, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
4. Check international data and other phone charges – you don’t want to be stuck with a massive phone bill at the end of your trip because you were accidentally using data the entire time.
5. Get appropriate outlet adapter – It is essential to keep your phone/other electronics charged while traveling, you never know when you’ll need to look up directions or translate a phrase. There are 15 different types of outlet plugs around the world, and they vary by country. You want to be sure to get the right adapter to fit your destination. Click here to see a full list of outlet plugs and in what country they are used.
6. Call post office/newspaper to stop deliveries to your house while you’re gone – You don’t want to be “that house” that has tons of old, rotting newspapers on your sidewalk, or even worse, you don’t want any packages stolen while you’re away. Be sure to let the post office know not to leave anything lying on your front porch.
Traveling to a new country is so exciting, it can be easy to miss the necessary steps before you jump on the plane! While international travel is an incredible experience, you are putting your regular life on hold to embark on a grand adventure, and you want to make your return home as smooth as possible – without massive phone charges or closed bank accounts. Hopefully, this list will give you practical steps to help you on your way to your next international trip!