Tips for Taking 2012 Trips

The United States has plenty to offer, but there’s a big, wide world out there. Why not do something different this summer and go overseas? Before you get on that plane, follow some of these useful tips to make the most out of your summer trip:

1) Define what you want: What do you want to do on your summer trip? Are you interested in visiting museums and historical sites? Do you want to relax on a beach? Do you want to immerse yourself in cultural experiences? Do you want to go to a place with good nightlife? Are you interested in nature and outdoors activities? Asking yourself these questions is an important first step because it will help you narrow down your destination choices. Many destinations offer a variety of activities and interests to partake in, but it is up to you to decide which ones are your priority.

2) Figure out your budget: Decide what you can afford and create a rough budget to help you limit your destination selection. If you are on a tight budget, look at destinations where the dollar goes further, such as Southeast Asia or Central America. Europe is known for being expensive, but you can also get by cheaply with thorough research.

3) Research: Once you define the parameters of your summer trip and decide how much you can afford to spend, then you can research destinations that suit your needs. The Internet is your best friend for research. Lonely Planet (lonelyplanet.com) and Trip Advisor (tripadvisor.com) are great research tools. They have information about destinations, costs and even have travel forums for you to ask questions about specific destinations. Also, research the climate so you know what to bring and whether your destination in suitable. For example, summer is hurricane season for the Caribbean, so you want to be aware of possible weather conditions. Different countries also have different entry requirements, so it is important to research whether you will need a visa. Many countries in the European Union don’t require entry visas for Americans, but other countries may require a valid travel visa for entry. Depending on your destination, a visa can either be purchased at the airport upon arrival to your destination, or you may be required to procure your visa before departure at an embassy or affiliate consulate. The latter option can take considerable time depending on your destination and the demand, so think ahead! Additionally, make sure that you have a valid passport.

4) Search for airfares: Give yourself time to scout airfare prices so you can get a general idea of costs. Flying weekends is often more expensive, so if you have flexible travel dates, you might consider flying during the week. Once you know average fares, you will also be able to notice deals when you come across them. Good international airfare sites include Vayama (vayama.com) and Kayak (kayak.com). Be sure to review cancellation and change policies. Some airlines offer non-refundable tickets, but allow you to use the value of a canceled ticket towards future travel. Airlines may also charge fees for ticket changes and checked baggage.

5) Purchase a guidebook: Once you know your budget, your destination, and have a plane ticket, you can then purchase a guidebook. Guidebooks are useful on the road (Internet may not always be available), and feature maps, cultural tips and information, currency exchange rates, and provide overviews of activities and their associated costs. They also provide important information for individual cities, such as bus routes, restaurant listings, accommodation listings, and bar/nightclub listings. Popular guidebook brands include Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, and Frommers. Make sure your guidebook is the latest addition so all of the information is up to date.

6) Plan a rough itinerary: You can use the Internet and/or your guidebook to help you create an itinerary. You can plan where to visit if you want to visit more than one locale in a given destination, as well as what activities to do and where to do them. You can also plan your lodging. You can make advanced reservations or just show up on arrival if you want to have the option of viewing accommodation first. This depends on what suits your travel style. Advanced bookings can be made online or by phone.

7) Have fun and keep an open mind!: You can only plan for so much, so keep an open mind and don’t be thrown off by the unexpected. Once overseas, you may decide that you want to spend more time in a certain destination or that you want to change certain aspects of your itinerary. Don’t be afraid of involuntary or voluntary changes. That’s part of the fun! And remember to enjoy yourself. There will be cultural differences and some things that may not make sense to you, but keep a positive attitude and make this a trip to remember.

Brian Lawless

28 Dec 2011

http://ranchobernardo.patch.com/articles/overseas-travel-tips

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