Once you have decided you want to travel, here are some more things you can do before you actually decide to purchase those plane tickets or book your stay. It’s a gradual process and doesn’t have to happen all at once. Pace yourself and have fun with the experience. The learning curve gets steeper from here, but like the best travel guide in the galaxy will tell you: Don’t Panic!
Do your research
Picking a destination can be like that game you played as a kid in school, where you spin the globe and wherever your fingers stops it is where you will go. My suggestion for starting small is to pick somewhere you are interested in seeing. This will give you some destination goals, an idea of an itinerary, and you can start doing some research on it to learn about things such as good places to eat, stay, nightlife, places of interest. Free shit!
Start looking at airfares now, even if you aren’t planning on flying for a year or so. If you can get a good gauge on what it will cost to fly, you’ll have a better idea what to budget for. Peak seasons affect ticket prices, but so do all sorts of other factors. You can get some sweet deals if you check out websites with ticket prices. Beware of multiple layovers and other complicated exchanges. Spending an extra $40 might be worth every penny to have a direct flight. Unless you have a layover of a day or so, it might not be worth the wait going through customs, and nearly every airport is alike, so taking six hours on a layover so you can sit in a food court is pointless, especially if an hour of that is waiting in line to have your passport stamped.
Get some folding money
Even if it’s just pocket money for one day, order up some foreign currency from your bank. You can’t blow it here, and it will give you some incentive for your trip. Don’t get too much. Come to find out, your bank will screw you over with fees and commercial vs. Personal exchange rates (I learned that the hard way). You are probably better off getting just enough money for a day and then pulling the rest out of an ATM when you get there. An ATM will give you an fair exchange rate. Don’t use the money changers at the airport!
Depending on where you are going, start building your travel equipment now. Here are some essentials I wholeheartedly recommend for international travel:
- Smartphone: Just make sure you have some kind of international plan activated, and turn off all your cellular use unless you want to pay a fortune every time your phone decides to use data to update your apps.
- Take pics of your passport to use as a copy in case you lose it.
- Take pics of things you see, but also street addresses, business cards, phone numbers, etc. You can refer to these later if you need to ask for directions or show them to a cab driver if you suck at the language.
- Access maps if you can connect to wifi or via cellular in a pinch.
- Text traveling companions, or family to keep them posted of your proof of life.
- A multi-country power adapter: Mine has several ports for USB, power, and a cord too for my phone
- A good quality day/backpack: My carry-on is an Osprey Ozone 46. My walking around bag is an Osprey Daylite; it holds maps, rain jacket, and snacks.
- A water bottle: I use a hydro flask. Just fill it up at a filtered drinking fountain and you can stay hydrated for almost free. In tourist cities, fizzy drinks and booze are not only expensive, but they dehydrate you too.
- Good shoes: Americans don’t walk around much. You should get used to walking wherever you go. Old, uneven pavements beat the hell out of your feet. Standing in museums is exhausting. Good shoes mean the difference between a good trip and a miserable day.