Traveling abroad for the first time can be exciting and scary. Whether you are going for an extended stay, a semester abroad, or just a few weeks’ vacation, knowing some tips before you fly off can help to ease some of the anxiety of traveling and make your experience worth every penny you paid. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you jet off.
One of the most overlooked parts of travel preparation is exercise. If you are going from place to place (most likely walking), your body will need some time to get used to the extra exertion. If you don’t regularly exercise, don’t panic. You don’t need to become a marathon runner, but it is a good idea to take some longer walks to get used to being on your feet for most of the day.
Additionally, look in to the availability of laundry facilities at hotels you will be staying in and their prices. It is a good idea to bring a travel size bottle of laundry detergent so you can wash a few clothes by hand if you need to. It’s not glamorous to scrub your dirty pants underneath the shower head, but neither is wearing dirty pants.
What and how much to pack is an obvious dilemma of any trip, especially with the strict baggage rules imposed by airline companies. You want to have enough clothes to last, but not so much that you can’t fit the treasures you buy coming back. A good starting point is to think about what you will be doing while on the trip. Will you spend long days walking the ruins of Pompeii, or will you be seeing your sights from a tour bus? Will you be taking most of your meals from stands on the road, or will you be going out to fancy dinners at high end restaurants? Your main activities will dominate the clothes you will need to bring.
Choose practical pieces that can be mixed and matched into multiple outfits, and limit the number of shoes you bring. They take up a great deal of room and add on to your weight limit. Pack clothing without a lot of words or logos. This type of clothing makes you stand out as an obvious tourist and makes you more vulnerable to being a target of pick pockets. I recommend packing as many pairs of underwear as possible; wearing a dirty shirt is better than wearing dirty underwear.
If you can, it is a good idea to learn some basic phrases before departing for your trip. Just as we expect people to speak English in America, people of other nations expect you to communicate in their language, or at least try. Simple phrases like “please” and “thank you” are important to know. Other words like “bathroom” can also be an asset. Depending on how much time you spend, you’ll start to pick up on the local vernacular, and it will become more natural.
I am a well-seasoned plane traveler, but a whole day of flying had me turning green by the end. Prepare for the long sitting time with a book or music. You may also want to purchase some motion sickness pills if you are worried about feeling ill. Though you might be starving after an exhausting day of travel, it may be best to abstain from the in-flight food and grab something from one of the airport restaurants instead.
Eating in other countries can be a good or bad experience. Most often, the menu will be written in the native language, and the food may not sound like anything you’d want to eat at all. Be adventurous. If you find something that sounds good, it probably will be. However, don’t get stuck in a rut. If you find a certain food or place that you like, that is great! But go out and continue to find new places and foods. On my first trip to Italy, I learned the best restaurants are the ones furthest away from the touristy areas of the city. In Venice, we ate at a restaurant right next to the canal. The food was pricy and not that good. Later that night, we went deep into the city and found a little café for dinner. It was less expensive and had great food.
If you have a set itinerary, do some research on the sights and locations you will be visiting. A bust of a man will mean more if you know who it is and why it was created. Researching the area can also give you some ideas of the best places to grab a bite to eat or get a good deal on some particular item you’d like to buy.
With a little preparation, a trip abroad can be a life changing experience. Hopefully these tips help you have the best experience possible!