Once the initial excitement of booking your first international trip wears off, you may experience some anxiety. The uncertainty of what to expect, but more importantly, what to keep in mind when preparing for your trip! Instead of having sleepless nights, we recommend taking out your notebook or tablet and just start…In fact, the best place to start preparing for your international trip is to ask the right questions! That is why we’ve compiled some important questions you should ask for your first international trip:
1. Do I have all the correct travel documents?
Firstly, you will definitely need your passport! But often you may need more. If you have booked through a travel agent, you may already have all the papers you need. But do make sure you find out about any additional travel documents you may need – whether it is a visa, an invitation letter from a friend or hotel and also vaccinations needed for travel. Most importantly, make sure of expiration dates and how long your documents need to be valid for, taking into account your departure date. A good tip is to store copies of your documents online – either on Google Docs or Dropbox. This way if you lose any, you can access copies (preferably certified), as long as you have internet access.
2. Do I need cash, what currency, and how do I get it?
Sure, that is more than one question, but without money, you won’t get far on your trip! Money is the best starting point when it comes to planning. You need the correct currency, but you also need to know how you will access cash (you can’t fly over with 100s of paper money bills in your pockets). So how do you get access to the correct foreign currency quickly and easily? The good news is that it has become easier to access cash at your international destination. In fact, most travellers use their locally activated Visa or Master Credit Card. Ask your bank about your options, but usually, once they are activated, you can pay or draw cash during your trip.
3. How do I stay in touch with family and friends?
Taking your cell phone with you used to be an unnecessary and expensive exercise. But nowadays with apps like WhatsApp and Facebook, and easy access to Wi-Fi, you can easily stay in touch with your South African phone. The alternative option would be to buy a prepaid sim card and a cheap phone to get a local number. This is also good if you’d like to make calls within your local destination. So why not opt for both?
4. By train, foot or car?
Local knowledge will get you the safest and most economically efficient transport services. In South Africa, we mostly travel by private car (with exceptions of course), so the concept of public transport may be foreign to you. Familiarise yourself with train routes, buses or taxi services before you go – making sure you choose the most cost-effective and reliable option for where you want to go. If you are staying for more than a week, you may want to look into longer-term bus or train passes – keeping in mind that taxis may be quite expensive. And of course, don’t forget your Uber app!
5. Who will you meet?
For a meaningful trip, we believe it is important to learn about the people you will meet. Do a bit of research on the cultures local to the towns or cities you will be visiting. Find out about the local cuisine, learn a few words in the local languages and find out more about customs and how to show respect. Take this into account during your travels – it will not only make your travels easier, but it will also give you the chance to travel like a local – enjoying those authentic spots you may otherwise miss out on.
6. What are my luggage requirements?
This should probably be at the top of your list! Don’t forget to check the size, weight and restrictions on your carry on and check-in luggage. Each airline may have its own requirements, so be sure to check!
A good travel tip is to make sure you have extra clothes and toiletries (with less than 100mls of liquids, in other words, travel size) in our carry on. You need all those essentials, just in case your check-in luggage does not arrive at your destination at the same time as you. For security purposes, don’t check in any valuables, and also make sure your suitcases are locked. Choose unique, brightly coloured luggage or perhaps tie a bright coloured cable tie to your handles – so that you easily recognise your bag at arrivals.
While preparation is important, remember there is so much to learn while you travel – and learning through experience is part of the travel journey!
Don’t let your first international trip overwhelm you. Why not frequently check out our on-going travel deals where we do our best to source you the most affordable travel packaged deals that cover accommodation, flights, meals and activities, plus a few bonus add-ons where possible.