Traveling to another country, whether for leisure or business, can be an exciting experience. It helps widen and stimulate your thoughts. The more you travel the more you understand the world around us. However, traveling internationally for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience. There are numerous matters that need be taken into considerations.
Here are a few useful tips that will help get prepared before, during, and after the trip.
- International Travel – Things to Prepare and Expect
- 1. Getting Your International Flight Ticket
- 2. Passport Book or Passport Card
- 4. What to Pack for the International Trip
- 3. Airport Tips for First Time International Traveler
- 5. Customs & Immigration
- 6. Airport Tips: Arrival
- 7. Duty-Free Shops at The Airport
- 8. Customs & Immigration: Coming Back Home
- 9. Be Prepared for Bad Weather and Flight Delays
- 10. Other International Travel Tips for First Time Travelers
International Travel – Things to Prepare and Expect
1. Getting Your International Flight Ticket
If you aren’t going to use a travel agent to help you book your flights, you have to make sure your tickets are issued to the exact same name on your passport. Actually, that you should check the name no matter who booked the flight, agent or not. Note that sometimes the order of your first name and last name may be reversed and that’s perfectly fine.
Can you buy an international flight ticket without a passport? Of course, you can! If you do not have a passport yet, use the name that appears in any of your I.D.s, for example, your state I.D., driver’s license, or birth certificate. One more thing, remember to put in any suffix, such as “Jr., II”, if applicable.
2. Passport Book or Passport Card
You might have been exploring different U.S. passports — passport book or passport card– and still not sure which one you should be getting. You are certainly not alone in that matter.
The short answer is: just get a passport book. With a passport book, you can visit any foreign country by sea, land, and air (source: U.S. Department of State). However, a passport book is much more expensive than a passport card, and its uncommon size means that you can’t just put it in your wallet.
On the other hand, a passport card is the more restrictive form of U.S. passports. The countries that you can visit with a passport card are limited to Canada, Mexico, The Caribbean, and Bermuda. There’s also a limitation on the form of transportation that you can take — travel by sea or land only. The advantages of this form of passports are that it is less expensive and can fit right into your wallet’s card slot.
So if you’re flying, you need a passport book. If you are taking a cruise to Canada, Mexico, The Carribean, and Bermuda, a passport card will suffice.
However, in any case, I do recommend that passport book. If you any emergency situation that requires you to cut the cruise trip short and fly back from St. Lucia, a passport book may be required to enter the U.S. by air.
4. What to Pack for the International Trip
Create a packing list ahead of the trip, make sure that you get all your need from the store before you even start to pack. Start packing as early as possible. Last-minute packing is stressful and you’re more prone to forgetting something in that situation. Categorize the items on your packing list into two groups: carry-on and check-in. Now depending on the airline company that you’re flying with, the allowed number and weight of the baggage will differ, so make sure that you’re aware of the limits and plan around those limits accordingly.
What goes into the carry-on luggage: the valuables — cash, jewelry, cameras, medications etc. If you have been taking medications which are very critical and important, please bring a doctor’s note with you, you never know if the custom will be mistaken the medication as some kind of dangerous drug. Nothing is wrong in being a bit extra careful. Pack two days of basics in your carry-on suitcases if you have a connecting flight.
The rest of what you need goes into the check-in luggage, of course. Here is a sample list of what to pack into your check-in luggage:-
clothes, pants, underwear, shoes, socks, shorts, pajamas
scarf, jacket, sweater, leggings, hat
face wash, lotion, deodorant, perhaps perfume
3. Airport Tips for First Time International Traveler
I may be stating the obvious here, but be at the airport much earlier. This is especially true if the airport that you’re flying from is a major airport like the LAX. The traffic can cause you to miss your flight — something I’m sure you will want to avoid. Do some research online to see where if the departure hall for your specific airline and print out a map if you can. Make sure that you’re going to the departure wing of the airport, not arrival!
Once you’re at the airport, look for the information display board to see if your flight is ready for check-in. If it isn’t, take a sit and relax until a counter is open for check-in. During the check-in, you will be required to present your passport. While it’s not a requirement, I always print out my flight booking details. Once your identity is verified, a boarding pass will be printed for you. Make sure that your name, flight number, and other details are correct! This is also the part where your check-in luggage bags get taken in.
Because of security reasons, once you check in with your airline, you’ll go through a line that requires you to present your passport and boarding ticket. Once you have gone through the checkpoint, you’ll have to go through the screening procedure. The sequence of these steps is not fixed and sometimes there may be extra checks depending on the airport.
Anyway, for the security screening, you will be required to remove all metal items from yourself and place them in a box then on to a conveyor belt. All your carry-on bags and sometimes your overcoat are going on the belt too. They are then run through an X-ray scanner to scan for any malicious items.
If you’re lucky (unlucky) enough, sometimes you’ll be randomly selected to do a complete body screen where by you place your hands up over your head with your toes separated and they do a scan. This is normal so don’t worry!
5. Customs & Immigration
On your flight to your destination, you’ll be given a paper to fill out. Basically, the flight attendants will make a declaration and deliver some tips or notes on a how you must fill them out depending on the place you are traveling to. The simple info you may need is your name, passport number, flight numbers, dates of the tour, the cause for the tour and the place you’re staying. It is fine to just write the name of yours. You can choose to fill out this paper during the flight or at the destination airport. In my experience, it’s much less stressful to do it in-flight, plus you get to ask the flight attendant any question you may have.
6. Airport Tips: Arrival
Once you have landed, you will be required to go through the immigration. This is the part where the local immigration officers will check your documents such as your passport, visa, and the declaration paper that you filled out. Once your passport is stamped (Yappy!), and that means you have been given an OK to enter, you’ll head to the baggage area, get your bags and head straight to Customs. This is actually, easy in most of the airports and also might require a screening of the suitcases or casual search.
7. Duty-Free Shops at The Airport
If you can’t resist the duty-free liquor at the airport, this tip is for you.
Let’s face it, a fine tax-free bottle of rum is pretty hard to resist. You can’t help getting Appleton Rum at twelve dollars a bottle and you know all your friends and family would really love it. As long, as you are not less than 21, you could buy 1 liter of duty-free liquor. Remember that there is a limit on the volume of a check-in bottle of liquid? This means that you should avoid buying liquor unless your next airport is your final airport. Don’t take the risk if you’re on a connecting flight. I have seen countries that do additional security screening (read: liquid constraint), one such example is flying through the Hong Kong airport.
Another thing to take into consideration, don’t expect every airport to have a common-sensical design. Certain airports have their duty-free liquor store outside of security screening, this means you can’t bring in the liquid by yourself! Stupid, I know. Some of them offer a claim counter inside the security zone though, so make sure you ask properly before making the purchase!
8. Customs & Immigration: Coming Back Home
If you read point number 5, you are almost ready for this. On returning back to America you’ll be required to fill out the Customs and Immigration paper. Upon landing, you’ll need to first clear the US immigration. There are special lines for US citizens. These lines are usually shorter and move much faster. So be smart and don’t waste your time (and other people’s time) lining up in a non-citizen line.
After that, you’ll get your bags from baggage claim area and go to the Customs line with the declaration form. This is usually very straightforward. Please do not feel that you have to write down every memento you purchased as an individual item. So your list might contain things like coffee, liquor or food listed things. Once done with Customs, you’ll are officially home again. Welcome back.
9. Be Prepared for Bad Weather and Flight Delays
Flight delay is a terrible thing but not all that uncommon especially during bad weather. So, what do you do if you are a “not-so-satisfied” few who has a compromised schedule?If you’re informed that your flight is canceled or if a postpone has triggered you to overlook a connecting flight, your first step is to visit the airport ticketing counter and wait to look if they could find a way for you to your destination. Contacting your travel agent is a superb idea and they can provide you with advice, but the first to do is to ask the airline to protect your flights while you’re yet at the airport. They should offer you with a new confirmation number for your flights, as well as a flight schedule. Your tour agent also can help you if you want to make a voluntary change. However, by the time you’re at the airport, the airline is the only one who has to reschedule you in considering that they’ll have to get access to do more with your booking. You don’t have to pay for the rescheduling (of course, how dare they ask you to pay after all that inconveniences they have caused) . You would only pay if you make a decision that you need to go with something else like a new airline or a different destination all together. This is referred to as a voluntary change and you might have to buy a new ticket.
If you’re informed that your flight is canceled or if a postpone has triggered you to overlook a connecting flight, your first step is to visit the airport ticketing counter and wait to look if they could find a way for you to your destination. Contacting your travel agent is a superb idea and they can provide you with advice, but the first to do is to ask the airline to protect your flights while you’re yet at the airport. They should offer you with a new confirmation number for your flights, as well as a flight schedule. Your tour agent also can help you if you want to make a voluntary change. However, by the time you’re at the airport, the airline is the only one who has to reschedule you in considering that they’ll have to get access to do more with your booking.
You don’t have to pay for the rescheduling (of course, how dare they ask you to pay after all that inconveniences they have caused). You would only pay if you make a decision that you need to go with something else like a new airline or a different destination altogether. This is referred to as a voluntary change and you might have to buy a new ticket.
Flight delay is also one of the reasons why you should pack clothes and underwear in your carry-on luggage bags.
10. Other International Travel Tips for First Time Travelers
Use a map – Looking like a traveler isn’t always as bad as getting genuinely lost and ending up in the incorrect places. So get yourself a guide when you arrived in a city.
Check out the tourism office – They recognize about everything occurring in the town. They can point out you to free activities, special occasions going on all through your stay and the whole thing in among.
Make copies of critical files – Always make copies of Passports, Insurance, Travel tickets and other essential documents. Don’t forget to email a copy to yourself. Now you’ll always have them, one way or another.
Visit landmarks during lunchtime – The spots are nearly empty and you will have fewer crowds to deal with.
Try new food – Don’t ask what it is. Just taste them for once and see if you like it… Visit the local cuisine and get into the new culture. That’s the motive of traveling! If you keep your guard up, you might miss out on some uncommon and delightful meals.
Stay away from Taxis – They can be costly mistake if you’re traveling on a low budget. Try to get yourself around a city or a town with local carrying like trains, bus and other.
Take city tours – These will let you observe the terrific orientation and tradition of the city you’re in.
Find a city pass – If you’re planning to visit a variety of museums and different sights in a less time, a city pass is going to help you save your cash.
Get vaccinated – Obviously falling sick in a new country won’t be fun at all…
Take pictures of and with people – Years from now, you will need to look back on the adventures you had and the folks who made them unforgettable.
Always bring a lock – They come in accessible, particularly when you live in dorms and want to lock your stuff up.
Learn simple phrases in the language of your destination – It will be appreciated by the locals and it will make your conversations less complicated.
Carry local currency – Not every location accepts credit cards. For example, vital places like trains or buses, and local businesses are likely to not accept credit cards or US dollars.
Bring a travel adapter – The country that you are traveling to could have different plugs. Sometimes even their grid voltage is different, so make sure your chargers can plug into the wall and don’t get fried.
A first aid kit – ibuprofen or a pain killer of your choice, decongestant, bandages, and hydrocortisone cream is what you need basically. You may not know now how much it’ll be needed.
Contact your bank before traveling- Let your banks know you’ll be journeying internationally so that you can avoid your cards being canceled while foreign transactions happen.
Note your hotel address – A brilliant way to avoid turning into legitimately lost is to put down your hotel name, address, and room number in your Smartphone or a notepad so that you constantly have something to refer back to.
Ask for recommendations – Start asking locals for hints and stop continually consulting the internet even if it does help most of the time, but yet it’s better to ask a local. They can let you know some insider tips and sometimes will help you by showing you around or as a least take you to the place you’re searching out.
Finally, carry sunscreen – If I could offer you best one tip for the future it would be sunscreen. Trust me, your skin needs it
Experienced travelers are honed through years of traveling experience. Even then, experienced travelers are still going to make mistakes from time to time. You know, mistakes like forgetting to pack something to falling into a tourist traps. The fact is mistakes are part of the journey itself. For don’t feel bad for making a few mistakes as a first-time traveler. Just make sure that you refer to to the tips above and you will have a safe and sound trip ahead.