I’m definitely not a world traveler. In fact, I’ve never traveled out of the country. But I’m curious. What does it take to travel internationally? I’ve enlisted the help of my peers, the internet, and Stacy Amling (a DMACC instructor and avid traveler) to pull together a list of tips and tricks for travel. The information might seem basic, but from a novice’s perspective this is the stuff I never would have thought about.
1. Research! This is critical to planning your trip. Amling recommends starting with online resources, especially bloggers. Look out for travel vlogs, reviews, and country/city/government websites. Don’t forget to research the language and nonverbal cues. You’ll want to know how to ask where the bathroom is and when looking someone in the eye is appropriate.
2. Plan… but not too much. Amling and I agree that having a plan is key. However, keep things flexible. Ambling shared that her first trip to Spain turned into a European travel adventure because of how easy it was to take a train just about anywhere. She didn’t plan that, but I’m sure it was worth it. Beware! Plan around national holidays, weather issues, and city events when putting together your itinerary. Unless you want to get trapped in a crowd of tourists.
3. Volunteer abroad. These trips are great resources if you’re looking for an internship, volunteer/college credits, or an alternative spring break. Some organizations will even pay for your travel. GVIUSA, Globalvolunteers.org, and Volunteerhq.org are a few organizations to check out.
4. Save & make money. Scott CheapFlights is a website that will alert you when flight prices drop due to sales or airline errors. Kayak is very similar. It’ll compare flight, rental car, and hotel information for you. Amling told me to take advantage of hostiles. Hostile World, and Hostile.com are a few online resources to explore when planning that. Take advantage of Airbnb. While your away, put your place up on Airbnb or rent out your car on Turro. Cars in Des Moines range anywhere from $20-$100 a day.
5. Financial clarity. While there are plenty of ways to cut costs while traveling, be prepared for the unexpected. What happens if the Airbnb you’re staying in is just a couch in some creepy dudes apartment? You need options. Amling explained that she,“paid a little extra for safety” when she choose to travel alone in a private compartment on a train. Save accordingly and budget in your travel expenses 6-12 months prior to your trip. You can be spontaneous when you get there. BE SURE to inform your bank/credit card company about the trip. Otherwise, they might freeze your accounts in the attempt to stop fraudulent activity.
6. Get a passport & visa. Typically there’s some paperwork involved, a picture taken at your local post office/government building, and then you send that stuff in and wait. Check your county website for more information. Even if you don’t have to get a visa right away, get it anyways.
7. Check for travel warnings and advisories. It’s important to stay updated. Amling suggests reading local newspapers and checking city/state websites in the area your traveling to.
8. Register your trip with the U.S Department of State. This seems like overkill, but if you’re nervous about your trip, this will ensure your safety. Along these lines, know where the closest U.S. Consulate is. Also find out if there are any entrance/exit fees to pay.
9. Travel insurance. Again, this might be a little extra. It really depends on every situation. How long will you be gone? Do you expect traveling issues, like flight delays and Hotel reservation cancellations? If so, get the insurance. It’ll pay for itself.
10. Study abroad. DMACC does a pretty good job of taking care of all this stuff with you when you travel abroad. Even when you’re considering other institutions, sometimes spending a semester abroad is cheaper than staying on campus. Check out this year’s Mexico trip for instance. Form May 6-13th explore Cancun, Mayan ruins, and get some DMACC credit. Contact Stacy Amling for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org)