Traveling Abroad for the First Time

Traveling Abroad for the First Time

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As you enter your retirement years, you’ll discover that you have more time than ever to invest in cultural exploration and traveling. Though most of us have traveled domestically, many adults have never actually traveled abroad.


If you’re inexperienced in international travel, planning such a vacation may feel like a daunting task. Though traveling to a new county is indeed a big undertaking, adequate research and planning will provide you with the foresight you need to manage any tricky situations that may arise.


Follow these straightforward tips to make your first international trip both fun and successful!



Pick a Date & Destination


If you’ve never traveled abroad before, it’s best to choose an “easier” destination to visit. The United Kingdom and Iceland, for instance, are great choices for English-speaking travelers looking to avoid frustrating language barriers. Mexico has many fascinating cities worth exploring and is easily accessible to North American travelers. Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands use American dollars as their currency and are easy to navigate without speaking Spanish.


Those who are on a flexible schedule should consider traveling during the late spring and early autumn months. These are the best times for scoring great deals and avoiding the crowds and heat that come with summer travel.



Don’t Try to See Everything


Though it’s tempting to want to do everything during your trip, restrain yourself from overdoing it. To avoid burnout, stick to a trip that’s no more than 10 days long. Make a list of your “must-see” destinations before you travel. Do you want to do a walking tour of the city, or are you more interested in exploring museums and visiting iconic local restaurants? Prioritize these attractions and plan to tackle one or two things per day. Organizing a manageable itinerary is one of the best ways to avoid the pitfalls of illness, fatigue, and emotional exhaustion.



Manage Your Passport & Potential Visas


Be sure to apply for your passport as soon as possible, as standard passport processing tends to take a number of weeks. Though the process can generally be expedited, this service can be pricey. If you already have a passport, check to make sure it is valid for at least six months after your return date. If not, you’ll need to renew it. You’ll want to have your new passport before booking your flights, as you’ll be asked to provide your passport number at some point during the booking process.


Before you depart, make two copies of the information page of your passport. Take one with you and leave another with friends or family in your home country. These copies will come in handy if your passport is ever lost or stolen.


Don’t forget to research whether or not you will need a visa to travel to your destination country. Americans and Canadians, for instance, must acquire visas to visit a number of countries, such as Brazil and Russia. If the country you are visiting requires a visa, apply as far ahead of time as possible.



Find Senior Discounts


Senior discounts, sometimes also known as pensioner’s rates, are available in many countries. If an attraction doesn’t have discounts listed, ask anyway. Showing your ID with your date of birth is often enough to acquire a discount on sightseeing, events, and even transportation.



Sort Out Travel Insurance & Medical Care


Medical emergencies can strike at any time. It is therefore crucial to have healthcare coverage when traveling abroad. Though many policies include overseas coverage, Americans on Social Security and Medicare, for instance, have no international coverage. Foreign hospitals may require payment in cash, and emergency situations may cost thousands of dollars. Purchase travel insurance or a supplemental policy to protect yourself in case health problems arise.


If you are taking medications abroad be sure to keep them in their original containers. Get a note from your doctor stating which medications you need. Research the laws in your destination country to determine whether or not any additional restrictions apply. Medications that are over-the-counter, for instance, may require a prescription in other countries. By checking ahead of time, you can avoid having any medications confiscated at the border.



Plan Your Finances


Before traveling, sort out the financial details of your trip. Do a little research to discover how much foreign currency you will need per day. If possible, acquire a chipped EMV credit card. These cards are generally much easier to use abroad, particularly throughout Europe. Don’t forget to notify your bank of your departure and return dates, too; doing so will prevent your card from being flagged for suspected fraud.



Purchase Travel Adapters


Research the voltage and electrical outlet shapes found in your destination country. North American devices tend to run on 110-120 volts, whereas European electronics use voltages of 220-230. Many electronics have a range of voltages printed on them. These ranges often accommodate both voltage systems. Cheaper electronics, unfortunately, may not work with higher or lower voltages. In this case, you’ll either have to buy a converter or leave your device at home.


The shape of your electronic plugs must also be taken into consideration. European outlets, for instance, are shaped differently than American ones. Other countries, such as England, Japan, and India, have their own distinct plug shapes, too. Be sure to purchase a suitable adapter to ensure that you’ll be able to charge your phone, camera, and other devices.



Read Up On Common Travel Scams


Before you travel to a particular country, read up on the popular scam techniques used in that region. A friendly local helping you clean something off of your pants may actually be pickpocketing you. A police officer claiming to have found an issue with your visa is likely a scam artist in disguise. By reading up on these common tricks, you’ll be better able to protect yourself from those who seek to exploit your naïveté.



In Conclusion:


Traveling abroad is a tremendously worthwhile experience. Learning more about another culture has the potential to truly change your perspective on life. By dealing with the organizational challenges of traveling ahead of time, you can guarantee that your trip will be as stress-free as possible.



Photo: (c) Andrii Iurlov /

Editor, 05/18/2017