Travel abroad… my favorite pastime.
However if you’re new to it, it can be a pretty daunting experience. Simply the choices of places to go and things to do can be overwhelming. And some may even think they simply can’t afford it… even I did at first.
But with some careful planning, you can find yourself on that beach in Bali, on African safari, or [insert your dream vacation here] in no time.
There are many tips to help you get started. However below, you’ll find the short-and-sweet on the things you’ll want to focus on at first if you’ve never traveled abroad.
THE GROUP TOUR
If this is your first trip abroad, I highly recommend going on a group tour. And the tour you decide upon will depend on how you want to travel; there are many low-budget vs. high-ticket options available.
My very first trip abroad was a small one. A one day excursion to Ensenada, Mexico. However, my next trip abroad, I decided to go a lot bigger. I took a two-week vacation to Egypt and visited the Pyramids in Giza, enjoyed a 2-day felucca sailing trip on the Nile, snorkeled in the Gulf of Aqaba at Dahab, and saw many temples, tombs and monuments along the way. The cost (minus airfare) being no more than $1,200 in 2012– for 2 weeks! And my flight was even less.
Tours give you the opportunity to see sites combined, sometimes on a discount. On the other hand, if you find on some tours that the costs of all of the sightseeing may be a bit more expensive than purchasing your excursions and meals separately, the planning-done-for-you with a group tour, along with help from the expert guides, may actually be worth the extra $100 – $200 dollars.
Out of the 17 countries I’ve visited at the time of this writing, 7 countries were a part of group tours— including Egypt, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Turkey. The remaining, and another trip to Turkey, I arranged on my own. And sometimes I had the help of local friends and guides for sightseeing, etc.
The best thing about the group tours– I was able to afford them because they allowed payment plans with a small deposit (I’ve found some deposits as low as $99). There are many tour companies out there. So choose one based on your destination, reviews, costs, amenities, and room-sharing.
If you want to get started, try researching “group tours in (country/city).”
Or try TourRadar. It’s a great survey of thousands of tours around the world at budget prices.
It’s pretty remarkable how you can find reasonable flight costs abroad if you plan pretty far in advance— 3 to 6 months is best if traveling abroad. Also, research has shown that booking your flight Tuesday mornings or even on Sunday afternoons may save up you upwards of 25%— some discounts being launched on Monday nights.
Booking on Thursdays (and later in the week) can be the most expensive. And when booking, play around with your dates, as traveling midweek can often yield the best rates.
But what if you don’t want (or can’t) pay for a flight right up front? Especially as some flights to some countries in Asia can cost $2000+.
There may be another option– tickets on lay-a-way.
WHAT?!… Yes, it’s possible.
A couple of years ago, a student from Ghana attending college in the U.S. wasn’t able to take trips back home on school breaks due to flight costs. So later on, she decided to create a service for people wanting to book flights and pay for it over time. A service she wished she had when she was in school.
At Airfordable, you can search and book flights and pay for that flight over months. However, there is a fee involved. And although the fees involved may be a bit more than what you would pay for on a credit card, it may be an option if you don’t have one. Or an option if you wouldn’t mind paying a fee in order to not have lots of money tied up months to a year before you take your trip.
An option that’s a favorite for me: Skyscanner. You don’t have to worry about flight increases as you search– Skyscanner pulls prices from other search engines (no need to delete your cookies). And, I love their Map feature. If you want to choose a cheap flight anywhere in the world and you’re open to your month of travel, this feature will get you the best deals.
In any event, when booking your flight, be aware of the day of the week you actually sit down to do your search and be flexible with your actual travel dates.
Having enough spending money on your trip can make all the difference in the sightseeing you’ll do– even if you’re on a group tour. Often in many locations, you’ll inevitably may find an excursion you’ll want to take part in but didn’t plan for. And group tours will usually try to upsell.
Do research on the average food and excursion costs in each city/country you plan to travel to. If you decide on a group tour, pay attention to the additional amenities and excursion options as well. Then, figure the cost for the number of days for your trip.
You should also have a contingency (money you don’t plan on as spending money). I recommend $2k – $4k of readily available cash. You never know when an emergency will pop up!
You’ll need a current passport to travel. And it should have at least 6 months left on the expiration date AFTER your planned return home. In addition, you should have at least 2 blank pages as some countries may require this as you travel within their borders. You can find thousands of passport processing centers across the U.S. And, your local post office may be one of them.
Make sure you plan long in advance, though. If you don’t have a passport at all, apply for one now. Processing can take up to 8 weeks. If you’re planning a trip a lot sooner, you may be able to get expedited processing, and expedited visas are available as well. As soon as I knew about a long layover in Moscow, I got an expedited visa with the help of a passport service in D.C. along with the Russian embassy.
And that’s it!
Good luck with planning…
If you’re looking for additional travel tips, you can find more here. And if you have any to share, let us know in the comments below!
*None of the links in this post are promotional. I will not receive any benefit.