So today, I just want to share with you the first few steps to planning an international trip while they are fresh in my mind.
1. Don't do it alone.
Find a travel consultant that has experience with the region or country you want to visit and enlist his or her help. In addition to the training and expertise travel consultants have in actual travel planning, their insights and personal experiences are beneficial in providing tips for you, easing your fears, and possibly guiding you to the hidden gems they have discovered that can add the magic to your vacation memories!
2. Passports and Visas - Familiarize yourself with the requirements of the country you are visiting. Check your passport's expiration date (or apply for one if you don't already have one!). Some countries require a certain amount of time left on them and well as a minimum number of blank pages. Be sure you will be able to comply with those requirements before committing to your destination and choosing travel dates.
3. Ask yourself "Do I want to travel in a group or independently?"
Consider your travel style and your own comfort level. Do you like being spontaneous and just seeing where the day takes you? Do you like having control over all your options for each day? Do you like making the plans on your own? Or do you prefer to follow a set plan laid out by others and know exactly when and where you are going to be each day? Are you comfortable navigating new and unfamiliar situations independently? Do you prefer to have someone guide you? Do you have a special interest that you'd like to experience on vacation with like-minded travelers? Do you want to explore multiple facets of that foreign country, or do you want to concentrate on one area or resort and spend all your time at just one destination?
This is YOUR vacation and making decisions based on YOUR style and comfort level is vital. It is a not a right or wrong choice, just a personal decision. And it can also change based on your destination. For example, I have had the privilege of living in Europe for 7 years. I am very comfortable travelling in European countries. Even though they can be quite different from each other, they have enough similarities that I am confident that I can navigate the culture comfortably and enjoy myself as I explore the countries there. And while I know of escorted tour companies, that I would highly recommend and be confident they provide an excellent vacation experience, travelling independently was the best option for my family's travel preferences while we were travelling in Europe. On the other hand, while I have been to China, I am still not as confident with the cultural differences which are more extensive than they are in Europe, and our family is opting to travel as part of a group for our upcoming travels. Knowing that we will have tour guides on hand to assist us and direct our travels is greatly comforting to me, as I know we will have experts on hand at all times to guide and assist us. I also think the common interests of the other members of our group will greatly enhance our experiences there.
These are very basic first steps to starting your international vacation, but they are first steps....so where would they take you if you could choose your dream international destination?