I recently started traveling internationally and am constantly asked these questions. Preparing to take a big trip can be exciting and stressful so here are some tips on what I do when I decide to take a trip: (I am NOT paid by anyone to write this, these are simply items or links I’ve used for travel)
How to Afford it: I am blessed to have a wonderful job, travel nurse, that pays me well and gives me time off to do what I want. I will typically take a couple weeks to a month off. One time I took three months off. That is one of the perks of my job. However, during that time, I don’t get paid. This means I need to make sure I have the funds to pay my bills while I’m off. This means working overtime and saving up. It is also helpful to save money on flights and lodging when traveling.
- Search multiple Airlines sites. Sometime getting one way tickets on different airlines is cheaper than getting a round trip
- Sign up to recieved alerts when there are good flight deals
- Open a frequent flyer credit card. If you are going to spend money on your cc you might as well be earning points towards a free or almost free flight!
- If traveling with a friend, look up travel deals on Groupon or other deal sites. They typically include airfare, meals, lodging, and transportation for a reasonable price.
- Flights are cheaper if your dates are flexible
- For some reason I found flights to be cheaper on Tuesdays
- Airbnb has been great for finding cheap lodging. Be sure to read the reviews and look at the location to be sure it is close to some form of transportation or walking distance to attractions. This way you can save on cab rides and take the subway/metro
- If you haven’t used airbnb before you can use my link to sign up and receive $35 off your first booking https://www.airbnb.com/c/leahh136?s=23
- If you are having a big group go, hiring a travel agency might be helpful as well
What to Pack: Before you book your flight, I suggest checking the weather to make sure you aren’t going to Dubai in the middle of summer or the Philippines during typhoon season.
- Dress appropriately for the weather
- Bring shoes or flip flops that are comfortable for walking long distances (ladies… wearing wedge heals to walk through the ruins in Siem Reap, Cambodia is not a good idea)
- Bring clothes that are appropriate for that countries culture. (Wearing revieling/tight/shorts in Morocco is not culturally acceptable unless you want men to follow you around and treat you like a prostitute) Also, you will not be allowed in some temples if you are not covered up in certain countries.
- I bought a small battery pack that I keep charged and bring the USB cords for my phone and camera in case the battery charge starts to get low. I’m usually out and about all day, so this has come in handy quite often.
- If you want to save room in your suitcase, you can always buy a small shampoo and conditioner etc. from a store wherever you are going and throw it out at the end of your trip before heading home
- I also found it space saving to roll all of my clothes rather than fold them
- If you are going to be gone for a couple weeks I always make sure to bring enough underwear. That is one thing I personally don’t budge on. However, I will bring a small container of detergent and wash/hang dry my shirts if there isn’t a laundry facility available (something you can ask when booking your hotel/hostel/airbnb)
- Fabreeze fabric is also good for keeping your clothes smelling fresh
- DON’T FORGET YOUR PASSPORT OR VISA (if required)
- You can find out if you need a visa by visiting https://www.travisa.com/Visa_Search
- Be sure to look up the plug adaptor needed for that country.
- As a nurse, I always travel with medications for headache, heartburn, allergy medication, neosporin for cuts, Peptobismol, and I found it important to get a prescription for Cipro from your doctor in the case of Traveler’s diarrhea.
- On long plane rides I bring a nice neck pillow, eye shades, ear plugs/headphones, and ***compression stockings*** these will help with circulation while you are in the sitting position for hours. I flew without them once and my ankles and feet were so swollen I could barely fit them in my shoes
- Ladies: know when you are going to get a visit from your monthly friend. Although it sucks, it might be a good idea to bring pads along with tampons. Unless you are skilled at changing your tampon while squatting over a hole, it might take some time to find an actual toilet seat in some countries. Tissues to wipe with are a good thing to pack too since they are not always available along with hand sanitizer
- Finally, don’t forget your camera!
How to Stay SAFE: Ok, this was a big topic of discussion. I was told that it “wasn’t safe for a woman to travel solo or even for a group of girls to travel internationally without a man.” While it does come with risk, so does everything else in life. I decided I couldn’t live my life in fear or waiting on a “man” to travel with me. So here is how I keep myself safe.
- I have dedicated a friend to be my safety liason. She has a copy of my itinerary, hotels, flights, passport, E-Visa (if required), knows my medical history. I contact her everyday on my trip once I am attached to wifi and can text her or video chat through Facebook. If she does not hear from me she has the number of the US embassy or will contact the police in her area to help her escalate the situation.
- Be smart, be attentive to your surroundings, and trust your gut
- Do NOT accept drinks from strangers since you don’t know if they could have drugged it
- Stay away from dark alley ways
- If it is late I would rather spend money on a cab than take the metro
- Keep your belongings with you. I purchased an anti-theft backpack off Amazon. It is cut resistant, water resistant, and doesn’t have zippers on the outside. You can find it on this link: https://www.amazon.com/Shockproof-Lightweight-ScanSmart-Friendly-Resistant/dp/B01FJJUHFE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485137771&sr=8-1&keywords=theft+proof+backpack
- There is also a safety alarm that attaches to any backpack or purse that makes the most obnoxious sound to get others attention/scare attackers off that can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Vigilant-Personal-Emergency-Batteries-PPS8B/dp/B005BDBV18/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485137888&sr=8-1&keywords=safety+alarms+for+women
- Don’t tell anyone where you are staying. I find it odd how many men ask me which hotel I’m staying at as if I would just hand over that information. If you don’t want to be rude, just give a generalized area (northeast, near that monument). If the persist on asking what hotel, just say, “I’m sorry I’d rather not say.”
- Do not tell anyone you are traveling alone. I always say I’m meeting up with my friends later
- If someone comes up to you and offers you a deal or offers you anything really, don’t take it. Usually it is a scam. If you find yourself being brought to a jewelry store when you didn’t ask to be taken to a jewelry store… it is a scam
- If you do get attacked, don’t forget to go for these main body parts. While screaming, poke the eyes, jab the throat, kick the groin, and ladies… scratch the shit out of them. I was told by a friend that I should have a weapon on me at all times, but I find it more dangerous if you don’t know how to use it properly it could be used against you. Stick to the basics.
How to Get Around When You Don’t Speak the Language: It is definitely a challenge, but it can be done with a little preparation. Luckily, English is the most common language spoken in the world and many places have directions or destinations translated in English.
- I make it a point to learn how to say “hello” “goodbye” and “thank you” in the language of where I am visiting. It is just the polite thing to do
- If you have an international data plan, you can download a translation app that will type what you are asking into the selected language and you can show it to a local who can then do the same into your phone.
- I usually don’t have an international data plan so I will translate common phrases and questions and screenshot them on my smart phone. “I am allergic to shellfish” is an important phrase that I always look up…also, “can you point me in the right direction?” Or “Is this spicy?” etc.
- If there are temples, monuments, restaurants etc I want to go to I will find the address in their written language and screenshot that too. That way I can jump in a cab and show it to the cab driver. I will also have the places phone number in case the cab driver needs to call them for directions
- I will bring a printed metro map with the stops printed in English and one printed in their language. That way a local can point to the stop and I can find the correlating stop on the English map.
- Along with that, I will find the closest metro stop to the place I’m trying to get to.
- Utilize the desk receptionist at your hotel/hostel or airbnb. They are an abundant of information and can usually give really good directions.
- I will also take a copy of the hotel card or have my airbnb host write the address down in the lettering (i.e Korean lettering) so if I find myself truly lost, I can always find a cab to take me home.
I hope you all found this helpful. If you have more tips to add please write them in the comments. I would love to hear some of your tips too!