The idea of traveling around the world without any responsibilities or cares is a great notion, but although we can most certainly travel, we can’t disregard basic rules and regulations. The sad truth is that, with security being what it is, it takes longer and generates more havoc to travel across the world than it used to. You can avoid most of the fuss and have a stress-free vacation, if you follow some simple tips.
No matter where you are planning to disembark, there are papers such as passports, entrance Visas, and personal information that you *will* need to have; you’ll be turning right around if you don’t have positive identification to give authorities. Make sure all your international travel papers are properly acquired, filled out correctly, and easy to find when it is your turn to pass. Another good idea is to call or write the embassy of each country you are planning to visit, asking what papers you will need, what things to avoid, and any security concerns that may currently be relevant for that particular country. The old adage “better safe than sorry” never meant more than it does now.
Airline security has tightened its restrictions so thoroughly that if you plan to travel by plane, you will need to be very careful in the items you pack. Many simple things such as toiletries and drinks will probably not be allowed. Carry a list of souvenir stands or convenience stores, terminals, etc., where you can pick up any needed items once you reach your destination. Don’t pack anything you would absolutely hate to lose, like expensive clothing, because on the off-chance that your luggage would be lost, it would be a terrible stress to undergo. Make sure to also know a place in your destination city to buy any clothing or items you may have forgotten to pack.
Traveling internationally with kids can be fun or challenging depending on each individual child. A car trip is nothing compared to hours of airplane travel. Make sure you know what to do if kids get sick at high altitude, and pack games or other forms of entertainment so boredom doesn’t have them bouncing off the walls (I guarantee other passengers will thank you for keeping your kids entertained also). Air travel shouldn’t be scary or boring.
Once you reach your destination, be prepared for a shocker; depending on the country, everything will either look exactly the same or completely different than what you’re used to. In countries like England, you’ll probably discover that scenery really isn’t that much different from your own back yard. In smaller places that aren’t so big on the map, however, the culture shock is inevitable. Strange languages will probably be one of your biggest stumbling blocks. If you know in which country the majority of your vacation will be spent, it’s always helpful to learn a few words that will let you navigate a little better.
Make sure to learn some local customs so you don’t find yourself in an embarrassing situation. In Middle Eastern countries, only one hand is used for eating. In India, animals are sacred and may be allowed in places you’d never imagine seeing one. In certain parts of the Holy Land visitors are asked to dress modestly and cover up before entering holy places; the list goes on. Being a world traveler means respecting and having interest in the differing customs and cultures of our neighbors around the globe, so try to learn at least one custom in every country you visit.
Ordering food in foreign places can be especially challenging. Don’t be afraid to look for someone who knows the language and can translate for you. After all, if you thought you were ordering a plate of spaghetti and end up with sheep guts, it may not be the happiest vacation experience. A translator also comes in handy as a tour guide. Someone shouting out famous sights in a language you don’t understand is only going to result in confusion and won’t do justice to the terrific things you are seeing.
Getting money converted is another thing you’ll need to be prepared for. Find out what currency is used and how to go about converting your cash; be prepared for the chance that it will take longer than you think. Find out if haggling or bartering is allowed in your “port of call.” In some countries trying to get a lower price is expected and even encouraged, but in others, it may not make vendors very happy. This is another area of international travel where using the Internet to study customs and techniques is always a good choice.
By Lacie R. Schaeffer