So you’ve taken the required road trip across the country and traveled to Hawaii for a week, but are itching to see the rest of the world. First of all, that’s the best decision you’ve made all year. But, and rightfully so, you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or terrified about the daunting task ahead. The thing of it is, those fears are justified in as much as leaving your comfort zone is scary. Being in a place that is far from your loved ones where they don’t speak your language is something that, though everyone should experience it, is uncomfortable for many people. But with just a little planning, not too much (more about that later), a trip abroad can be the most wonderful thing in the world. Follow these steps and watch your dream destination come to life.
First things first, get a passport. You should have one anyway in case your driver’s license goes missing, but you’ll need it to go anywhere outside the United States. Don’t complain about the cost, passports are good for ten years and are easy to get and renew. A quick word about them: never, ever carry your passport with you when you’re out and about. If it gets stolen or lost, you will be stuck dealing with embassy bureaucracy, something we wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Once you’ve got your little blue book in hand, decide where you want to go, but stay flexible. Sure, you might be itching to explore Paris in springtime, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the money you’ll save by opting for a trip to Berlin around the winter holidays. Sure, you’ll need more clothing, but German winter holiday markets are something special. Besides, every tourist in the world will have effectively taken over Paris around that time of year, but Berlin, being slightly more off-the-beaten-path, will be pleasantly populated with friendly locals.
Saving money for the trip will be the hardest part, but with some small number crunching, you’ll be well on your way to jetting off to your dream destination. For example, sticking with Paris, you’ll need around $75 per day, not counting flights or hotels, to be comfortable. This will be the cost of your food for the day, museum fees, public transportation, and so on. Of course, it’s possible to eat at bakeries and walk everywhere, but if you want to be comfortable, plan for a little extra. Stacking money away can be as simple as getting a takeaway coffee mug and packing lunch every day to as complex as moving to a smaller home and selling your car in exchange for a bicycle. It all depends on how long you plan to travel for and what kind of disposable income is available to you in the first place.
After you’ve gathered the money saved up for your trip, book the flight. Ninety percent of the time, you’ll save a small fortune. Occasionally, you’ll find a great deal for an airline trying to fill the last seats on the plane, but for the most part, booking early ensures you get the flight you want at a decent deal instead of relying on scraps. Try sites like Skyscanner or Momondo for the best deals on flexible flights.
Booking your accommodations can be a difficult task because of all the available options. Will you go budget? Try Hostelworld. Interested in local flavor? Consider Couchsurfing (though watch out for the occasional creeper). The sky’s the limit? Booking is your friend. Regardless of who you book through, be careful to bite the bullet and pay for a central location unless you want to waste precious hours on a bus each day.