Often times when people are booking flights, they immediately search to find the cheapest. While budget travel is in every travelers interest, be sure to always check for the little things. In Europe there are many small, wallet friendly airlines such as RyanAir, Vueling, EasyJet and others that may have the cheapest flights, but if you are traveling with lots of luggage- brace yourself for the luggage fees. These smaller commuter planes usually only allow a maximum of 15 Kg, so be careful. Also, airlines will advertise an extremely cheap rate, but as soon as the taxes are added, your budget trip turns into a search for a second job. I have really only had one nightmare experience while flying around the world. That was in Prague (Czech Airlines) when I was transferring from Madrid to Zagreb, I had a lot of camera equipment and had to pay $800 dollars in overweight fees. They charged me 11 euros/kilo that I was overweight. They received a complaint letter.
Non-experienced travelers tend to have nightmares that they will arrive at a customs agent and be told to get back on the plane because they need a visa. Well, first of all this will never happen if you do your research. Americans are blessed with the ability to travel to many places visa-free. However, often times the struggle to get a visa is usually a struggle because the U.S. and the country you are visiting; the U.S. requires citizens from that country to get a visa before they come to the U.S. therefore they do the same to you. So for instance, countries such as Brazil (future destination of World Cup and Olympics) are more difficult than I expected. You will need to plan ahead in order to have enough time for your visa to be granted. Do not wait until the last minute; the consulate may take a few weeks for approval.
Study Abroad Visas
If you plan to do a study abroad program for more than 90 days, you will need to get a visa. This is not something that can be turned around in just a few days. Usually someone from your university will take the visas to the consulate to get the visas granted. Think early though, you would not want the best time of your life to be delayed because of a visa not being granted.
What to Pack!
You might be thinking that as an on-camera television host that maybe I am not the best person to tell you what to pack considering I usually wear a different outfit each day. However, I have done enough travel without a camera to think that I know what is best. One thing is for sure, I always “try” to blend in wherever I travel and look like I am from the country (this doesn’t always work), but if you have this mentality when you pack, you might decide to leave your college sweatshirts and bright clothing in your closet. While traveling you will be able to find anything and everything abroad (most likely), but I am over-prepared for all situations, so I like to just bring it! I actually have a travel list if you want to email me for it, but here are the essentials that are a little bit difficult to find abroad:
– peanut butter
– favorite chewing gum
– rain jacket
– feminine items
Cell Phones Abroad
I can’t travel without a phone, okay more like I can’t travel without social media?!? Either way, I advise people to have a phone if you plan on traveling for 3 weeks or more. The only exception would be if you were “winging” your whole trip- then obviously this would ruin it. I am a very organized person and always want to make sure I am in contact with my friends abroad, can confirm reservations and of course, being a girl abroad, if I had any emergencies. This is what I do- I will just use my phone (iphone or blackberry) for short travels and get an international plan. Call your carrier’s global services department and they will set you up. Before you board the plane you will activate it, then when you return you will call them to make sure it is turned off. You will be charged per megabyte – so use wisely, however if it is a smartphone, download the skype app and whenever you have free wifi- your phone calls abroad will be free just like they are here in the states. If you do not get the plan and still want to use your smartphone for wifi, just make sure you have Airplane mode turned on so you don’t receive a $500 phone bill. I also use HeyWire App which gives you a phone number to use with those you want to talk to as long as they have the app too! I also have used the prepaid phone route abroad. While I lived in Croatia for 3 months this was the best option, but I did run into a problem when I had an important phone call to make and my phone ran out of minutes. And right now you are thinking “this won’t happen to me.” Trust me, it will right when you need it!
I don’t really recommend travel books anymore; instead I’d rather use an App and save that space in luggage for some other souvenirs! Depending on each country you go to, usually there is an app for the public transportation. For instance, TubeMap will get you through the bustling city of London worry free! Also, your favorite websites for booking hotels and flights have apps, so make your life easier and for free you can get: hotelworld, kayak, currencyexchange, flashcards (in almost every language). So leave your books at home– this is the new wave!
Number 3 on my checklist behind packing my passport and calling my cell phone carrier is to call the bank! Do NOT leave the country and plan on using your credit card without telling your bank. Your vacation will turn into a frustration, so let your bank know where and when you will be gone. While you are chatting with them ask about any fees abroad that you might get charged. Banks such as Bank of America have partnerships with Deutsche Bank (Germany) and Barclays (England)- so you won’t be charged with any ATM fees. When it comes to travelers checks- don’t bother. Instead, make sure you can manage your account online while you are abroad and when withdrawing money from an ATM, be sure to MAXIMIZE how much you take out to avoid paying fees each time you withdraw. When I travel, I always order a little currency from the bank beforehand just so I have some cash in case something goes unplanned upon arrival. If you don’t have it already, I suggest stopping by an ATM as soon as you get to your destination.
Staying Fit Abroad
The good thing is every country is more fit than the United States! This is a joke, but one thing is true about the rest of the world and that is they walk everywhere. Enjoy the strolls, fresh cuisine, open-air markets and don’t worry too much about exercise abroad because you will be burning much more than you think! Also, look into bike tours, roller blading, sporting activities – you will be amazed at the amount of physical activities you can find abroad these days. When I studied abroad in Spain, I would run during siesta and I think everyone thought I must have been a professional athlete because no one runs on the street! And, as weird as it was for them, I did find some time to explore the city by running- my only problem was finding my way back!