More Americans are traveling abroad–a record-breaking 80 million in 2016–and with scientifically proven health benefits, too! According to the U.S. Travel Association, women are less likely to have heart attacks if they travel a minimum of twice per year. Men who vacation more suffer a 30% fewer heart troubles. NBC News adds that traveling boosts creativity, promotes happiness and overall satisfaction levels, and keeps the symptoms of depression at bay. With blatant health benefits and good times to be had, what is holding would-be travelers back?
Planning a trip overseas may seem daunting at first, even if the benefits are obvious and plentiful. Follow the below guidelines for a simple and straightforward trip.
How Soon Do You Need To Start Planning Your Trip Abroad?
You made up your mind. You are going to go for it. Great. Now, you need to start planning, and doing it well in advance. For most abroad trips, it is wise to begin planning no later than six months before your trip. Some travelers plan nearly three years ahead of time, while others work well under pressure, putting it all together in just three months.
The specifics of when you plan your travel can depend on other factors, too. For example, if you plan to visit a given destination during its high season, it is best to solidify plans eight to 12 months prior to travel. A quick Google search is all it takes to determine the high season for your favorite destination. Weigh the pros and cons. Remember high season may entail more tourists and higher prices. It may also be the most popular time to visit for a reason. Are there any seasonal events taking place during that time? Do resorts and attractions close seasonally when they expect fewer tourists?
For example, Holland’s tulips are world-famous, thanks to their short lifespan — three to seven days — and perceived value. In the 1600s, Western Europe entered a “Tulip Frenzy” and tulips became more valuable than gold, leaving a lasting impression to this day. To see Holland’s tulips at their best, visit in mid-April. The flowers, symbolizing life, love, and immortality, can also be viewed from the end of March to the middle of May. Tourists can travel to the Garden of Europe, or the Keukenhof, to see 7 million of the world-famous tulips bloom. As previously mentioned, travelers hoping to view the tulips in mid-April should start planning a full year ahead of time, or a minimum of eight months before their departure date.
What Do You Need To Know Before Your Trip?
Before making any final plans, it is important to create an itinerary. Plan the things you would most like to see on your trip. Make a list of museums, landmarks, natural wonders, and historical sights you must see. Keep in mind that hours may be limited. For example, if you are planning a trip to Italy and want to visit the Vatican Museum, visiting hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday only. The last entry is several hours before it closes at 4 p.m. Knowing this can help you draft a plan and fit it into the week, weeks, or extended weekend you have planned for your trip.
Similarly, get familiar with the local culture. If you only speak English and the few words and phrases you learned in a different language are not that strong, stick to particularly touristy destinations. The more tourists that come through, the more likely you are to be able to order meals and enjoy attractions even if you do not speak the native language.
On the other hand, if you would like to reconnect with your Hispanic or Latino roots and you speak decent Spanish, it is still in your best interest to do some research ahead of time. Famous museums do not display a lot of Hispanic and Latino art. These artworks compromise just 2.8% of art displayed in museums. If you are on a mission to learn more about Hispanic culture, unfortunately, the art museum may not be the optimal place to do it. Local shops and restaurants may be a good alternative.
What Do I Need To Do To Prepare For Travel?
With your timeline and itinerary down, you may be wondering what you need to personally do before booking your trip abroad. There are a few things to consider when it comes to your health and documentation. First, vaccines.gov recommends getting any vaccines four to six weeks before your trip. The flu and complications from the flu are increasingly common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 710,000 people have been hospitalized after contracting the flu since 2010. Thankfully, flu shots are widely available (sometimes even at your local pharmacy) and covered by most insurance plans.
Before you join the 2.7 million passengers who fly in and out of U.S. airports every day, you’ll also need your passport. Make sure to begin the process of getting your passport several months ahead of time. To be safe, apply for your passport six to eight months before your trip. You can print forms on the Internet and mail them in order to apply for a new passport, renew an expired one, or change the name on your passport. Processing can take weeks or months, so get your necessary materials in well before your trip.
Where Should You Go?
With general know-how about passports, vaccinations, and drawing up an itinerary underway, you may be left with your final decision: where to go. The Earth is 71% water, and the rest is all land you can potentially visit–more than that statistic suggests! Italy is one of the top destinations in the world, with Rome and Florence being among the most popular cities to visit. Both boast famous architecture, and Florence adds its world-famous canals and gardens into the mix. Paris is another top destination with divine cuisine, breath-taking views, and a variety of historic sites and landmarks to visit.
Traveling abroad can be the experience of a lifetime, and it can make you considerably happier, too! Know the best time to plan your trip, draw up an itinerary, gather your necessary documents and get necessary vaccines, pick out your favorite destination and enjoy.