Traveling out of Michigan or out of the country can get very complicated. The first time I traveled out of the country was my sophomore year and I had no idea where I should start. Since then, I have traveled to Costa Rica and Thailand and I am currently planning a graduation trip to France, Italy, and Rome. I have listed some tips and precautions that I feel are useful when planning to travel.
Look into the weather
Most people would probably plan to travel to warm places after we endure the grueling Michigan winter for a semester. However, don’t fill up your suitcase with just bikinis and shorts. Many countries have a rainy season that occurs in the late summer. Look into your country and view the typical climate for the duration of your stay. It may be wise to pack rain boots and an umbrella to go with the heat.
- Call your bank
This is one of the most important things to remember. You don’t want to start splurging at your favorite foreign store and find that your account has been frozen due to “suspicious activity.” Call your bank and inform them of the dates and locations that you will be travelling.
- Transfer money when you get there
I find it is wiser to transfer your foreign money when you get to your travel destination. I prefer to go to the bank because the transfer fees are lower than they are at the airport. Make sure you bring your passport to the bank with you when you want to transfer money. If the airport or your living accommodations are not near a bank, then pull cash out of your bank account before traveling and transfer the money at the ATM instead. Using cash will decrease any international travel fees that may be charged to your debit card.
- Getting vaccinations
This is more important if you will be in another country for a long period of time such as a study abroad or an extended trip. I would recommend getting vaccinations if you’re in a foreign country for three weeks or more. I always use the CDC’s website to plan out any vaccinations. Just type in your country and it will tell you which vaccinations are required, recommended or only required for certain areas. I tend to get my vaccinations at CVS, Walgreens, or UHS to avoid travel clinic fees but some vaccinations are not available at these places so be sure to check before you make an appointment.
If you are going to be out of the country for an extended period of time, having travel insurance is highly recommended. You never know when you could get sick or hurt, so be safe! I had to go the hospital while in Thailand because I has a severe reaction to a bug bite. I use GEO Blue travel insurance because it is about $80 (depending on the type and length of stay) and is the University of Michigan’s student travel insurance program.
Book your flight early
The earlier you book your flights, the cheaper they will be! I would recommend trying to have all of your flight’s books at least three months in advance. Be sure to send someone a copy of your flight itinerary to and from your destination so they have a general idea of your whereabouts.
Plan your layovers! This is more important for your returning flight into the US because TSA is pretty strict. I like to have a two- or three-hour layover when I am boarding my international flight so that I will have enough time to get through immigration. After you go through immigration you have to check back into TSA, so you have to go through the back-checking process again. I was detained on my way home from Costa Rica, but my layover was long enough that I did not miss my connecting flight back home because of the circumstance.
Some countries will give you a visa upon arrival once they see your passport at immigration and some countries require you to have a traveler’s visa before entering the country. This is definitely something that you should look into before you travel. You will also need to be aware of how long your visa lasts. Visas typically give you 30 days if you receive them in country. Therefore, if you’re in a country longer than a month, you will have to get a visa extension in country or plan ahead and get one before you leave the US. In Thailand, you get a brand-new 30-day visa when you leave the country and come back. Therefore, you can take a quick flight to visit a neighboring country for the weekend (Laos, Cambodia, or India are a few) and get a brand-new visa once you return to avoid the immigration hassle. This is another option, but it is not implemented everywhere.