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Putting A Trip Together - How to Get Started

Donít panic! You may feel like youíre struggling with a to-do list that is so long youíll never get it all done. While planning to go abroad will inevitably be a large task, the preparation work is all worth it. In order to make sure that you havenít forgotten an important step, go through this check list and add these steps to your own list.

Before you do anything else, youíll need to ask yourself the BIG questions. You wonít know what youíll need to get done before these are answered.

The BIG questions:

Where do you want to go?
What Do you want to do there?
How Long would you like to stay?
How Much will it cost you?
    • Pre-departure costs (luggage to purchase, passport, books, etc.)
• Airfare
• Lodging
• Tuition
• Food
• Entertainment
• Transportation
• Travel (day trips, vacations, etc.)
• Communication (phone cards, cell phone, etc.)

First Things First - Airfare

  Buy your airfare in advance. Online ticketing services are great ways to find discount airfare, with a descent selection of dates and transfers. Make sure to take advantage of student fares if you are a ďfull-timeĒ student. Try to avoid tickets with too many restrictions, and be aware of any extra fees involved with changing your return date, or canceling your ticket altogether. These tickets won't be the cheapest you will find, but you should be able to find competitve prices at the following sites:
ēHotwire Online Airfare

Vital Tips

  Make sure that all documents (passport, drivers license, etc.) are current when you leave and will not expire for at least 2 months after you return home.  

  Check visa requirements for your country of destination You may not need a visa at all if your stay is relatively short and in a Western country. However, many countries require visas for stays over 3 months. Visa applicants must usually have a medical checkup (sometimes an AIDS test), proof of insurance, proof of sufficient financial resources, and a letter of acceptance from the foreign program you will attend. Find this information out early, since it may take some time to get all of the documents together and have the application processed.  

  Sign over temporary power of attorney to a family member, such as a parent, or to a trusted friend. Should anything happen to you, they would be in charge of making decisions on your behalf.  

  Familiarize yourself with the general laws of that country Visit the State Department's Entry Requirements Web Page
ē Entry requirements
ē Limit of stay and documents needed (visa, residency permit, etc.)
ē Don't forget!!! If you break another country's laws, you are subject to that country's punishment.

  Bring all necessary documents (and copies) with you. Carry the originals with you in your carryon luggage, and keep one set of copies in your checked luggage.
ē Copies of your passport and visas, copies of your birth certificate, copies of your plane tickets, etc.

  Bring 2 forms of ID with you.  

  Leave a copy of all important information with a family member or trusted friend. This includes a copy of your passport, your social security number, bank account numbers and credit card numbers. Making photocopies of the front and back sides of your credit cards along with phone numbers can be a convenient way to store information AND a valuable asset if your wallet/purse should be stolen.  

  Plan ahead for filing income taxes from abroad (if necessary). Take account of longer delays, such as the time it will take for you to receive all the appropriate documents abroad and to file. Online filing can simplify the process.
Visit the IRS Web Page

  Get an international student card before you go (they must be purchased in the US) to take advantage of discounts for train ticket purchase, cinema tickets, etc.
ēISE International Student and Hostels Card

  Plan on contacting your family and loved ones as soon as possible. Buying a prepaid phone card in advance will help you to call home as soon as possible and to give you and your family some much-needed peace of mind once you have arrived.
•International Phone Cards

    Note:Foreigners are often the targets of theft. They stand out, are perhaps unaware of their surroundings, and are not always aware of the location of their personal belongings. Always wear your backpack on your front side when you are in crowded spaces and be aware of people bumping into you. If you should have something stolen, RELAX, it is not the end of the world or your vacation.  

Financial Tips:

Having control over your personal finances can help you avoid extra stress while you are abroad. Logically, it is much easier to bring too much money than it is to get by on not enough, so calculate how much you think youíll need and add 20-30% to that number to be on the safe side. Also, having money is of no use if you cannot access it, so make sure you know how to do so. Here are a few tips:

  Make sure to have sufficient funds to support yourself. Do not count on finding a job abroad, bring more money than you think you will need to support yourself independently. However, some countries, such as France, allow you to work part-time legally if you are a student, but there is a lot of paperwork to fill out and youíll need to find an employer that is up to doing some extra legwork to hire you.  

  Bring at least 2 different credit cards with significant limits for use in emergency situations.  

  Bring enough cash to get by for a couple of days, , but not too much. Research the accessibility ATMs in your country of destination before you decide to bring travelers checks or not.  

Health Tips:

One area that deserves special attention abroad is your health. Itís no fun being sick at home, but it is even worse to be sick abroad when you go unprepared, so make sure that you check off these tips.

  Make sure you have health insurance that covers you while you are abroad. Most large insurance providers will have a certain amount of coverage abroad, but may charge varying deductibles. It is best to call your insurance company directly. If you do not have insurance, check with a company that provides travel and international insurance coverage. provides health insurance coverage for any length of stay abroad.  

  Familiarize yourself with any required or recommended immunizations for the area you will be visiting as well as any common health risks and the potability of the water there.  

  Have a complete physical health exam and eye exam (if necessary) with your doctor before you leave. You should be able to get the basic immunizations at this time, including important prescriptions  

  If you take prescription medication, be sure to bring enough to last the duration of your stay plus at least 2 weeks longer, should your departure be delayed. Your doctor should make an exception for you in this situation.  

  Request a copy of your medical history to bring with you. Although this is a choice, it canít hurt to have this in the event that you are sick. However, it is especially important to have your medical history if you have any type of chronic condition.  

  Learn how to find a local doctor in your area, or locate one before you leave. This is is much easier to do when you are feeling well.  

  Eat well and get enough sleep!! It is very important that you take care of yourself while you are abroad. Your body will be going through transition both the time change and perhaps a significant change in diet. Give your body time to adjust and eat fresh fruits and vegetables as advised for your location.  

Pack Smart!!

Keep in mind the climate for that region and do enough research to know what to bring. When in doubt, bring layers!

  Bring an extra (empty) bag with you for gifts and extras that youíll bring home with you.  

  Check with your airline about baggage weight limits (including weight limits). Paying for an extra bag, or for overweight luggage can be a costly last-minute surprise. Most airlines accept 2 checked bags for international flights, each weighing up to around 60 lbs. Check on your airline's website to be sure.  

  Be aware of temperature variations for your destination. Always bring layers and make sure that you overestimate how cold a region could be. Average temperatures are only averages and do not cover the occasional extra frigid winter day.  

  Bring sturdy shoes!! At least one reliable pair of shoes to use for traveling and day trips is absolutely necessary.  

  Bring and use a money belt for carrying important documents and cash while traveling. Youíll feel more secure and your important possessions will be more difficult to steal. You can purchase one from any travel store  

Note: You may be tempted to buy a whole new wardrobe before you leave in an attempt to fit in to your host culture. Wait on it. It is much easier to wait until you have spent some time in that country and become familiar with its fashions, than to realize that the new clothes you bought before arriving are not in fashion.

Travel Tips:

  Dress comfortably for a long flight. Dress in layers to allow for air temperature variations, and wear shoes that you can take off and put on easily. Remember, itís not a fashions show.  

  Drink lots of water!! Bring a large water bottle with you on the plane and drink even if you are not thirsty. Flying can cause dehydration which can cause headaches, exhaustion, and crankiness.  

  Get a good nights sleep the before you travel. Traveling itself is exhausting, so donít make it more difficult on yourself by partying the night before you go. Have your going away party early.  

  Consider bringing travel ear plugs and perhaps an inflatable neck rest to cut down on the noise and to make it easier to get some rest. Remember: Youíll need to be on your toes when you arrive at your destination, so take it easy and get some rest.  

  DON'T drink alcohol on the flight!! It may relax you, but it will also dehydrate you and make you feel worse  

Culture Tips:

Now that you know where you want to go, and what you have to do to get there, itís time to learn about that culture and region.

  f you are not fluent or proficient in the language spoken in the country, bring a simple phrase book to help you get through everyday verbal exchanges.  

  Try to learn about the culture and language before you go Anything you know in advance will help you to correctly interpret the cultural communication of that country and perhaps avoid embarrassment and unintentional disrespect. Learn about the language, the people and their history. You will be more at ease in that country if you have even a slight understanding of how it that country and culture came to be  

Tips for University Students:

  Keep copies of all course syllabi, assignments, exams and papers. This will help to ensure credit transfer from your study abroad courses to your home university.  

  Make sure to have the contact information for the study abroad office and your advisor with you. Keep in contact with these people throughout your stay.  

  If you are studying at a foreign university, bring along or purchase a dictionary IN that language (for example, a Spanish dictionary with Spanish definitions, not a Spanish-English dictionary) along with your Foreign language dictionary. This will help with subtle meanings of words and will help to ensure that you are not simply translating everything into English. Itís well worth the cost.  

Note: Some schools allow you to sign a release allowing a parent or friend to have access to your confidential records and to be able to act on your behalf where your school or university is concerned. This can be convenient when studying abroad and is relatively painless to look in to and can prevent quite a few headaches should you need a friend or parent to contact the university on your behalf or to get information for you.