I think we can all agree the year 2020 has not quite turned out to be how we thought. Most of our New Year's resolutions of traveling, joining the gym, and saving money have been put to a screeching halt all due to the world-wide pandemic, COVID-19. Unfortunately, with this comes a new pandemic sweeping the nation – anxiety. In fact, there is a huge toll we feel when faced with long-lasting uncertainty and not begin to properly plan for the future. However, it’s important to remind ourselves that this “new normal” will pass and we will get back to our day-to-day lives, even if it is a bit different than what we might remember. One thing is for sure, humans are wired for adventure and discovery and it’s no doubt travel is a big part of satisfying that need So here are a few tips on planning your first trip once international travel is deemed safe again.
1. First, create your vision board!
First, get inspired and create your vision board. With all this extra time on our hands, it's the perfect opportunity to dive deep into researching countries, vacation spots, and other site-seeing adventures. Surprisingly, an activity as simple as planning is essential to getting our mental health back in order. It reminds us of normality and helps us focus on looking forward to a positive future. According to a 2014 Cornell University study, scientists found that “people derive more happiness from the anticipation of experiential purchases and that waiting for an experience tends to be more pleasurable and exciting than waiting to receive a material good”. So what does that mean? Spend less time online shopping and more time saving and planning a vacation! So head on over to Pinterest and start pinning all the amazing travel destinations you’d like to visit one day.
2. Next, check the Travel Advisories for your intended destination.
Once you’ve set your mind on a destination (or a few!), it’s crucial that you visit the U.S. Department of State’s travel website to check out any travel advisories for your intended destination. They even have a helpful travel advisory map to make planning easier. Here you’ll be able to view the various levels of advisory such as level 1 which means “Exercise Normal Precautions” to level 4 which means “Do Not Travel”.
3. Don’t forget, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Once you’ve decided on a destination and have taken a look at the travel advisory, your next step is to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This convenient program allows you to stay connected by receiving up to date safety and security alerts and when a travel advisory has been changed at your destination. All you have to do is create an account and provide the details of your trip (with all this uncertainty, you can simply estimate your dates of arrival and departure) for the countries you choose. Once your account is all set up, you’ll begin to receive email alerts with new travel advisories and alerts as soon it’s issued by the U.S. Department of State. This way, you can make informed decisions and make any necessary changes to your travel destination.
4. Then, research all the details.
Now that you have the basics out the way, it’s on to the fun stuff! With this newfound time on your hands, it’s a perfect time to really go in-depth and search all the places, restaurants, and excursions that you’d like to visit while at your travel destination. We scoured the internet and found a library of amazing downloadable itinerary templates by Canva that you can use to help plan and organize your trip. Now if you’d like to skip the paper and prefer to go a bit more digital, then TripIt: Travel Planner is a great app available on Apple and Android that allows you to organize every detail of your trip in an easy to use format. While you’re at it, be sure to visit our Pinterest and check out the amazing hacks we found that’ll save you time and money when traveling!
5. Finally, find out if you can pay for your bookings in local currency.
Once international travel is deemed safe again and you’re ready to make your plans a reality, then your last step is to determine whether or not you’ll pay for your bookings with your credit/debit card or in local currency. The convenience of paying through online booking portals or over the phone with your card may come with a cost. When paying for anything other than in U.S. dollars, some cards will tack on high foreign transaction fees. Now, if your card doesn’t charge these fees then pay attention to the hidden exchange rates that will be provided by your card or bank when converting USD to the local currency. Unfortunately, many cards will charge poor exchange rates and there's not much you can do to avoid that rate. The best thing to do is to call the hotel, tour operator, and any other bookings you’ve planned and ask if you can pay with a wire transfer instead. If you can, then you’re in luck! With a wire transfer, you’ll be able to pay in the destination’s local currency which can save you money. We offer a free account in which you can convert your currency to the local currency in just a few easy steps. Opening an account takes only a few minutes.
Remember, planning your future travel is meant to be a fun and distracting activity to help boost your mood and reduce anxiety. With some preparation, time, and most of all patience, you’ll be set to embark on the amazing trip you've been waiting for.