7 Things to Remember When Planning an International Trip

Wanderlust is in the air!

It is all over the internet: Reddit, Instagram, Facebook, you name it! People are seeing beautiful photos from around the world and we are all trying to find ways to budget and save to live the traveler life.

Here are some things you need to know to begin planning your international trip!

What is your budget?

It took me significantly longer than I wanted to finally make it to Nepal. Most of that had to do with the lack of funds. There are a variety of different trips and expeditions out there but I needed to find one that I could afford on our tight budget. First thing you need to do is math out your budget and decide how much you can afford to take out every month and give a timeline of when you want to go on your trip. Your next step is going to be researching flights, places to stay, guides, things to do, sites, everything you want to do! You are looking at prices, expenses to math out exactly how much your trip is going to cost. From there you can adjust your trip accordingly to fit your budget! Last but not least: spending money. You NEED to give yourself a good amount to just play with because you will want it and use it. You are on vacation after all!

Flying Internationally:

It is important to check airline prices frequently, and on various days of the week to look for patterns in price changes. Below is an easy graphic of how many days in advance typically have the best price on international flights. Google flights is an easy resource for getting general ideas but Hopper and SkyScanner tend to have the best prices and deals and there are many other platforms out there as well. MOST IMPORTANTLY: The key is to compare prices on various platforms before choosing your flight is to be sure to look for consistency!!! If you find one flight exists on one platform, but doesn’t on the others, it is very possible that flight doesn’t actually exist anymore. Airlines cancel and change flights all the time, and unless you book straight through the airline, you may not be able to get a refund if a flight changes. Many platforms connect you to a travel agency and it is nearly impossible to get a hold of the correct people if something goes wrong. (take it from someone who dealt with this first hand and learned this the hard way).

Passports/Visas:

You NEED a passport to go anywhere in the world internationally and in most countries you also need a tourist visa. Here in the US, you can fill out a passport application at select Post Offices, and City Halls. Just look up where you can obtain a visa in your area. you will need to do this at least 3 months before your departure to ensure it arrives on time.

Every country has different requirements and depending on what country you are from can also change the requirements you need. You are going to want to research tourist visa requirements for a citizen of your country of origin to country of travel. If you are traveling to multiple countries, be sure to look up each individual countries requirements. Sometimes you need to fill out visas well in advance, so make sure this is one of the very first things you do in planning your trip!

Plan, Plan Plan!

This will be your key to keeping to your budget, and not wasting a day while you are out seeing the world! Even if you plan to do nothing on certain days (like spend time at a beach or something) they key is to have a plan for the big ticket items. Specific sites you want to see, specific things you want to do. Guided tours, and activities require advanced appointments. You want to be sure those are in your schedule before you plan your relaxation time.

Packing:

Know where you are going and what you NEED to bring and pack the bare minimum. Tropics typically have the lightest packing since you will live in a swimsuit most of the trip, trekking and climbing trips have a lot more since you are packing gear and layers of clothing. Every flight has weight limits, you will be paying extra if your bags are over the weight limit. Typically when you fly international, you are allowed one checked bag for free unlike flying stateside. This is because the airlines know you are traveling farther and typically for longer and need more luggage. Be sure to double check with your airline on baggage limits. It is good to pack up and weigh in a couple of weeks before you leave if you are worried about going over the weight limit.

Emergency Cash:

Things happen, it sucks when they do but it is important to always be prepared so you aren’t stranded in a foreign country somewhere. When I went to Nepal, we were stuck in Lukla for 3 days trying to get out and back to Kathmandu but the weather kept us socked in. We finally decided to call in a helicopter and I had to pay an extra $350 for that flight but it was completely worth it. I don’t regret that decision at all. I had to pay for it in CASH and I am glad I had it. I also had my credit card with me for bigger emergencies and luckily did not need to use it but it is good to have every back up available.

Dot all the i’s and cross the t’s:

As you get close to departure date, double check EVERYTHING! Make a list. Is your flight booked and still on schedule? Your passport and visa ready? Everything you planned booked and reserved? Work scheduled you off? Packed? Be sure to ask yourself every question that applies to your trip! The more you can do to prepare before you leave, the less terrifying it will be to be in a foreign country, and you will hopefully have a stress free vacation!

Happy Travels!

7 Tips for Expedition Preparation

No matter what your adventure, planning is important. However, when you are planning an expedition, it becomes critical! You have an ever changing to-do list, physical training, as well as other logistics to keep in mind.

Here are some tips you need to know to make sure you are checking off all the important preparation tasks for a big trip!

Step 1: (The Obvious) Book your trip!

Once you decide what you would like to do, book your trip before doing ANYTHING else, including booking your flight. Depending on your expedition will depend on availability of dates as well as available guide companies to book through. DO NOT just book the first company you look at. compare prices, compare dates, compare reviews, compare summit success rates, and most importantly, compare safety standards for crew and clientele. Some have the money and are willing to pay for the best of the best, which is great! However, others (including myself) have to think about budget and getting the best possible experience for the best available price.

For me personally, my first priority was climbing local. Not only does it support their local economy to climb local when you can, but you get a much more in-depth cultural experience learning about the country and culture! My second priority was safety, and third was price. These are all things to keep in mind when choosing who to book your expedition with. Below are just a couple of my personal favorites:

  • Third Rock Adventures: Local Nepali guide company recommended by Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor, Travel Channel, New York Times, and more. Local guides fluent in English, great safety standards, cheaper than western guide companies, and all the money you spend supports the struggling Nepali economy. 
  • Eco-Africa Climbing: The best local agency in Tanzania. They pride themselves on ethical porter treatment, ensuring they all make a living wage (even before tips). They will teach you Swahili and ensure a safe climb up Kilimanjaro! Safaris are also available.
  • Summit Climb: Founded by famous climber and guide Dan Mazur. Variety of charity treks available, experienced guides, most affordable Everest climbing from a western company, wide variety of larger expeditions and climbs, well organized.

Step 2: Book your flight!

Once you book your trip, wait until you make your first payment and receive a confirmation email with all needed info regarding your expedition before booking your flight. Everyone always talks about how there are key windows to book the cheapest flight. This is more true for nationwide flights more-so than international flights. International flights tend to book much more quickly and have their ideal price window between 4-6 months in advance depending on the time of year. The trick is to start monitoring and follow flight prices as soon as you book your trip, and once everything is confirmed, then book your flight. There are now a variety of flight apps to help track prices and some work better than others. Google Flights is always a good start, however I found Hopper and Skyscanner found much cheaper flights. 

Step 3: Training Schedule

Planning out a training schedule for workouts is critical. It is important to map out when and how you are going to workout and train. This will be ever changing however. Life happens. You may find you were more out of shape than you thought and it may take longer to re-establish a base line of fitness, or you may get sick and be out of commission for a week or two, or maybe you are just so exhausted from work you aren’t getting to train as much as you would like. Whatever happens, set and establish fitness goals at the beginning and just try to get as close to them as possible. You may get lucky and be able to stay on track, but if not, you have a guideline to help get you there.

Step 4: To-Do lists everywhere!

Start simple, and add things as needed. When you first book your trip there are a few essential things that need to go on your list, but other random things may come up as you get closer. here are some things to make sure get done:

  • Order new passport (if needed)
  • Purchase Travel Insurance
  • Purchase Emergency Evacuation insurance
  • Ensure your health insurance is current
  • Set a doctor appointment to get a physical, (most guide companies require a doctor to clear you for a major expedition and will require a form to be filled out by your doctor)
  • Have your doctor write you a prescription for Diamox (for altitude sickness) and antibiotics (for emergencies)
  • Receive any immunizations needed for the country you are traveling to.
  • Shop for any needed supplies or equipment
  • Call bank before you leave to let them know you will be out of the country

Step 5: Faux Pack

At some point you will need to make sure all your gear fits in your duffel right?  This is also a good opportunity to double check your equipment list to make sure you have everything you need. It is recommended to do a packing trial about a month or so before you leave. If you are missing gear, it is good to give yourself the time to shop for it. Another good reason for this is weight limits. Not only do airlines have weight limits for luggage but porters do too. There are laws in place to protect porters safety and health to ensure they are not carrying too much weight. Many well established guide companies respect these laws as well as their porters and are strict about weight limits. This can get tricky when you are hauling a bunch of heavy climbing gear. When you pack, take only what you need. Don’t bring a bunch of extras, and pick one outfit to hike/climb in with various layers, and one outfit to lounge in. There are ways to launder clothes at high altitude if you really need to, but most just deal with the stink!

Step 6: (the most important) Mental Preparation

Mind will win over body every time. If you aren’t confident in yourself or your abilities, don’t expect success when you arrive at your destination. Your mental health is going to be more important than your physical preparedness. Preparing your mind will look different for every person depending on where you are at to begin with. Some seek out therapy to work through fears and doubts, however some can simply meditate on their goals. There are a variety of things you can do to mentally prepare yourself but this one I can’t give advice on specifically because it is something where you will need to just decide what works best for you. 

Step 7: Farewell!

This is another thing where you decide what you would like to do! Some want a party, some love to spend a final evening with family and friends, others maybe do something more interpersonal. Whatever you choose, it is important to surround yourself with those who support you! Cheers and Good Luck!