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Sunny2's avatar

How do you prepare for a trip to a foreign country?

Asked by Sunny2 (18701 points ) July 25th, 2012

Do you do research? Make a list of specific places you ought to visit? Make reservations ahead of time? Know all about the country before you go? Or do you wing it with no specific itinerary?

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11 Answers

bookish1's avatar

Does anyone travel to a foreign country without at least making reservations ahead of time? O_o

I am anal as all hell about preparing to travel abroad because of my numerous misunderstood and rare endocrine conditions, haha. Lots of stuff could go wrong at any point! It’s better to be overprepared than underprepared and S.O.L !

downtide's avatar

I plan my travel to the country and my accommodation in advance, and I organise such things as currency and travel insurance before I go, but I don’t decide what I want to see there until after I arrive and look around.

Lightlyseared's avatar

If you don’t make reservations for somewhere to stay before you arrive they often won’t let you past customs.

PurpleClouds's avatar

No itinerary—that’s our way. We get a car and a map and take off.

digitalimpression's avatar

It depends on your budget and how much time you have.

If money/time were no object I’m with @PurpleClouds .

CWOTUS's avatar

I typically only travel internationally on business, so the itinerary thing is pretty much a given. I plan minimal stays away from home, so I’m not going to do a lot of sightseeing. I get to where I’m going (and the reason for the visit in the first place) and then get out again as soon as possible. If the travel extends over weekends or there is unscheduled down time (pretty much a given when you visit some parts of the world), then and only then will I attempt to arrange for some impromptu travel. Even then, I’d rather relax in a nice hotel than tax my body too much with gallivanting; I’m not a kid any more.

My first visit to India last year was going to be a 9-day trip, so the Project Director and I had hoped to arrange a weekend hop to Nepal and a flight around Mt. Everest, but that fell through when our in-country travel schedule tightened up. It was also soon after the major bombing in Mumbai, so we decided that the smartest thing to do would be to avoid airports as much as possible (considering that we were going to be in country for 9 days and traveling through various airports on 4 of those days already, we elected to avoid adding two more travel days). In any case, he ended up being sick that weekend, so downtime in the hotel was the best thing all around.

I don’t like travel much any more – and air travel not one bit – which is why I try to minimize it as much as I can and get as much done as possible on the rare trips I do take.

I did manage to figure out a good way to travel to Asia, though: Pull an all-nighter the day before a scheduled early-morning departure, and you’re more likely to a) sleep on the plane (which I don’t do very well) and b) arrive at the hotel ready to sleep in sync with the natives. If I hadn’t caught a cold on the trip I made two weeks ago I’d have been golden. I’m still convalescing from that. It also makes for a leisurely packing job when you start at midnight to be ready to leave the house by 4 AM.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Once we decide what city/country to visit, we purchase a tour book. I read through it, particularly the tips on traveling to that country, like etiquette, etc. The SO doesn’t look at it until we are on the plane, if even then.

Most of the prep-work I do is in selecting a hotel. The local travel agency provides a list of hotels to select from. I jump on the internet and check out where they are located, look at the photos of the hotels, and read reviews. Once a choice is made, the agency books it. They also have an in-house currency exchange service.

While there, we typically plan what to on a day-to-day basis, unless there are side trips we want to take. We just head out the hotel door each morning with a map and the tour book and a general idea of what we want to do.

marinelife's avatar

I prepare a lot in advance, but leave some room for serendipity.

Sunny2's avatar

Speaking of serendipity, I advise people not to spend much time trying to find someone else’s serendipitous finds. You’ll do better to find your own.

Bellatrix's avatar

I book accommodation in advance. I wish I could be more relaxed but I think I would stress about this if I didn’t do it.

I also do a lot of research on Trip Adviser, Lonely Planet and such sites to see what the key features of the area I am travelling to and have a folder with all the things we might want to see/do. Then we decide what we want to do when we get there and especially after talking to locals in the area. Often the things we find online are very touristy and the locals have a much clearer idea of what to do and what not to bother with.

Sunny2's avatar

I went to Europe the first on a one way ocean liner ticket with no plans except that I could stay briefly with an old friend from college. I vaguely thought I’d meet people on the ship with whom I could travel. Didn’t happen. I wrote home to a student 10 years younger than I and we went off on a 3 month adventure on motor scooters and camping all the way except for a week sleeping on the floor of a dentist’s office.
My companion and I agreed to avoid most of the usual touristy sights and since I hadn’t looked ahead, I had wonderful surprises (for example, I hadn’t known where the Acropolis was situated and had only an encyclopedia picture of it situated on a flat plain as reference.)
Years later my family retraced that route with no reservations and, had no problems along the way. That time we did go to the tourist spots. The Eiffel Tower was the first on our list. The lady attending the loo held my 11 Year old daughter for 4 sou ransom until I could find my husband who had all the money we had exchanged.
Things have probably changed since then and reservations are a better bet now. (but you may not have found the bathroom with the purple painted claw-footed bathtub at a place located among fields of wheat in France)

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