Travel article

Pro Tips for Your First Trip Abroad

by Sara Parker

You’ve been bitten by the travel bug, and you finally have the time, money and means to take your first trip abroad. But where do you start? There are so many places to go, people to meet, things to eat and cultures to experience. Lucky for you, there are plenty of resources available to help you decide where to go and plan your entire trip. The following are just a few tips to get you started:

Decide Where to Go

All you know is that you want to travel out of the country, but aren’t sure where to go first. Begin your journey with research. Ask your friends about their favorite trips abroad, conduct online searches of some of the most popular destinations or go to your local bookstore to browse the travel section. You also should start narrowing down what type of trip you want to take, such as a remote, outdoors trek, major city tour or a cruise. Think about what you want out of your first time abroad to help decide what kind of excursion you want. As you start narrowing down your options, you also should narrow down your search parameters. For example, only look for the best locations to go backpacking or the best places with art history museums. The lists, books, and websites you’ll find will help you pick the best destination.

Get Your Documents

Once you know where you're going, you need to get going on your paperwork as soon as possible. If you don't have a passport or need to update an old one, do this immediately because it can take several weeks (and sometimes months) to complete. According to the U.S. Department of State, your passport needs to be valid at least six months after your return and have at least two blank pages that can be stamped by customs. Depending on the country you've chosen and the duration of your visit, you also may need to get a visa. Each country has different rules and regulations for visas and you usually have to send your passport and documentation to that country to be granted a visa (which is why you should do it immediately). The Department of State has information broken down by country that gives you directions on how to apply for a visa.

Book Your Flights

There are several points you need to consider before booking your flights online: dates, location, and price. If you are set on a certain time of year for your trip, the first thing you need to do is make sure flights are available during this time. From there, you can narrow down your options by what airport you want to fly out of from your home and into for your destination. Be very careful when you're conducting your research because many websites will tell you they are close to major tourist destinations even if they aren't (it's all relative after all). Do your due diligence by checking how far the airport is from your hotel so you don't end up with a large taxi bill. Now you can start looking at various airlines and prices. Although you may be excited, you may not want to book your flight too far in advance, according to CheapAir.com. According to their study, you should book your flight two to four months in advance of your trip to get the best prices. They have each region of the world broken down by the best time to book flights for more information.

Reserve a Place to Stay

Just like with your flights, you need to do some research on where you'll stay during your trip abroad. Whether you make a reservation at a hotel, hostel, Airbnb or couch-surfing option, you should look into how far it is from the major attractions and destination in the city. Use Google Maps on your smartphone to input addresses and locations to see if you can walk or take public transportation to all the places you want to go or if you'll need a car or taxi to get around. Keep in mind that the cost of cab rides adds up quickly.

Your accommodations also greatly depend on your budget for the trip. If you're pinching pennies, hostels are a great option. They usually are in the heart of major cities and can be booked for affordable prices (especially if you're planning an extended trip). Hostels also provide you with the opportunity to meet new people, talk to the locals and have a more authentic experience. Hotels and Airbnb may be more expensive options, but offer more privacy, services, and luxury. Be sure to look at pictures of the hotels or homes on their website, and read reviews and comments on websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Take advantage of the power of a smartphone like the LG G6 to compare all of your options and do as much research as possible. Your phone not only lets you look at websites, but also take screenshots and save information for later use in case something goes wrong.

As you plan your trip, be sure to include the major tourist attractions as well as some local activities on your itinerary. Give yourself plenty of time to explore, try new things and soak in a new culture. With a little research and planning, you'll have an amazing trip and be itching to plan the next one.

Purchase Travel Insurance

Getting travel insurance is prudent with any vacation, but it’s especially important when you’re traveling abroad. Protect your investment in your trip, and also ensure you’re covered in case of sickness or an accident while traveling (after all, many U.S. healthcare plans don’t cover you outside the U.S. Check with your individual plan). USI Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of travel protection plans, so you can find the right plan for you:

Visit http://www.travelinsure.com/ to view all of our plans and learn more.

 

Sara Parker has a passion for travel and travel writing. She lived and studied in Segovia, Spain, for six weeks, has traveled throughout Western Europe, Peru, Costa Rica and the United States. She hopes to hit every continent and share her journeys through her writing.

 


  Travel_mountains_hiking

How to Prepare for the Ultimate Backpacking Trip

By Jim Burch

John Muir once said, "The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” And there is no better way to see America's wilderness than to strap your gear to your back and walk. But it's not that simple, is it? Backpacking, while fun and rewarding, is sometimes difficult and requires real preparation.

Get in Hiking Shape

Even at no grade and low altitude, hiking for 10 miles and 25 plus pounds on your back takes a toll on your body. If you're a beginner hiker or you spend most of the day sitting in an office chair, there are a few simple exercises to get your legs and core into prime hiking shape.

  • Core - Deadlifts are crucial to back and core strength. Learn to do them safely and properly.
  • Legs - Squats and lunges target both the front and back muscles all the way down the leg.
  • Mobility - The "Limber 11" is a great series of stretches to make long hikes safer and more comfortable.

Get the Gear

The toys needed for a backpacking adventure into the wilderness are minimal, but you should still invest time and research into these key items before exploring the backcountry:

  • Backpack - A good backpack should carry 35-45 liters of gear and have an internal frame to distribute the weight off your shoulders and onto your hips.
  • Tent - The giant tent you use for family car camping won't do for this excursion. Backpacking tents are light, small and only big enough to fit the exact number of people in your group (usually 1-3). Make sure it has a rainfly and consider the additional footprint if you'll be camping on rough ground.
  • Sleeping Bag - If there is one item to splurge on, it should be the sleeping bag. Down feathers pack down and loft out better than synthetic material. You should also find one with a temperature rating below the coldest night of your trip.
  • Sleeping Pad - Most people think the primary function of a sleeping pad is to give cushion, but it's actually to separate you from the cold ground below. The best sleeping bag does nothing if it's pressed up against the cold ground, but a sleeping pad offers a buffer between your body and the dirt below. It also just so happens to be more comfortable.
  • Water Filtration - When you're more than a day's hike from the nearest clean water source, you need a method to filter your own from a stream or pond. Water filters filter out impurities from any water source so you can have safe, clean water to drink and cook with.

There are dozens more items to consider, such as headlamps, a knife, and first aid, but any good backpacking checklist will help ensure you have everything you need.

Get Your Itinerary

You've got the gear, you're in great shape, now it's time to prepare for the actual trip. Controlled land, such as National and State Parks, will usually require backcountry permits for wilderness camping. Popular parks such as Grand Canyon and Yosemite are very difficult to get permits for, so you should sign up for them the moment they're available.

Even if you're backpacking through a national forest or wilderness area, which usually does not require permits, it's a good idea to have an itinerary and share it with someone before you leave. National parks use permits to control crowds on the trail, but also to know where you are if something happens (a fall, an animal attack, etc.).

Make an itinerary, share it and stick to it and you'll be just fine.

Focus on the Journey

Multi-day backpacking trips can be physically challenging, but try to enjoy each moment — even when your body is tired — instead of just thinking about completing your journey. After all, you're off the grid and among nature to savor every step and take in every sight.

 

About the author:

Jim Burch studied creative writing and journalism while working as an editor for the Murray State News in Kentucky. These days, he writes diverse copy -- from sports and movies to tech and health.

 


3 Things to Consider Before Purchasing U.S. Visitor Health Insurance

By Chaitanya Bala

  image from i.imgur.com

Choosing the right health insurance for visitors to the USA can be a very tricky process. After all, the United States has one of the most complex healthcare systems around, which means that not getting travel insurance isn’t a wise option. Sure, when traveling to other countries (especially second world countries where having travel medical insurance is likely pricier than just getting treated at a local medical facility) it might seem that travel medical insurance is something you can easily omit. Although travel insurance is always a safe bet anywhere you go, we can agree that in some areas of the world, it’s not as risky to be uninsured.

But…the United States is a different ball game.

Coming to the United States as a visitor without travel medical insurance can be pretty chancy. It can be like riding a Harley without a helmet, driving a car without a seatbelt, and well…you get the picture. The point is, U.S. visitor health insurance is a pretty smart investment to make when you come here to visit for a short, or even extended period of time. With the high costs of medical treatment in this country, a simple visit to the doctor’s office without travel medical insurance can be detrimental to your finances. Now that we’ve covered why visitor’s travel medical insurance is critical when coming to the United States, one question still remains…

What’s the right visitor’s travel medical insurance for you?

There are quite a few factors that visitors can take into consideration here as they select the right travel insurance plan for them. Let’s go through each of these!

Continue reading "Health Insurance for Visitors to the USA" »


Guide to Beating the Flight Delay Blues Part 3: 4 Places to Unwind and Relax!  image from www.xpresspa.com

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been going over some fun and unique ways many of you can kill time while you’re waiting at the airport, either due to a long layover, or a delay! For art lovers, we showed you some cool exhibits you can find at airports, and for the foodies, we’ve gone over some unique eateries to test out, as well.

But maybe neither of these options strike your fancy. In fact, some of you may be too worn out to walk around all over the airport looking for eateries and art exhibits.

All you really want to do is unwind and de-stress as you prepare for this amazing week away from work, office deadlines, and (most) responsibilities. So take a deep breath and relax! Stop stressing over your delayed flight or your 5-hour long layover. Instead, check out these amazing in-airport spas and salons, and pamper yourself with luxury treatment that is probably long overdue.

Continue reading "Beat Flight Delays at Airport Spas – Travel Insurance Services " »


Get Your Friends and Family Ready to Visit, Starting with U.S. Visitors Insurance

By Chaitanya Bala

image from nis2.orgWith the holiday season coming up, many international students are having their parents and relatives come to the States so they can check out their living arrangements and get a taste of American culture. With a huge number of international students studying in the U.S., it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of overseas travel back and forth during the winter months; students are either returning home for the holidays or trying to get his or her guest(s) to the United States.

If you’re an international student who wants your family, significant other, or friends from your home country to come visit the U.S. during your holiday break – or even if you’re not a student and simply want your relatives to visit from another country – you may have many questions; namely, what steps do they need to take to ensure they’re prepared for an enjoyable trip?

That’s why we’re here to help!

Let’s assume that your guest has already applied for a B-2, or a visitor’s visa, has been granted the visa, and has an up-to-date passport. Here are the next steps they need to take – starting with buying U.S. visitors insurance – as they get ready to come to the United States for the holidays:

 

Get Visitors Insurance for the U.S.A.!

This is by far one of the most crucial recommendations we can give you. As a person who travels to India often, I will admit that I have never gone to India with a travel insurance policy since healthcare is pretty cheap there.

However, I definitely wouldn’t dare travel without travel insurance if I were traveling from India to the United States. This is because travel insurance for visitors traveling to the United States covers healthcare expenses, which as very expensive in the U.S. relative to the countries visitors may be coming from. According to John Hopkins professor, Gerard Anderson, an average emergency room bill without health insurance is $8,094.21. And with insurance, this cost is reduced to $309.57.

If residents of this country who make enough money to sustain a living are reading this in astonishment, imagine how things would be for a traveler who’s brought just enough money for some leisure activities and goods, and ends up facing a medical emergency with no insurance! Before your guests come to the U.S., definitely urge them to purchase a U.S. visitors insurance policy.

 

Get Up-to-Date Vaccinations

One of the requirements for immigrants entering the United States is that they must be vaccinated to protect against a particular group of infectious diseases. Make sure to communicate to your guests that they must have up-to-date vaccinations for these diseases, including measles, polio, and hepatitis A and B. Have them check out the full list provided by the CDC.

 

Figure out their Phone Situation

Are your guests going to use your phone the entire time they’re in U.S.? Are they going to change the SIM card on their phone while they’re here? Or, are your guests simply going to purchase a cheap phone to use during their stay here in the United States? It’s quite possible your guests are already cognizant of this, so just remind them to consider what they’re going to do for communication before they come here.

 

Bring the Right Amount of Money

Depending on where your guest is traveling from, the difference between the value of the U.S. dollar and the value of the other currency can be either barely discernible, or dramatic. Based on your knowledge of the exchange rate and your guests’ spending habits and budget, give them a ball park estimate of how much money would be sufficient to bring. Some other questions that your guests should consider is whether or not using a foreign credit card will be a good idea. If so, where should they go apply for one? Or should they carry around all cash? Your guests should also determine when they’re going to exchange currency and where. Once they get this squared away, they can ensure they have enough money to enjoy their stay!

 

Don’t Forget the Adapter Plugs!

In a day and age when we live and breathe technology, having your laptop or other electronic devices die with no way of bringing them back to life is pure torture. I still remember one time when I went to India and had accidentally dropped my adapter in the back of the taxi cab. Let’s just say the next two weeks went by really slowly. That’s why it’s super important to ensure that your guests have the right power plug that is compatible with electrical outlets in the United States. They can purchase adapters online, or at travel stores in their city. 

 

We hope things go smoothly as your friends, significant others, and family members get ready and come visit you in the U.S. for the holidays! Good luck!