Ways to Cope with the Fear of Traveling Abroad for the First Time
A Step by Step Guide on How to Travel Like a Pro
There is one thing most human beings are afraid of and that's CHANGE and FEELING OUT OF CONTROL. Traveling for work or pleasure pushes you out of your comfort zone, puts you in a situation where you're not familiar with the procedures for checking in at the airport, going through security, how to find your gate.
Then, at your destination, you're worried no one will speak English, how will you fill in the customs and immigration forms, where should you go first, will the immigration officer ask you something you won't know how to answer, will they ask you to open your bags, did you pack something that's not allowed in that country, how are you going to get to your hotel, will you take a "pirate" cab that'll rob you and dump you in the middle of nowhere, how will you order at restaurants?
How do you keep yourself off the ledge? Be prepared for everything. If you travel knowing what's going to happen, what the procedures are, you'll feel more in control and the anxiety will turn into butterflies and in a couple of days abroad, the butterflies will turn into excitement for what's next in your adventure.
As soon as you have that plane ticket, do the following:
Take a photo of the cover and first 2 pages of your passport, of your driver's license, the visas of the countries you'll be visiting, the credit cards you're taking, and the address(es) of your hotel(s) at your destination(s). Keep the photos in your phone and back them up to the cloud, dropbox or google drive, in case you lose your phone.
Some banks require that you call to notify them that you’ll be using your cards abroad. They will ask where you will be traveling and the dates. Otherwise, your cards may be denied for security reasons, as your shopping will obviously seem out of the ordinary.
It’s better not to take too much cash, which can be lost or stolen. Take a little cash and have it on you at all times (buy a belt with a zipper, for example) and as soon as you land, buy some local currency for cabs, tips, snacks and drinks (small purchases for which credit cards are usually not accepted). You can cancel a credit card if you lose it or it’s stolen, you can’t cancel cash.
If you have special dietary needs, restrictions, allergies, etc., call the airline a week before your flight and order your in-flight meals. As soon as you board the plane, mention to one of the flight attendants that you are the person who ordered the special meal.
Google an image of the immigration and customs forms from your country and your destination (the airport where you're landing will most likely have the forms online). Print them out. Find a sample of the completed forms and fill your mock forms. Leave anything you don't understand blank and can ask the airline staff when you check-in at the airport. The forms you print and fill in won't be valid, but the point is that all you'll have to do is copy your answers into the official form at the airport. This also applies if your flight is not direct and you are stopping at one or more airports, except you'll receive the forms from the flight attendants. Do the same thing, google samples and bring your filled-in sample. Always keep a pen handy because you'll be filling in many forms prior to, during and after your flight. No surprises, see?
Don't worry about a map of the airport of departure. The airline staff will direct you to your departure gate and there will be signs all over the airport pointing to the different gates.
If you don't have a direct flight, DO print out maps of the airports where you'll be connecting, especially if you will be changing terminals. In this case, you'll have to take a train from terminal to terminal and it is best to know where you're going, although airport staff can usually direct you.
Pack the following items in your carry-on (just in case your suitcase is lost or delayed): medicine and prescriptions if you’re taking meds that are not over-the-counter. Pack your valuables in your carry-on (jewelry, camera, etc.). If you're taking any liquids, gels or creams (contact lens solution, eye drops, hand cream, face mist, cosmetics, etc.) make sure they're all in little containers that weigh no more than 3 ounces, and put all of them in a quart-sized ziplock plastic bag.
Go to your airline's website and check how many bags you're allowed to check in and how much your carry-on and checked bag should weigh, as well as the dimensions permitted. You don't want to get to the airport only to be told that your suitcase is one pound over the limit and you have to pay 50 dollars. Weigh and measure your bags after they're packed but before you leave for the airport. Do the same if you’re not flying direct but you’re changing airlines at one or more stop; check the baggage policies for every carrier.
CLAIMING AND RE-CHECKING BAGS FOR CONNECTING FLIGHTS
If you don't have a direct flight, you will have to go through immigration and security at every airport and if your airline only checked your bags to your first stop, you’ll need to claim your bag(s) and drop them off for your connecting flight (follow the signs for connecting flights and ask where you should drop off your bag(s). Make sure to ask the staff receiving your suitcases if that is the correct place for drop-off for bags going to XYZ on Flight ABC.
Download to your phone a translator app that not only shows the translation in writing but also has a voice pronouncing the words. This is one of the reasons you will need unlimited internet.
On your Google Maps app, mark your hotel and all the places you want to visit. This way you’ll always know how far places are, traffic conditions and make sure your taxi driver is not taking the long way so he can charge you more for the ride.
As soon as you arrive at your destination, ask where you can buy a local sim card. It’s important that you never run out of data so you can consult the internet anytime you need to. Make sure the sim card comes with unlimited internet because you’ll be using your Google Maps, translator app, WhatsApp or any other messenger for friends and family, etc.
If your hotel has a shuttle service, just ask what door you should exit to find the shuttle stop. If you're taking a taxi, make sure you take only an authorized airport taxi (it'll be obvious because signs will show you where to stand in line for cabs).
Stop worrying, everything is going to be fine. Enjoy every moment of your trip.
If you have any questions about anything I may have forgotten to cover, leave me a message on the comments space below or on social media.