Sorting Out Travel Logistics

June 12, 2012 | , , ,

This is Part 2 of Step 3 in the 7 Steps to a Life of Travel.

Once you’ve decided where to go, it’s time to sort out some other travel logistics.

First, do you need a visa for your destination(s)? If you’re American, you can research visa requirements on the State Department website. Start this process as soon as possible. It can take a while to get a visa, and you usually have to leave your passport with the destination country’s embassy or consulate for processing, so you can’t apply for visas to different countries simultaneously.

Meanwhile, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll get where you’re going. Most destinations are best reached by plane, so I’ll stick to discussing plane tickets here. There are a lot of different approaches:

  • a one-way ticket to your first destination, then continue buying tickets as you go
  • a whole round-the-world itinerary or a one-continent pass
  • a simple round-trip

Before you buy a one-way ticket, research whether your destination requires visitors to have an outbound ticket upon arrival. Many countries insist that, before you can enter the country, you must show a ticket to prove you’ll be leaving the country before your visa runs out. Airlines are usually the ones who are required to enforce this rule, and they have been known to refuse to give a boarding pass to a passenger who doesn’t have a ticket out of the country the flight is headed to.

But sometimes the airlines don’t have the latest information, so do your research. This information is usually on the State Department travel page for each country (for Americans) and is also available via the embassy of the country you’ll be visiting. Ultimately, the airline has the power to prohibit you from boarding the plan without buying an onward ticket. If push comes to shove, buy a fully refundable ticket and return it later.

Some of the websites I use for plane tickets are Orbitz and Kayak, consolidators like Airlineconsolidators.com, and RTW specialists AirTreks. Many travelers also like SkyScanner, which I have less experience with. If you fly a lot (or are a savvy travel hacker), you can also book tickets with frequent flier miles.

As you make your plans, you might also consider insurance to cover your investment in plane tickets, health care/emergencies, and/or your belongings. I’ve never bought insurance just to cover travel costs, but it’s often included in travel medical insurance coverage.

If you’ll be traveling with valuable electronics, they may be covered by your travel insurance, or consider getting separate insurance for these items (my computers, external hard drives, camera, cell phones, mp3 player, etc., are covered by Safeware).

Depending on where you’re going and for how long, you might keep your health insurance at home, secure travel medical insurance, buy a local plan at your destination, or go without/pay out of pocket.

Here are some things to consider when deciding about health or travel medical insurance:

  • Will your current insurance cover you abroad?
  • Will you be in remote areas or engaging in risky activities?
  • Do you want coverage for airlifting and such if you’re in a serious accident/have a serious illness in a place that you can’t be treated?
  • Is health care available to foreigners at your destination? Is it expensive?
  • Do you have any ongoing health concerns that you need to be sure you can get treatment for?
  • Are you willing to pay a high deductible?

This is a personal decision that everyone approaches differently. Consider your particular health considerations, your risk tolerance, your destination, and your budget, and decide what’s right for you.

As your itinerary comes together and you research the cost of living in your destination, as well as the costs of travel and insurance, you’ll be able to fine-tune your money plan. Or, you may choose to revise your travel plan to sync up with your money plan!

Be sure your banking situation also syncs up with your itinerary and money plan.

  • Are credit cards widely accepted at your destination, or is cash best?
  • Find out what fees your current bank charges for overseas ATM withdrawals or other transactions. (Small, local banks and credit unions are often the best bet for getting reimbursed for ATM fees.)
  • Be sure you have access to bill pay and all account information via online banking.
  • Determine how you will get paid while you’re on the road. Can you set up clients for direct deposit? PayPal? Is there someone at home who can deposit checks for you?
  • Consider adding a trusted friend or family member as a co-signer or giving them power of attorney for your bank account. This way they can handle any problems on your behalf. (Having someone back home who has power of attorney is a good idea in general, not just for banking.)

Now it’s time to book your itinerary! This will give you the final push to actually get things done and hit the road. Once the date is set, you’ll know how long you have to get everything else done, and you’ll have declared to yourself, and the rest of the world, This is really happening!

What’s next? It’s time to start packing!

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