(BPT) - Planning a trip abroad? That’s exciting! But you have lots to do and less time than you think to get it done. What do you need to accomplish before leaving?
Here's a handy checklist to help you get your ducks in a row.
If you have a current passport, check the expiration date. Many countries require that you have at least two to four blank visa pages, and that your passport be valid for 6 months past the last day of your trip.
If you don’t have a passport or it needs renewal, get that done first. The U.S. State Department announced an increase in processing time for passports to 6-8 weeks. Even a higher-cost expedited passport can take three weeks.
Fortunately, FedEx Office is teaming up with RushMyPassport to offer further expedited U.S. passport services. Stop by one of 2,000 FedEx Office locations or visit FedEx.com/passport to complete your application. You can even purchase government-compliant passport photos at their locations. There are six options:
This doesn't include shipping, so add one day or more for shipping, or arrange pick-up at their location in select cities.
Some countries don't require visas for brief visits, but you should check well before leaving. Find the country at travel.state.gov/destination to determine necessary paperwork and allow several weeks for the process. You will typically need to visit the website of that country's embassy for current visa requirements and instructions. FedEx Office does not currently offer visa services, but plans to in the future.
If your destination country doesn't require a visa, they may require proof of sufficient funds for your trip, proof of onward or return flights and a passport with one blank visa page valid for 6 months beyond the date you arrive.
Bring along information for the U.S. embassy and consulate, in case of emergency. You should also carry contact information for family members in case anything happens to you. Leave a copy of your travel documents (such as passport) and itinerary with someone back home and carry copies with you (separate from originals, in case of loss or theft).
Savvy travelers carry a combination of cash, traveler’s checks and credit cards in separate locations. Learn overall currency exchange rates and make a cheat sheet with that country’s equivalents of $5, $10 and $20. Remember, exchange rates change daily and vary depending on where you exchange money.
Exchange some at the airport when you arrive. Then exchange more in a touristy area posting competitive exchange rates to find better deals.
Consult your doctor to catch up on vaccinations. Find out if the country where you’re traveling requires vaccinations for entry, or which are recommended, on the CDC website: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/travel-vaccines. Vaccines should be administered a month ahead for maximum effectiveness.
If you take prescription medications, bring them in their original containers, plus a copy of the prescription(s).
Some health insurance policies cover you overseas, but many don't. You can purchase travel insurance to ensure you’re covered for both doctor or hospital visits and for transporting you to a hospital if necessary. Some renters or homeowners insurance policies cover loss or theft abroad, but you can purchase additional coverage if they don't.
Planning ahead will not only ensure a hassle-free trip, but will give you peace of mind in case the unexpected happens. Knowing what you need before you go will make your trip memorable — for all the right reasons.
These general guidelines are not exhaustive. Be aware that laws change and vary from country to country. Check relevant resources including travel.state.gov/destination for information about your destination.
The options for experiencing an amazing vacation are so plentiful, such as exploring a cruise port, eating and drinking your way around a city or simply visiting a new destination, you may find yourself struggling to narrow down the choices. Once you’ve determined how you’d like to spend your time, you can begin to explore some hot travel destinations, such as these.
Bucket List Travel Destinations for 2019
(Family Features) Taking time to go on vacation or to just unplug from everyday life can be beneficial, and there’s certainly no lack of options when it comes to choosing an ideal vacation spot. The options for experiencing an amazing vacation are so plentiful, such as exploring a cruise port, eating and drinking your way around a city or simply visiting a new destination, you may find yourself struggling to narrow down the choices.
By focusing first on what type of vacation experience you would enjoy most, the details of the location may more easily fall into place.
“Often, would-be vacationers get so hung up on figuring out where they want to go, they forget to consider what they’ll do when they get there,” said Matthew Phillips, director of travel for AARP Services, Inc. “It makes sense to keep location in mind when it comes to considerations like climate, but knowing what types of activities, entertainment and sights you hope to experience can help ensure you plan a travel experience of a lifetime.”
Once you’ve determined how you’d like to spend your time, you can begin to explore some hot travel destinations, such as these:
California: Rent a car and take a road trip down the California coast and experience sunshine, culture and more as you drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco. It may be one single coastline, but California is filled with scenic views of the Pacific Ocean and tourist attractions, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Hollywood sign.
Caribbean: There are few better ways to escape the cold weather than with a Caribbean cruise, where breathtaking excursions, first-rate cuisine, exciting nightlife and spectacular entertainment fill every day and night. There are dozens of cruise options available, so it’s a good idea to do plenty of research and look into special incentives and offers to complement the experience. For example, the AARP Travel Center powered by Expedia provides exclusive offers to members on select cruises, including up to $1,000 in onboard credit.
Florida Gulf Coast: The warmer seasons are perfect for unplugging and relaxing by the sand and water. Head to the beaches of Florida and get a room with a view so the water is never out of reach. For example, Sarasota, Florida offers miles of beaches, including Siesta Key, known for its majestic waters and luxurious amenities.
Southwest France: Explore the beautiful wine-growing region of Southwest France through a fascinatingly historical and invigorating river cruise. For example, the Uniworld Bordeaux river cruise allows guests to sail three rivers: the Garonne, the Dordogne and the Gironde. The experience blends land and water with archaeological and historical tours, artisanal wine tastings, sprawling gardens and charming villages to explore. Take your experience a step further and see the sights while feeling like a local by going on a spotlight tour, an intimate way to uncover hidden gems.
Singapore: If you want to immerse yourself into a completely new and unique culture, hop on a flight and explore Singapore, commonly referred to as a “shopper’s paradise” for its emerging brands and bargains stores. Enjoy both the urban and natural attractions while indulging in the eclectic dining scene. Singaporean cuisine is full of diverse plates, such as bak kut teh, laksa and friend carrot cake, derived from several ethnic groups.
If you’re ready to start planning a satisfying getaway, a resource like AARP Member Benefits can assist with planning and saving money along the way. Learn more at AARPBenefits.com/travel.
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
AARP Services, Inc.
Ask nearly any person about his or her dream trip and watch a smile appear as the perfect personal excursion is described. Now, ask why the trip has yet to happen, and time and money will be the likely culprits. Carving out time and saving funds to make travel possible, even during the busiest travel seasons, can be a challenge, but these tips can help you travel the world in style.
Pursue Your Travel Passions
(Family Features) Ask nearly any person about his or her dream trip and watch a smile appear as the perfect personal excursion is described. Now, ask why the trip has yet to happen, and time and money will be the likely culprits.
The misconceived notions that may be holding you back from traveling can feel especially exacerbated during busy seasons when travel costs rise and coordinating vacation schedules with coworkers becomes a challenge.
Carving out time and saving funds to make travel possible, even during the busiest travel seasons, can be a challenge. Lee Abbamonte, the youngest person to travel to every country in the world plus the North and South Poles, and Bank of America recommend these tips to travel the world in style.
Book Based on Your Interests
One of the easiest ways to make time for travel is to book based on your likes and hobbies. When you plan a trip around your passions, it helps you prioritize the experience over the cost.
"When I worked in finance, I noticed a lot of my colleagues made excuses about why they couldn't travel," Abbamonte said. "I've found that booking travel based on your personal interests can help you stay motivated to follow through actually taking the trip. For example, I love watching and playing sports, so I often use that as a reason to travel to various countries."
One area you might be passionate about is food. In fact, 23 percent of Americans say they have planned a trip around a culinary experience, according to a Bank of America survey. Local cuisine also offers a unique glimpse into a culture.
"I love attending local food festivals and cultural celebrations," Abbamonte said. "Just one day at a food or wine festival can give you a great understanding of an area's culture and people, which is quite literally great 'food for thought.'"
Have a Credit Card Rewards Strategy
Earning points through travel spending is especially popular today. In fact, 65 percent of Americans have a rewards credit card, according to the same Bank of America survey. Yet when it comes time to reap a card's rewards, 55 percent admit they don't have a strategy to maximize points.
Abbamonte recommends using a credit card that rewards all your purchases and offers extra points where you spend most.
"Since traveling and eating out are easily my top two expenses, the Premium Rewards credit card from Bank of America works perfectly for my lifestyle," Abbamonte said. "I earn two points for every dollar I spend on travel and dining - which works out great to maximize my rewards earnings, plus I earn 1 1/2 points on all of my other purchases."
For example, think of it this way: Every time you use your card, you are earning points for your next trip. Even your morning coffee can help you earn points toward a plane ticket.
Have a Plan but Be Flexible
To get the most out of your travel experience, make a general plan for what you want to do. However, be sure to leave time for exploring charming side streets and unexpected surprises. You never know what will catch your eye once you arrive.
"I often visit multiple countries in one trip," Abbamonte said. "While I usually know where I want to travel, I don't always buy my flights between countries beforehand. You may want to adjust how you planned to allocate your time once you're on a trip. Maybe you fall in love with a bed and breakfast, and just can't part ways to catch your flight out of town. Travel shouldn't be a mad dash from destination to destination. It's a time to truly live your best life in a new place."
Maximize Financial Rewards
"If you qualify for a banking rewards program, you can really max out on your credit card rewards," Abbamonte said. "For example, Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients receive up to a 75 percent bonus on their credit card rewards - which means you could earn up to 3 1/2 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases with the Premium Rewards credit card."
To maximize rewards, consider layering your airline, hotel, banking and credit card rewards programs together. Abbamonte, for example, includes his frequent flier and hotel loyalty program membership information while booking airline travel and hotels, allowing him to earn benefits from other loyalty programs on top of the points he receives with his card.
Find more ways to save for travel at bankofamerica.com/getmorerewards.
Maximize Your Rewards
An analysis of Bank of America's over 50 million debit and credit cards during 2017 showed travel and restaurants to be top areas for spending. Using a credit card that rewards you for where you spend the most can help pay for upcoming travel.
On average, consumers spent in 2017:
Photos courtesy of Getty ImageSOURCE:
Bank of America
International travel tops the bucket lists of many aspiring travelers. However, two-thirds of Americans aren’t ready for international travel because only 36 percent hold a valid U.S. passport, according to the U.S. Department of State, which is required for travel outside of the United States.
Check International Travel Off Your Bucket List
(Family Features) International travel tops the bucket lists of many aspiring travelers. However, two-thirds of Americans aren’t ready for international travel because only 36 percent hold a valid U.S. passport, according to the U.S. Department of State, which is required for travel outside of the United States.
While there are exotic destinations such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and even Puerto Rico (the country that’s become more popular due to the hit song Despacito) that do not require a U.S. passport, Americans applied for about 17 million passports in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs. It’s predicted that applications will hit 21 million in 2017.“This summer is the perfect time to head out of town,” said Josh Belkin, Hotels.com vice president and general manager. “European destinations are particularly popular right now and with declining airfares, increased international flight options and great hotel deals, it’s an obvious time to venture abroad.
One of the main hang-ups in applying for a passport can be cost. However, with a qualifying international accommodation booking, Hotels.com is aiding Americans by offering free passports. The online lodging expert also offers these simple passport tips to ensure you’re ready to pack your bags for the trip of a lifetime:
With a passport in hand, you’ll be prepared to discover some of the most popular international destinations like London, Paris, Toronto, Tokyo and Rome, and check an enjoyable travel spot off your bucket list.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (woman holding up passport)SOURCE:
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