Hit The Road
Planning makes travel less stressful
For months, two of my best friends and I have been preparing for a trip to Tuscany, Italy, where we will see our friends Erica and Rob get married in a small coastal town called Castiglioncello.
We have spent hours huddled over guidebooks and our laptops in cafes, creating itineraries for the precious two weeks we will have there in July. While I'm not one to plan every minute of every day, there are a few guidelines to abide by when traveling abroad in order to have a successful, stress-free trip.
Get your passport early. By early, I mean even if you have no plans to go abroad in the next six months, get one now! Now that the government is asking for passports for passage through to Mexico, Canada and the
Caribbean, the number of passport applications is way up, while the number of people processing the applications remains generally the same. This has caused delays for panicked passengers who have planned every detail of their sojourns, only to discover at the last minute that they are in a crunch to get their passports, even after ordering them 10 weeks ahead of schedule.
Learn a little of the country's language. While hand signals will get you pretty far, and asking "Do you speak English?" will most likely get you even further, it's always a good idea to try to learn the basics for any non-native English speaking country you decide to visit. Investing in a three-month online tutorial with Rosetta Stone has proven to be helpful for fluency and pronunciation, while a little phrase book will be useful for more touristy necessities. At the very least, you should know how to ask where to find a restroom, where to find a bank, and how to find your room for the night.
Reserve accommodations. While it sounds oh-so-romantic to travel without any plans, the reality of sleeping in airports and train stations is not very appealing, and in many cases can be dangerous. If you are going to be abroad for weeks, researching hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts and inns will help you to save money in the long run. It also will give you the assurance that once you get to a destination you will have a place to put your stuff, which means that you can enjoy a place without lugging 20 pounds of clothing and toiletries.
In addition to these guidelines, there are, of course, the more fun and frivolous things to consider, such as the top 10 sites you want to see in the areas you're visiting, or the best, off-the-beaten-track restaurants recommended by locals online.
As Emily, Erika and I research the gardens and galleries and wineries and beaches we've been dying to visit, we are also enjoying the problem of finding the perfect things to wear to an Italian wedding, the dilemma of how to fit 18 dresses into a single suitcase (no shorts and sneakers, lest we look like tourists), and the obstacle of building up our tolerance to red wine. These are preparations we will enjoy, having gotten all of the big things out of the way.
Joy Uyeno travels frequently throughout the year, and her column geared toward beginning travelers or youths experiencing their first extended stay abroad appears the second Sunday each month in the Star-Bulletin Travel section.