Traveling abroad is not always smooth sailing. We’ve been evacuated when a nearby volcano erupted in Pucón Chile, tried to help put out a fire in the middle of the night for the cottage next door in Kenya, and accidentally drove through the slums of Santiago Chile after dark one night. On the other hand, we’ve loved these new experiences and gained incredible perspective by traveling overseas. Allow me to offer a few tips for traveling abroad that might come in handy.

Volcano erupting (this was 2 miles of fire ABOVE the cone)

Volcano erupting (this was 2 miles of fire ABOVE the cone)

Our room the night of ‘visiting’ the slums

Our room the night of ‘visiting’ the slums

1. Carry On

This may seem rudimentary, and if you’re a clothes horse or shoe hound, this may seem impossible. I strongly encourage you to figure out how to fit everything into a carry on bag. I can’t begin to count how many times our flights have been delayed and easily rearranged because we didn’t have checked baggage. I’ve traveled for three weeks in a carry on bag and promise that if you plan to mix and match outfits, you can do it!

2. Go local

While traveling abroad, we have been pleasantly surprised by how many times we’ve been able to find a ‘local’ experience, either dining in someone’s home or among locals in a special setting. Mixing it up with the locals has led to some of our favorite experiences. It’s also a great way to get to know the local culture and understand other people’s lives and perspectives.

The two of us ate in a restaurateur’s apartment in Budapest for a multi-course, multi-hour dinner with the owner and his wife. In France, we ate with five local couples in our host’s chateau. The host graciously acted as interpreter so we could follow the all-French conversation. In Capetown, we enjoyed family style dinner with an up-and-coming chef at her tiny little restaurant. A local cooking school served their enjoyable products in a cute little restaurant in Istanbul.

Dining in Budapest

Dining in Budapest

These opportunities came about because we went out of our way to find them in local publications or by researching on the internet. Suffice it to say, these experiences far surpassed a normal night in a restaurant!

3. Use travel agents

I’m a big fan of aggregator sites such as Travelocity and Expedia. But, sometimes a travel agent can work wonders for your flights, and save you money on complex trips abroad. On a recent trip to Africa, we were traveling in and out of multiple cities. To find the best flights and airlines, such as Qatar, which is difficult to book directly, we used a travel agent. We saved over $1,000 per ticket for a nominal cost of $75. The options they found were not available via aggregators and not easily discovered without significant research.

4. Get off the beaten path

Much like finding unique experiences under ‘Go Local,’ we have learned our most rewarding experiences come with getting off the beaten path. We drove the back roads of Turkey and found everyone helpful, even though we had to communicate in sign language. Similarly, we drove into the countryside of the Czech Republic shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. There, we found wonderful hospitality and beautiful vistas. Driving the back roads of Croatia led us to Lake Plitvice, a stunningly gorgeous series of lakes and waterfalls.

Plitvice Park in Croatia

Plitvice Park in Croatia

For us, traveling is like taking an experiential history class and expanding our horizons as we engage with other cultures. I hope you can use these tips for traveling abroad to enrich your own trips.

Here are a few carry on bag options:

 

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About The Author

Debbie Johnson

Debbie is a native Nebraskan whose career started with AT&T/Lucent Technologies, ending as a Vice President. Then she became a consultant helping businesses grow and be strategic as they give back to their communities. She has written articles for many publications and enjoys sharing her knowledge with others.