When planning a vacation, choose the kind of activities you'd like to do first. Then, pick a destination. If you want to shop, head to a major city like London or Paris. If you're looking for adventure, get set to see Africa or the desert. Once you've picked your destination, work out a budget and start searching for hotels and resorts from there.
There are dozens of handy websites you can use to familiarize yourself with destinations around the world. And be sure to rely on recommendations from friends and family. Also, check out the US Department of State Travel Information Page (for updates on travel restrictions or warnings).
Other handy travel research sites include:
Online travel sites are starting to take over. From TripAdvisor to Expedia, finding cheap flights and hotels has never been easier. What's more, because many sites rely on user ratings and feedback, you'll get a good idea of what to expect from a specific company or destination.
Some of the best sites include:
When researching flight information, you should also visit the website of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). It will help you understand why airfares are priced the way they are.
Another tip? Dig for some pricing information online before you call a hotel to book. That way, if they give you a quote, you'll know whether it's their best offer or not.
Also, consider checking your credit card benefits or signing up for an American Automobile Association membership -- you often get great travel discounts just by presenting certain cards.
Many typical healthcare plans don't cover travel insurance. And when you travel, insurance is a must, as it covers everything from hospital treatments to doctor's bills. The good news? It's relatively inexpensive. Some places to check out include AIG, TravelGuard and AccessAmerica.
No matter where you're traveling, it's important to talk to your doctor before you leave. From vaccinations to refills on prescriptions, your healthcare provider will be able to tell you what to look out for health-wise, whether any region-specific vaccinations are needed (such as those for Yellow Fever or Dengue) and what types of medication you may need (like Neosporin or Tylenol, and even anti-malarial drugs).
Dealing with lost documents in a foreign country is time consuming and difficult. So copy all of your travel documents before you leave home. Leave itineraries with family and friends. Scan the documents and email yourself. Make sure your passport and credit cards are all up to date. And always write down the address and phone number of US Consulates in the place you are visiting. This info will come in handy if something goes wrong.
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