Topic: Going Abroad
Advice On Studying Abroad
Want To Travel The World?
Whether you want to get away with your friends for Spring Break or you are planning a Semester abroad, you can benefit from some pre-trip planning. If you plan far enough in advance, you’ll usually get better rates on airline fares, lodging and packages than if you wait until the last minute. If you’re traveling to a foreign country in either case, you may need time to obtain a passport or a visa so you will want to research ahead. Yes, the Caribbean and Canada require a passport these days!! And even if you have a passport, don’t assume it will be valid when you travel. Many countries require your passport to be valid for a few months AFTER you plan to leave!
Just as good as getting a deal, you’ll reduce the inevitable stress that accompanies traveling by preparing yourself as thoroughly as possible. As DivaCFO says, Be Prepared Not Scared!
Tip: If you decide at the last minute that you can fit in a week skiing during January break afterall, look into last-minute travel deals offered by some airlines, travel agents, and travel websites. You usually can book them only a few days in advance of your departure, and your choice of destinations are still pretty good. These last-minute trips are usually a bargain because airlines, hotels, and tour groups are trying to sell their unreserved spaces but what do you care? You will save money and maybe go to a place you could not otherwise afford!
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Paying For Your Trip With Cash vs. Paying With A Credit Card
The main advantage to paying for your trip with cash is that you’ll be less likely to overspend, because you can clearly see how much you’re spending, and you won’t have to pay your trip off little by little, long after your vacation has ended. Even if you pay for most of your travel arrangements with cash, make sure that you don’t carry large amounts of cash with you on your trip. It’s safer to use old fashioned traveler’s checks (as your mom or dad about these!) or use an ATM card.
One advantage to paying for a trip with a credit card is that you’re better protected if something goes wrong. You can use a credit card to guarantee a hotel reservation, which can be useful if you plan on arriving late.
The hotel will hold your reservation until midnight instead of canceling it if you don’t arrive by late afternoon or early evening. However, you must cancel your reservation if you decide not to come at all; otherwise, the hotel may bill your credit card for one night’s stay and cancel the rest of your reservation, if any. If you pay for your trip with a credit card, you may also receive free travel insurance, such as travel assistance, baggage protection, and/or travel accident insurance.
Tip: Even if you use a credit card to pay for much of your trip, you’ll want to carry some cash with you. For instance, in Europe, credit cards are not as widely accepted as they are here, so you may find that some restaurants, stores, and hotels don’t accept them at all. You should take a small amount of foreign currency for each country you plan on visiting. You may want to pay for a cab, a phone call, or a meal before you have a chance to find an open bank or exchange desk.
Getting Your Money Back When You Can’t Travel
Before making travel arrangements, find out what will happen if you have to cancel your trip. In most cases, you’ll pay some penalty if you cancel. For instance, if you purchase nonrefundable airline tickets (many tickets issued at a low fare are nonrefundable), you can’t get a refund if you cancel your trip. But you can rebook your trip later (usually within one year), although you’ll generally have to pay a fee to do so. If you have to cancel a group tour or cruise, expect to pay part or all of the cost of the trip, depending on how early you cancel.
Since the cancellation policies vary widely, make sure you understand how and when you will be charged if you cancel. Some companies offer optional trip-cancellation insurance that costs approximately 5 to 7 percent of the cost of the trip. These policies reimburse you if you have paid for a trip and then can’t go due to illness, natural disaster, or accident or for another reason out of your control (e.g., the tour operator went out of business or your grandma died).
Bringing Your Cellphone Overseas: What You Need To Do BEFORE You Leave
If you’re traveling overseas and plan on bringing your cell phone, plan ahead. International charges are very high, and service is not always available,so check with your cell company before you leave home. Be sure to purchase an international calling plan which, for a low monthly fee, will save you a fortune! Or if you are in a foreign country for a full semester, you may want to rent a “local” phone. Ask your study abroad school coordinator about this since most will help you figure out how best to call friends abroad and home.
NOTE: The Iphone 4 does not work overseas but the Iphone 5 does. Even with the IPhone 5 your cell provider may have to set you up with the service before you depart. Bring along the provider’s overseas emergency number to call if the phone does not work when you arrive to avoid separation panic attacks!
Preparing A Travel Budget
Have you ever returned from a trip happy because you spent less than you anticipated? Ha! If you’re like most travelers, the answer is no. You usually return from trips feeling overextended or even guilty because you spent more money than you really should have. If you want to avoid this, plan a daily budget before you leave on your trip. Work with your parents to agree on an appropriate amount to avoid any arguments when you return. Communication is key and they will be impressed with your suggestion of creating a budget together and can help you think through all the expenses you might forget about.
Creating a budget is easy. It simply means deciding how much you can spend each day, but it can also mean breaking down how much you want to spend on certain items on your trip.
Budgeting is particularly important if you are traveling overseas, especially if you are about to embark on a Semester Abroad. You may underestimate how much you will spend overseas because food, and other items often cost more than you are used to paying in the United States. If you’re on a student “package” tour, you may be in better shape than someone traveling solo. However, you need to make sure you understand what your student package covers and what it does not. Sometimes only 2 of your 3 meals a day are included. It’s a good idea to use a guidebook as a reference to determine about how much you can expect to spend for necessary items overseas. This will ensure that you aren’t skipping meals or running up huge debts on your parents’ credit card that you didn’t anticipate. Everyone will be happier with the outcome if you plan ahead!
Obtaining a Passport or a Visa
Whether you are planning your Semester Abroad or Spring Break in Paris, you’ll need a passport. Because it normally takes 4 weeks to receive a passport after you apply for one, you may want to apply for one when you begin contemplating your trip instead of waiting until the last minute. You can expedite the process, but like everything else, that will come at an extra cost.
To apply for a passport for the first time, complete Form DS-11, Passport Application, and go to one of the U.S. post offices that accepts passport applications or to a federal or state court or passport agency. Bring along proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a certified copy of your birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or a consular report of birth of a U.S. citizen if you were born overseas.
You’ll also need two recent identical photographs 2″ by 2″ (your head may take up most of the photograph, and the image size must be between 1″ and 1 3/8″) and proof of identity, such as a driver’s license or government identification card. You can get these done at many places, including CVS. Be sure to look your best since your passport is good for 10 years!!!
For more information on passports, see the U.S. State Department website at www.state.gov.
Tip: Before appearing in person to apply for a passport, contact the post office or agency you are going to for additional requirements. For instance, most accept personal checks, but some may not. To visit some countries, you’ll also need a visa, which is an endorsement or stamp placed in your passport by a foreign government. The visa is for a specific purpose (e.g., tourism) and length of time (e.g., three months). Apply directly to the embassy or consulate of the country that you plan to visit. Depending on the country involved, this could be a lengthy process, so plan ahead. And if a visa is needed for a Study Abroad program, don’t assume the school will do this legwork for you. They may help, but it’s up to you! Our summer intern Carrie found this out the hard way and had to take 2 days off to complete the paperwork, and just in time before she headed off to LSE!
Will Your Health Insurance Travel With You?
If you travel within the United States
Before traveling within the United States, check your health insurance policy to make sure it covers you away from home and, if so, under what conditions. We know this is all new to you so ask the parent who holds your coverage for help if you are still on a family plan. Your parents will want to know if you have an HMO or PPO plan whereby service from an out-of-network provider costs more. You may want to take with you a list of network physicians and hospitals in the area in which you are traveling in case you need treatment. At the very least, carry your insurance card with you. It usually has a phone number you can call to check on health-care providers, and you may need it if you have to visit a physician or hospital.
If you travel outside the United States
If you are traveling overseas, especially for a Study Abroad program, your health insurance may not cover you at all but then again it may. You just don’t know until you ask. And in many cases your program may encourage or even require separate health insurance coverage while you are in a foreign country for an extended period of time. And keep in mind that even if your policy does cover you overseas, it may not provide the same benefits overseas as it does in the United States. It’s in your parent’s best interest to check the limitations of the policy carefully, and call the claims department of your insurance company to ask. Some policies will cover personal travel but some only if you stay overseas for a short period of time. Some policies cover only emergency medical care, while others will reimburse you or the medical provider for only a percentage of the total cost of treatment. A little homework will make a big difference if you do get sick or hurt!
If you find that your health insurance policy won’t cover you adequately overseas, you will want to ask your school about a short-term supplemental policy which is commonly available for Study Abroad programs. These policies normally offer either accident or sickness coverage and some cover the cost of medical evacuation back to the United States, which is something most basic health insurance policies won’t cover. However, since coverage and terms vary from policy to policy, make sure you understand what’s covered and what’s not before purchasing a supplemental medical policy.
Tip: When you’re traveling, make sure that you carry your insurance card and a claim form in case an emergency arises. In addition, carry with you a letter from your doctor explaining any medical condition and any prescription medication you are taking. If you take a prescription overseas, make sure you carry it in its original container to avoid trouble at customs. And remember that not all medications are available overseas so be sure to bring along an adequate supply!
Who To Contact If The Unexpected Happens While You’re Traveling
A U.S. consulate
If you arrive in a country where you feel unsafe traveling due to civil unrest, natural disaster, or political threat, you may want to register with the U.S. embassy or consulate and keep the consulate informed of your whereabouts. Embassies and consulates can give you advice and help you if you are in trouble. For instance, if you become sick, the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy can help you find a doctor or help you get money from the United States to pay for your care.
Consular officers can also contact your parents or friends and relatives in the United States in an emergency and give you travel safety information. However, they cannot provide certain services. For instance, they cannot cash checks or exchange money for you, and they cannot act as travel agents, lawyers, or interpreters. They can, however, help you find assistance with these matters. Even if you are not concerned, Google the location upon your arrival and keep it on hand. Go introduce yourself. It’s fun to see our Stars and Stripes flying in the center of Paris or Budapest, especially when you are feeling homesick! Who knows, you might get invited to the next Embassy party!
Tips To Ensure Your Safety While Traveling
Ensure the safety of your money
When traveling, your best bet is to carry a small amount of cash, along with ATM card and/or a credit card. Within the United States, you can find ATMs in most cities and small towns. ATMs are available in other parts of the world as well. You can withdraw cash only when you need it, and if you are in a foreign country, the cash you withdraw will be in the currency of the country you are visiting. In addition, the exchange rate you get at an ATM will often be better than at a hotel or airport exchange desk.
Make sure your parents have a copy of your REAL itinerary
Ok so we can’t help but bring up the movie TAKEN. Even if you don’t think that could ever happen to you since “you are smarter than that”, it may have a momentary lapse of judgment and find yourself in need of help so be honest about your plans. Make sure your parents and a trusted friend have a copy of your itinerary in case of an emergency and an idea of how you can be reached. Also, you might want to arrange to call or Facetime home once or twice a week to make sure that no emergency has arisen in your absence and to let someone back home know you’re OK. Your parents and siblings will miss you more than you know!
Make copies of your important documents
Before you go on your trip, copy all your important documents, including your driver’s license, student id card, your medical card, your credit cards, and your passport. Give a copy to your parents in case your wallet or identification is stolen. Keep with you a copy of your passport hidden in a safe spot and don’t forget to use our app, DivaDocs, to keep a copy of all of these documents in the cloud and accessible on your Iphone too. Go to www.divadocsapp.com to learn more!
Contact the U.S. Department of State – Safety First!
We know you have been waiting all your life to visit Uzbekistan but find out first if that’s smart idea. The U.S. Department of State issues travel warnings and public announcements, recommending which countries Americans should avoid because of civil unrest, terrorist actions, or other dangerous conditions. The Department of State also publishes information sheets and pamphlets on many topics related to travel that can be useful to you when planning a state trip. To view many of these publications, contact the Department of State’s website at www.state.gov.
Should I Buy Travel Insurance? (This Is NOT Medical Insurance)
Travel insurance refers to various types of specialized coverage you can buy to insure yourself against the many risks you face as a traveler. You can purchase this insurance from insurance companies, travel agents, tour operators, cruise lines, rental companies, or travel assistance companies. Coverage, cost, and terms vary widely.
There are many different types of travel insurance:
- Trip cancellation or interruption insurance protects you if your trip is canceled or interrupted because of some unforeseen event, such as the financial failure of the cruise line, airline, or travel agency; bad weather; illness; or death.
- Temporary health policies provide short-term supplemental health insurance coverage. This type of coverage may be helpful when you’re traveling abroad, since some health insurance providers do not cover you while traveling overseas, or they may provide only limited coverage.
- Baggage insurance reimburses you if your personal belongings are permanently or temporarily lost, stolen, or damaged while you are traveling.
- Accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance compensates you if you lose a limb or an eye, or compensates your beneficiary if you die in an accident. You can purchase this coverage as a separate policy, as a rider to an existing policy, or as part of a travel insurance policy.
You may want to consider purchasing some form of travel insurance if the financial benefit and peace of mind outweigh the premium cost. For instance, if your trip were canceled or the tour operator went out of business, could you afford to lose the money you paid for the trip? If you got sick while vacationing in a foreign country, would your health insurance cover you? If not, could you afford to pay for your medical expenses? If your luggage were lost, could you afford to purchase everything you would need to continue your trip? These are important questions for you and your parents to consider when deciding whether or not to purchase travel insurance for Spring Break or Study Abroad.
Travel Tips Inside And Outside The US
- If you are traveling for an extended period of time, make sure you had your annual physical and teeth cleaning before you go. And if you see any specialists like a dermatologist or eye doctor, seem them too in case you need an update prescription
- Carry an extra pair of glasses and more contact lenses than you think you will need
- Carry your insurance card with you–it usually has a phone number you can call to check on health-care providers, and you may need to show it before receiving health care
- If you belong to an HMO or PPO, bring a list of network physicians and hospitals in the area to which you are traveling.
- Pack an adequate supply of prescription drugs in your carry-on luggage. This is a GOLDEN rule in travel so the sooner you learn this the better off you will be for life.
- If you are traveling overseas, find out how you can refill prescriptions while you’re there, and take prescription drugs in their original containers to avoid trouble at customs
- If you are traveling to a country where English is not widely spoken, have your doc’s instructions translated, especially if you have a serious medical condition or drug that is not commonly prescribed in the foreign country. This will help avoid treatment mix-ups.
- Consider purchasing trip cancellation/interruption insurance that will reimburse you for any nonrefundable deposits you pay in case you can’t go or must leave early–check policy exclusions first (some policies won’t cover pre-existing health conditions)
What Is Baggage Insurance And Do I Need It?
Not likely, but you should be aware of what it is. Baggage insurance reimburses you if your personal belongings are lost, stolen, or damaged while you’re traveling. Before you purchase it, however, find out if you already have adequate protection. For instance, airlines may be liable for damage caused by their negligence, and they’re liable for lost or stolen baggage after check-in, up to their stated limit per passenger. Some credit card companies also provide supplemental baggage insurance at no charge to you. Your parent’s homeowners or renters policy may protect your personal belongings against theft when you travel, as well.
Purchasing baggage insurance may be appropriate when you want 24-hour protection, not just protection after your bags are checked in with an airline. Baggage insurance may also offer higher liability limits than those offered by an airline. However, check the policy’s fine print. If you carry expensive items like your new MacBookPro, you may not be fully reimbursed if it’s lost or stolen, because benefit limits may apply to certain items like electronics and your favorite jewelry.
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