Sometimes, the most memorable trips require the most extensive preparations.
International trips are at the foundation of many bank, chamber of commerce and university alumni travel programs, and offering your customers once-in-a-lifetime trips can help create incredible memories and engender long-term loyalty to your organization. But taking groups abroad is a much more complex mission than taking them on a domestic tour. To make your travelers’ international travel dreams come true requires a lot of preparation.
Your tour operator partners will take care of the most difficult logistics of international travel, but there are several things you can do long before a trip begins to help prepare your customers to go abroad. As soon as you start promoting an international trip, make sure to walk your potential travelers through this checklist, especially if it will be their first time traveling out of the country.
There’s no way around it: If your customers want to travel abroad or even take a cruise, they’ll have to have passports. So if you’re planning to take an international trip, it’s imperative to start talking to your travelers about their passports. If they don’t have passports, they’ll need to start the application process as soon as possible and allow up to two months to receive their passports. And even travelers who already have passports should check to see if they need to be renewed soon, since many countries won’t allow foreigners to enter if their passports expire in under six months.
Explain Cash and Cards
Experienced travelers understand how foreign currency works, but some novices expect to pay for everything with dollars, no matter where in the world they go. And although some foreign merchants accept dollars, your travelers will be much more prepared if you arm them with some information about the local currencies in the places you’ll be visiting. Make sure they understand exchange rates, and advise them to change some American money to local currency upon arrival. If they use credit or debit cards, encourage them to notify their banks of their upcoming travel plans so that foreign charges don’t trigger fraud alerts.
Set Cultural Expectations
For someone making their first trip abroad, culture shock can be a real challenge. If the place you’ll be visiting has significant cultural differences from the U.S., do your best to prepare your travelers in advance so they won’t be taken aback by local customs. This can be especially helpful in places where travelers often encounter panhandlers or street vendors. And while you’re having the conversation, brief your travelers on how to best represent America while traveling abroad by being culturally sensitive, avoiding contentious political discussions and honoring the traditions of the host country.
If some of your group members have never been out of the country, they’re likely to have a lot of concerns. You can help allay their fears and save yourself some time by preparing and distributing a list of frequently asked questions about the places you’ll be visiting. This can include answers to questions about safety and security, details about what sorts of clothing they should pack or information on using their mobile phones while abroad. You might also include an overview of what sorts of hotel accommodations they can expect and how the group will navigate the language barrier.
Make Medical Preparations
Medical emergencies can turn even the best trip sour, and there are several ways you can help safeguard your travelers against medical problems while abroad. First of all, check to see if there are any vaccinations recommended for travelers to the place you’re visiting, especially if it’s a more exotic destination. If you know some of your travelers require prescription medicine or special medical equipment, make sure they pack a doctor’s note explaining their medical needs to foreign security officials. And when selecting your group’s travel insurance, look for a policy that covers international medical care and emergency medical evacuation.