Planning for an overseas trip can be daunting and overwhelming, especially for family travel. I live by the following quote from Saint Augustine: “The world is a book and those that do not travel, read only a page”. I cannot agree more with this quote. Being able to travel to other countries is such a privilege and something I really believe everyone should do. In this article we’ll share some of our tips on how to make this daunting task, a fun and exciting experience.
Getting a passport is first on our list as you cannot travel internationally if you don’t have a legal passport. Even if you don’t know where you are wanting to go yet, get your passport done as this is the first and very important step towards your plans to travel. When applying for your passport, in South Africa it is R480.00 and can take up to 6 – 8 weeks for the Department of Home Affairs to issue you with your passport.
Bear in mind that if you are going to travel with children, each child require his/her own passport and will be charged the normal R 480.00 per passport. Another thing to remember when applying for passport for a child, you need to present an Unabridged Birth Certificate, that contain both the mother and father’s details. Before you travel, make sure your passport is valid for at least another 3 months AFTER you arrived back in your home country. Also, before you book your tickets, check when your passport expire. If you need to renew your passport, make sure that you do so before you continue with your travel plans.
Decide where you want to go
If you do not know yet where you want to go, I would suggest you first make a bucket list of all the countries you would like to visit. This will depend on what type of holidays you prefer, city or beach. Do you like history? Do you like to experience the culture? What type of whether to you prefer? All these elements will play a huge role in your decision as to where to go. Some other thigs to take into consideration is budget, currencies, distance and visa requirements. This is the most important step.
When to visit
Once you followed the first step and you have your list you need to determine when a good time to visit is. Our suggestion is for countries like Europe, including the UK, Scandinavia and America, spring or summer is the perfect time to visit. The weather during these times are perfect as it’s not too cold neither is it too hot. Countries like Africa, South America, Australia or New Zealand, spring or autumn is perfect as it can get extremely hot in the summer with extreme winter temperatures. If you have a sense of adventure and are keen to try things you haven’t experience before, then you can visit these countries during the summer months. Bear in mind however, that you would need to consider packing things like shades, hats, loads of sun screen, very cool clothes and you need to stay hydrated. Tropical islands like the Indian Ocean Islands and the Caribbean is anytime between December to April. During these months the weather is drier, cooler and less humid. During the months of September to October is usually cyclone season, with rains starting in June. Countries like South and Southeast Asia, it’s best to visit January through to March as well as June through to September. These counties are close to the equator, which means that it’s hot and humid year-round. However, during these months they experience the lowest rainfall, which means that it’s a little less humid.
Booking your tickets
When it comes to booking your tickets, you have a few options. You can either book the tickets yourself at the airline directly or you can go through a travel agency. I would recommend that you go through a travel agency, simply because they can tell you which airline would be best for your needs. Airlines often have specials and the agencies can tell you about these specials. Most of the big agencies in South Africa do the visa applications, travel insurance, accommodation and car hire as a package and usually works out a little cheaper than doing it yourself. Another advantage of booking through an agency, is knowing that should something go wrong during your travels, you have someone that can assist you. This saves you lot of time, money and stress.
In South Africa, we have a couple of great travel agencies. Below is a list of our favourites:
- Sure Travel
- Flight Centre
- Pen Travel
- Student Flights – Caters for anyone up to the age of 35
- STA Travel
Travel Insurance is compulsory if you require a visa. It is relatively cheap and is usually really good cover. It covers any medical emergency, luggage, cancellation of flights, accidental death, missed connection, travel delay, denied visa, personal liability, hijack & hostage detention inconvenience and emergencies due to nature causing accidents like cyclones, earthquakes, etc. Don’t make the mistake and think that your medical aid will cover your travel insurance. They do make provision for it, but the cover is very minimal. We suggest that you get proper travel insurance through a travel agency. You can get travel insurance from any of the travel agencies listed in the previous point. If you are traveling with children under the age of 2, the insurance is usually included in the adults insurance.
We mentioned in the beginning of this post, that one of the things to consider when choosing where to go, is whether visas are required. If you are traveling with a South African passport, most countries these days require you to have a visa. We did a post on Visa-Free Holidays for South Africans which contains a list of all the countries you can visit visa-free if you travel with a South African passport.
If you travel with an American passport, we also did and article Countries Americans can visit visa-free. Again, this article contains a list (and a very long list if I may ad) of countries you can visit visa-free if traveling with an American passport. If you are unsure on whether you require a visa, feel free to contact the local embassy or you can also check online. They will provide you with all the info you require. When applying for a visa, for most countries you can only do so 3 months before you leave and it can usually take up to 6 weeks for the embassy to issue you with your visa. If you are traveling with children, each of the children would also need a visa at the normal visa charge..
Accommodation and Car Hire
Accommodation and car hire/travel is probably one of your biggest expense and you should expect to pay quite a bit for accommodation and travel. We recommend that if it is at all possible, to try and stay with family and friends as far as possible. If this is not possible, then you must decide as to how much you are willing to pay for accommodation. If you are adventurous at heart and want to save on accommodation, we recommend backpacking as this is by far the cheapest way to travel. If backpacking is not for you, then there are other options like hotels, B&B’s or even Guest Houses. Another great way to save on accommodation is to check out Air B&B. You can search and book accommodation by making use of the search box to your right. This will also give you an idea of pricing that will make it easier for you to budget.
Some other practical tips
- We suggest that you make 2 copies of all your documentation. One copy to leave at home with family or friends. This is to provide them with all your travel information, so that should something happen to you, they have all the info that might be required. The other copy is to keep with you in your bag wherever you are staying. This is to prevent you from being “stuck” should you lose the original documentation. It is important to remember that you need to have your passport on you at all times.
- If you travel as a family, make sure that you pack half of your clothes in your own bag and half in another family member’s bag. That way, should your luggage get lost, you at least have clothes.
- If you are a South African, make sure that you inform your bank of the dates that you will be out of the country. Also inform them of the countries you are going to visit. This is to prevent them from blocking your card due to fraudulent transactions from countries other than South Africa.
- Plan your trip. Make lists of the places you want to see and if possible, book tickets online before you go. It is usually cheaper to buy online and it prevents you from carrying unnecessary cash around. Planning your trip effectively, allows you to enjoy every moment. It eliminates trying to cramp a whole bunch of activities into the day, making you feel tired and you end up not enjoying your trip.
- Do research of the country/ies you are going to visit. Make sure you are aware of the laws of the country and that you understand the culture. There’s nothing more embarrassing then finding yourself clueless and in trouble. If you are visiting a country that speaks any language other than English, try and learn the important phrases in that language. It will make your trip a lot easier and fun.
- Before you start packing, make sure you are aware of the amount of bags each person is allowed as well as the weight of each bag as you will be charged for every kg you are over the allowed weight.
- Make sure you know of the dates and times of your flights. If it is allowed and you can, try and check in online before you go to the airport. This will make the process at the airport a lot quicker.
- Try and have fun! Enjoy your trip, make the most of every opportunity. Meet new people, eat the traditional foods, learn the culture and the history and take in the beauty each country has to offer. Take loads of pictures and build memories.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Did you find this post helpful? Do you have any other tips that you want to share with us? Then please join the conversation, by commenting in below. Please also show the love by sharing this article with your friends and family. If you want to know when there is new articles on the blog, please sign up for our newsletter. You can also stay up to date by following us on any of our social media platforms.