Summer is almost here and people at work have started asking you, “Where are you going on vacation this year?” Forget the family road trip to see the in-laws or taking a hop to the nearest shoreline. This time go abroad! Did you know over half of Americans have never traveled outside the country? A third of them don’t even own a passport. Can you imagine how short their bucket list must be? You can do more.
“But it’s so much work,” I can see you shaking your head already, and yes, it used to be. You’d have to drive down to the travel agent’s office, look through the brochures, take some home to discuss with the family, maybe even go to the library to look up possible destinations. Then you’d have to arrange for time off work, get someone to handle your workload while you’re gone for a week or two, stop the mail and the paper, board the dog. But have you looked at your life lately? Almost none of that is an issue anymore, not since Al Gore invented the Internet (/s).
Seriously, the Net solves all your problems. Well, most of them. You’ll probably still have to board the dog.
Pick an easy destination
If this is your first trip out of the country, it would be easier for you to go somewhere without a language barrier. (And I don’t mean Canada; they don’t count.) Airfares to Australia and New Zealand require the sacrifice of your firstborn, so I recommend England, specifically London. Yes, London’s expensive, but it’s easy to fly to, there’s a lot to do, and you can find out all you need to know in 10 minutes online. The accent could be tricky, so perhaps you might want to watch BBCAmerica for a while first.
How to get there
This is what you used to use a travel agent for: tickets, rental cars, hotels. Not anymore. Take your pick of online airfare search engines. If you have a lot of frequent flier miles, you should probably start with that particular airline, but if not, then use a metasearch engine like kayak.com to find the cheapest fares.
Once you get there, you’ll need somewhere to stay. There are several options, but hotels are killer expensive in London, especially if you need more than one room. Consider booking through a short-term accommodation site like London Escape, Roomorama, or Gumtree. They’re a little cheaper and generally offer cooking facilities. You’ll also get a chance to see how regular Londoners live.
You won’t need a car in London, but you will need a Travelcard of some type. An Oyster pass will allow you to use the subway, bus, rail, and river systems with one ticket over a set period.
Taking care of business
Smart phones have done for the worker what the Internet did for the travel industry. No one buys paper tickets anymore; they print them out at home, just as no one leaves their work at the office when the smart phone can connect you 24/7. Now this may not sound like a good thing when you’re planning a vacation, but it makes it much easier for the boss to say yes, knowing you’re just a phone call or email away if something comes up.
Securing the home while you’re away
Think about it: When was the last time you paid a bill with a stamp? Read a physical paper? I’m guessing just about everything you used to do manually is all handled electronically now. You’re reading this article on a screen, right? Again, the Net is there to rescue you. The USPS lets you hold your mail. Some newspapers let you hold service from their websites, or at the very least just call them. And there can’t be many banks left that require you to see a teller for anything.
So you see? Getting away isn’t so hard after all. You’ll still have to apply in person for your first passport, but once you have one, you can renew that online, too. Guess the other half of America that hasn’t gone abroad must still be on dial-up.