If you are planning your first independent budget trip to a foreign country this summer, here are 10 of the most important tips to keep in mind:
--Get a guidebook that specializes in your style of travel. Hardly an area of the world hasn't been covered by one of three publishers--Lonely Planet, Moon and the "Let's Go" series by Harvard Student Agencies. Bookstores that specialize in travel can tell you what's available for where you plan to visit. Rather than carry a large book every day, consider separating chapters and stapling them so you can slip one into your pocket.
--Many of your best tips will come from other young travelers you meet during your journey. Buy a journal to record the information.
--Before you leave home, gather addresses and telephone numbers of foreign contacts offered by family and friends and put them in the journal. They may give you a chance to visit homes and experience the foreign life style first-hand. And they could come in very handy in an emergency.
--Buy a backpack instead of luggage with handles. It's easier to maneuver in crowds, puts less stress on your back and shoulders, and leaves hands free to hold a map or guidebook. Consider buying one that also looks like a canvas suitcase. It's likely to get more use during different styles of trips, at later times. Make sure it has a hip belt for proper weight distribution.
--Check with a travel agent for special youth or discount transportation fares that must be bought before you leave home. For example, the popular Eurail Youthpass cannot be bought after you arrive in Europe. If you are under 26, you can purchase a pass for one months of unlimited travel for $310 and two months for $400. An Ameripass is good for unlimited bus travel on Greyhound and Grey Coach services in Canada and the United States, and can be purchased at major bus terminals in both countries. The cost is $89 for 7 days, $249 for 15 days and $349 for 30 days.
--Arrange to carry spending money in traveler's checks and leave an extra copy of the numbers along with the numbers of your passport and other important documents with a friend or family member at home. If you lose everything, you'll be only a telephone call away from the information needed for replacements.
--Buy or make a money belt or pouch to hold traveler's checks, passport and tickets. These valuables are safer under your clothing when you are in crowds or napping on trains and buses.
--Check your medical insurance coverage. You may be covered for foreign travel under a policy where one of your parents works.
--Don't overcommit yourself to too many mail pickup points and specific dates for telephone calls home. Pick several key cities for mail pickups and if you are traveling with a friend, arrange a network with the families at home so that you can take turns calling and they can pass along messages.
--Be sure you can take advantage of any youth and student discounts. Several discount cards are recognized internationally.
An ISIC (International Student Identity Card) is available for $10 (photo required) from the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) at 1093 Broxton Ave., Los Angeles 90024; (213) 208-3551.
Non-students under the age of 26 are eligible for a similar photo card discount scheme organized by the Federation of International Youth Travel Organizations (FIYTO). The card costs $10, and you must provide proof of age. It is also available from the CIEE.
You might also want to consider carrying a membership card for the International Youth Hostel Federation. There are over 5,000 youth hostels in more than 50 countries. The average nightly rate is less than $10 for dormitory accommodations. Annual membership for someone over 18 is $20. You can obtain the cards from CIEE offices.