The best way to make at big trip successful is by doing things before you go. You will head to the airport with great confidence and no worries if you had done all the right things to prepare for the trip. Here is a good list of those things that you can do well in advance of the trip.
You want to get back in to the US and into other countries so you will need a passport. Make sure you have a current passport that doesn’t expire 6 months before your return. You can take care of this months before you travel. It does takes a little time, usually 4-6 weeks, so don’t wait (It is possible for a fee to get it expedited if you wait to late). If you already have a passport, check to make sure it does not expire within 6 months after your return because some countries won’t give you a visa if your passport expires too soon. The fee for new and renewal is $135. What you have to do to get a passport depends on your circumstances. Here is the link to the US Passport site that will help you get started : http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html
You can’t enter some countries with out a visa, so make sure you have the visas required to enter the countries you are going to visit. Each country you visit will have different requirements for visa for US citizens, many don’t require a visa. You have to have your passport to apply for the visa and will have to send it in to get the visa. You can use a service to help get the visas or send your passport directly to the countries embassy location in the US. We have had some issues (lost passports) in the past with sending them directly to the embassy. So we usually use a service. There is some charge to get a visa plus the charge of the sevice to help. Here are the countries that currently require visas for US citizens.
Israel – no visa required
Jordan – visa required
Egypt – visa required
Greece – no visa required
Turkey – no visa required
Nearly all European countries – no visa required
Most trips don’t require you to be in shape to run a marathon, but most trips do have a good bit of walking each day. You will enjoy the trip more if you have put in some times walking in advance. Try to get in 30 min to an hour 3 times a week. This may not seem much, but it will help.
Trips are not the time for a fashion show, but doing some planning about your wardrobe is important. You should think about the time of year you are going and the type of activities you will be doing. On our trips, there are not any formal times so we dressed casually although many like to have something nice to put on for dinner. You should take clothes that you are comfortable wearing considering the walking and bus riding you will be doing. You also want to think about how the clothes will pack . I like to take things I can wear more than once and that can mix-and-match. I like to take a little as I can.
The more you know in advance the more you will enjoy and remember about the experiences you have on the trip. Start reading and learning about the places you will visit. Just like in school it is better to start early and do a little each week than to try to cram right before the trip. There are lots of ways to do this. Here are a few:
Itinerary – Review you itinerary to get in mind all the places you will go.
Travel Books – There are so many travel book available today. I like the Eyewitness series because they have lots of good pictures. I also like the Eyewitness Top Ten series which help you focus on the most important things to make sure you see and do.
Bible Travel Books – If you are taking a trip to the Holy Lands there are lots of books about the sites you will visit. They are almost overwhelming. You should just focus on the specific places you are going to see. You itinerary should indicate that specific cities and sites you will see.
Wikipedia. – If you want a quick read about each place you will visit Wikipedia is a great place to start.
Vidoes – there are lots of travel videos and they are an easy way to get a good overview of a site.
Bible – If you are taking a trip to the Holy Lands one of the meaningful ways to get prepared is to read the Bible stories related tot he places you will visit.
Start early and do a little every week and you will be well prepared for your trip.