Center for International and Intercultural Studies

Trip Preparation

hiking trip in mountains


Traveling with a group of friends or on your own can be a very rewarding and enjoyable experience.

The opportunity to share a common travel experience with others greatly enhances the learning and builds life-long friendships. The Tri-S experience is unique in that new and meaningful relationships emerge as you travel, serve and learn.

A worthwhile travel experience requires intentional preparation, a positive attitude, and flexibility.


Become acquainted with your group

It is important that you attend all of the group pre-departure meetings. In addition to learning essential details about the trip, these times serve to build a strong, coherent team, which is essential to a successful experience.

Learn about the country and its history

Reading about the country and its history will provide a valuable context for your travel experience. The internet is an excellent source for information and current news.
Study the culture

Learn as much as you can about the people, their customs, language, and worldview. One of the most rewarding aspects of your experience will be to cross cultural boundaries of understanding.

Learn to adapt and maintain a positive attitude

Cultural differences, together with a strenuous travel and work schedule can lead to frustration and emotional stress. It is important to maintain a positive attitude and be prepared to adapt to the culture. Even though things may be done differently than we are used to, it does not mean that our way of doing things is better. Thoughtless, sarcastic remarks about ways of doing things, local traditions or accommodations can cause great resentment.

Since we are guests, we must be willing to accept and understand the customs and traditions of our host country. It is always important to be sensitive to cultural norms. For example, in some cultures, shorts and some other modes of dress are often considered inappropriate. Respect for such cultural differences is crucial to the success of the experience. The experience seeks to immerse students in another culture by living with host families, sharing in local meals, participating in work projects, and worshiping with the people. It is essential to demonstrate a gracious and thankful attitude for the meals, housing, and hospitality that is offered.

Be flexible

International travel is always an adventure. Be prepared for the unexpected. Cultural immersion will stretch us to the limits of our physical and emotional capability. Changes in travel schedules, accommodations, and work projects are inevitable. A successful experience requires that we be "infinitely flexible."

backpacking in Ireland

The airlines do all they can do to make sure that passengers and their luggage arrive in the same place at the same time. You can help by following these tips.

  1. Remove old destination tags.
    To avoid possible confusion, take off the destination tags from your previous trips.
  2. Make a list of luggage contents.
    List the contents of your bags and keep the list with you. You can help identify a misdirected bag by giving an accurate list of its contents.
  3. Treat fragile items with care.
    Pack small breakable souvenirs in your carry-on bag. Have larger breakables carefully packed for shipment. Avoid flip-top or glass liquid containers and always tighten the tops of all containers. If packing liquids, allow for expansion and only fill bottles 3/4 full. Wrap liquid containers in a plastic bag. Avoid packing aerosols.
  4. Avoid overpacking.
    Overpacking can damage your bags and their contents. Pack only what your luggage can comfortably hold. Be particularly careful with canvas or similar soft-sided bags. Remember to leave room for purchases.
  5. Use sturdy luggage.
    Choose luggage that is sturdy and arrange any necessary repair or replacement of older bags before your trip.
  6. Use external name tags.
    Airlines can return a misplaced bag faster if your name and address are on it. An airline ticketing location or baggage service office can provide for you a plastic shielded name-and-address tag without charge. The tag is to loop around the handle of each bag you check. Be sure your name and address are inside each bag too.
  7. Keep your valuables with you.
    Do not pack in your checked baggage: house or car keys, insulin or other medication, money, jewelry, legal documents, passports, tickets, tourist cards, or other valuable or negotiable items.
  8. Know that luggage requirements vary.
    To be safe, aim to carry one moderate-size suitcase that you will check in with the airlines. It is also permissible to carry one small bag onboard the plane, but it must fit under the seat. Pack the carry-on piece with toiletries, medications, and a change of clothing.
  9. Check in early for flights.
    Check in about one hour before scheduled departure for domestic flights, and two hours before scheduled departure on international trips. Remember to allow enough time for the lines that are always a part of air travel during peak periods. Early check-in gives time to get your luggage to your plane; a last minute check-in means the bags may still be In the terminal when you are in the air.
  10. Monitor the luggage you check.
    Wait at the ticket counter until the agent has tagged your bags. Double check to be sure the tag receipt shows the right destination. Keep the receipt in a secure, easily accessible location.
  11. Allow ample connecting time.
    An airline cannot connect bags as quickly as it connects passengers. Follow the scheduling advice of your airline to be sure you have allowed adequate connecting time between flights.
  12. Remember that bags look alike.
    Do not rely on style or color when reclaiming your luggage. Match the number on the bag with your tag receipt and check your ID tag before leaving the claim area. A distinguishing decal, ribbon, or other mark is a good idea. Besides helping you identify your luggage, it will discourage other persons from picking up your bag.
Tri-S group to England

A passport is an internationally recognized identification document issued by our government to citizens or nationals of the United States. It is your best form of identification and is needed to depart or enter the United States and to enter and depart foreign countries. A passport is required for international travel and is valid for ten years. It is important to apply very early for passports. Although you may receive your passport sooner, you should allow at least six weeks for it to arrive; sometimes, there can be lengthy delays.

If you currently have a passport, check NOW to be sure it will be valid on your dates of travel. Note that some countries will not permit you to enter if the remaining passport validity is less than six months.

A visa permits you to visit a country for a specified purpose and a limited time. A visa is stamped into your passport and may take from two weeks to two months for issue. Visas are usually not required for travel to parts of Europe, the Caribbean and most of Central and South America. If you will be studying abroad, contact the advisor of the school you will be attending for information about securing a student visa.

The passport fee is currently $135, payable at the time application (form DS-11) is made at the post office. Passport renewals (form DS-82) may be done by mail at a cost of $110.

Application procedure:


For detailed passport/visa information, visit the website of the U.S. Department of State,

  • Print the application form from the U.S. Department of State website, Complete the passport application but do not sign it, except in the presence of the clerk at the post office.
  • Photographs required for passports must meet rigid standards of size and quality. Have passport photos taken at the post office (or CVS, Walgreen's, etc.). Do not sign photos.
  • A birth certificate bearing the original seal and/or signature must be presented to secure a passport. If your original birth certificate is lost, you may request a certified copy from the Official Bureau of Vital Statistics in the state where you were born. Charges vary from $2 to $15. To order online, see (search "birth certificate"), or A hospital certificate or a quick copy that you have made of the birth certificate is NOT acceptable.
  • Take completed application (unsigned), two passport photos (unsigned), birth certificate, valid driver's license, and personal check or cash for the $135 fee to a government agency authorized to accept passport applications. No credit cards are accepted. If you are paying by check, you will need two checks (there is a passport fee and a separate post office fee).

In Anderson, the Post Office at 1505 Raible Ave. (Google Map) is authorized to accept applications. They will accept applications until 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. Your passport and birth certificate will be mailed to you at the "mailing address" you enter on the application form.

traveling during Tri-S

U.S. Department of State Travel Information

It is essential that you read The U.S. Department of State information for the country to which you will be traveling. Visit for the "country information" and "International Travel for US Citizens" links. Or visit


  • Leave a copy of your Tri-S flight schedule and contact number with family or friends at home in case they need to contact you in an emergency.
  • Make two photocopies of your passport photo/signature pages, airline tickets, driver's license, health insurance information and ATM/credit cards. Leave one photocopy at home with family and pack the other in a separate place from where you carry your valuables.


  • Travel light! You will be able to move more quickly and will be more likely to have a free hand.
  • Dress conservatively. Avoid the appearance of affluence.
  • Avoid handbags, fanny packs and outside pockets that are easy targets for thieves. One of the safest places to carry valuables is in a pouch or money belt worn under your clothing.
  • Leave valuable jewelry, irreplaceable family objects, electronic items, and unnecessary credit cards at home.
  • Put your name, address and telephone numbers on the inside and outside of each piece of luggage.


  • Carry a minimum amount of cash.
  • Use credit cards to pay for larger purchases and emergencies. Do not use your credit card to make cash withdrawals. Card providers will charge a service fee for international credit card transactions.
  • Use an ATM card for access to cash in the local currency. Find out from your bank or card provider if they have ATM locations in the city/country you will be visiting. Banks will charge a service fee for ATM transactions.
  • Traveler's checks can be difficult and expensive to cash internationally, but they can be replaced if lost or stolen. You will need two I.D.'s (such as passport and driver's license) in order to replace traveler's checks.
  • Keep a list of credit card and ATM card account numbers and the telephone number of your card provider in a separate and secure location. In the event that your card is stolen or misplaced, you can immediately call to have the card canceled and replaced.
  • Do not flash large amounts of money when paying a bill.
  • Deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money or purchase souvenirs. Do not change money on the black market.


  • Use the same common sense traveling overseas that you would at home. Be especially cautious in or avoid areas where you are likely to be victimized. These include crowded subways, train stations, elevators, tourist sites, market places, festivals and marginal areas of cities.
  • Don't use shortcuts, narrow alleys or poorly lit streets.
  • Do not travel alone
  • Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.
  • Keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments. Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.
  • Avoid scam artists. Beware of strangers who approach you, offering bargains or to be your guide.
  • If your possessions are lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the local police. Keep a copy of the police report for insurance claims. After reporting missing items to the police, report the loss or theft of traveler's checks to the nearest agent of the issuing company, credit cards to the issuing company, airline tickets to the airline or travel agent, and passport to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • Beware of pickpockets. They often have an accomplice who will jostle you, ask you for directions or the time, point to something spilled on your clothing, or distract you by creating a disturbance. A child or even a woman carrying a baby can be a pickpocket. Beware of groups of vagrant children who create a distraction while picking your pocket.
  • Wear the shoulder strap of your bag across your chest and walk with the bag away from the curb to avoid drive-by purse snatchers.
  • Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. When possible, ask directions only from individuals in authority.
abroad traveling on mountain

Health Insurance

Check with your health insurance provider to be sure that your policy will cover you while abroad. Also, determine the insurance company's procedure for payment or reimbursement of medical expenses. Most insurance companies will require that you pay for any medical care abroad and then reimburse you after you have filed a claim with them. Be sure to get complete receipts of the medical services provided.

If your health insurance does not provide coverage outside the United States, the Tri-S Office has information on short-term health insurance that you may purchase.

You may also go to directly for information on purchasing health insurance.

Health Precautions

See your doctor before you travel to discuss and ask any concerns or vaccination/immunization information.

Vaccinations and immunizations should be planned well in advance to allow time between visits for certain series that require it. Public health officials recommend that foreign travelers be current on polio, measles, diphtheria, and tetanus vaccinations.

Some Tri-S programs will require additional immunizations or vaccinations for yellow fever, malaria, typhoid, hepatitis, or other health risks. Information on required immunizations or vaccinations will be provided at your group meeting.

Your physician can also recommend special medications for motion sickness, traveler's diarrhea, possible infections, and infrequent headaches – just in case. Allergy sufferers...beware! Discuss your allergies with your doctor, and make sure you're prepared for potential problems in areas where the growing seasons are reversed (such as south of the equator.)

Get your new prescriptions filled, and make sure other regular prescriptions are refilled, so you'll have enough for your entire trip. Keep a copy of the prescription with you when you travel. Also, be sure and have all medications in their original containers. Take medications with you on the airplane; do not pack them in your checked luggage.

Choose your travel wardrobe for health and comfort, as well as style. One absolute must is a good pair of walking shoes. Make sure they're well broken in before leaving home. For tropical areas, clothes should be lightweight and loose fitting. Natural fabrics "breathe" better than some synthetics. In some areas, evenings get abruptly cooler after the sun goes down, so do bring a sweater or jacket.

The water may look tempting for swimming, but what you can't see might make you sick. Water quality throughout most of the world is questionable at best, particularly near populated areas. Sewage, industrial pollutants, and parasites make swimming a serious health risk.

Beach areas that are known to be safe invite other kinds of problems -- sunburn is the most common, despite repeated warnings. Don't go outside without wearing a sunscreen or sunblock.

Exotic cuisine may be delightful, but a case of traveler's diarrhea can ruin a trip. To help avoid it, be careful of what you eat and drink, especially in warm climates. First and foremost, don't trust the water. Drink bottled beverages without ice (it's water, too!) Salads and fruits need special consideration. Food washed in water, such as lettuce, may not be safe. Any fruit you might eat should be completely peeled. In some parts of the world, dairy products – milk, butter, and cheeses – aren't pasteurized. Avoid them if you can. Try to avoid foods that aren't from the region you're visiting. And raw is risky, even under the most well controlled circumstances. If you can't boil it, cook it or peel it . . . don't eat it. Eat well, but safely, and you'll have a better chance of not getting sick.

Tri-S painting project

What is jet lag?

It is the exhausted, run-down, disoriented feeling you may experience after a long airline flight, especially into a time zone very different from home. Between the stress of your new surroundings, the unusual situations of travel, and your own tiredness, it is normal to feel out-of-sorts. Here is what you can do about it!

Tips to feel your best:

  • Take good care of yourself before you leave.
    Eat and sleep well and move your body. Plan ahead to reduce the stress of travel day.
  • Think in your new time zone.
    As you board the plane, set your watch to the time at your destination.
  • Eat light and stay hydrated.
    The day of the flight, avoid sugar, non-prescription drugs, coffee, tea, and carbonated drinks. Eat meals low in fat and high in carbohydrates.
  • Get comfortable.
    Wear loose-fitting clothes and shoes to aid circulation and comfort during the long flight. Take a sweater, bring a book or magazine, and try to get some sleep.
  • Move your body on the plane.
    Walk around the cabin periodically. To exercise in your seat, stretch your arms overhead, gently stretch your neck, exercise your hands, raise and lower your legs, and bend over and touch your ankles.
  • Get ready for the day.
    When the cabin lights come on, get up, go into the lavatory and quickly freshen up. Eat the light breakfast, and don’t think about what time it is back home. Treat it like the start of the day.
  • No naps.
    When you get to your destination, napping will only reinforce your old body clock time. Keep moving and get some sun to help your body adjust.
  • Get to bed at a reasonable time and set an alarm for the morning.
    This should help you wake rested and ready for your day.
  • Repeat on the return trip!

Passport Services

Passport information and passport application forms.

U.S. Department of State

Travel Requirements, Announcements and Warnings; Consular Information Sheets, and more.

Centers for Disease Control

Travel health and immunization requirements.

Oanda Currency Converter

Find out how far a dollar will go at your destination.

World Time Zones

Find out what time it is anywhere in the world.

Destination Guides

Lonely Planet:



USA Today Weather:


Foreign language products, dictionaries, and translations for travelers.