The very first thing you need is a passport. Even if you do not have a trip planned, get a passport. They are not hard to get, and if you are like me, once you get it in the mail it will become your most prized possession. To apply for a passport click on this link: Passport Application- This DS-11 passport application link is for first time applicants and for minors. This web page offers a detailed list of each step of the process. If you have questions or need to find a passport office you can call 1-877-487-2778.
Next, research the place you've always wanted to go. Paris? Jamaica? Egypt? Price your airfare for the dates you want to go and start saving money for your trip. Our trip this go round is Panamá City, Panamá; when I started planning this trip airfare was at $475 round trip per person. In order to save money I chose to use a local language school that offered language courses, tours, and home stays. I found this language school online and this option is cheaper than staying at a hotel. It also offers a better chance of meeting friends, and a more authentic view of that place you are visiting. I have done similar trips in France, Ecuador, and Costa Rica and all were great experiences.
Once you know where and when you are going you need to make sure you pack accordingly and get any recommended travel shots. Online searches can give you pretty accurate weather info and your local health department will give you updates vaccination information, including but not limited to, shots for Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Malaria prescriptions, and Hepatitis A &B shots. Here is a list that I put together for my students- What do I need for Panamá? However, this list can easily apply for many travel destinations.
Take time to research you destination's currency? What is the exchange rate and where should you get money exchanged once you leave the airport?
These four steps are just the tip of the iceberg and I'm sure this is enough for you to do for now. Set a reasonable date to have completed the steps. In the meantime, find people who have been to your target travel spot, talk to them, get tips and most importantly DON'T CHICKEN OUT! You'll never forgive yourself. Fear of the unknown is normal but not living your travel dream will always allow a coward-cloud to loom over your head. I meet sooooo many people who tell me about the dream trip that they are too afraid to take and how guilty they feel for not taking the leap. Stepping into the unknown is scary, yes; but also empowering beyond measure, don't deprive yourself of connecting with the bravery that already exist inside of you. It's time to take that leap people, download the passport application!