A couple in Italy on a Scouting Trip

Picking a new country to live in is a massive decision! For many people, a two-week tourist visit isn’t enough certainty to decide, and that is where an international scouting trip is a great option, but what exactly does it entail?

A scouting trip is a reconnaissance mission, a preliminary visit to your potential new home country before making the big move. It’s an exploratory journey that goes beyond the allure of tourist attractions and delves into the practicalities of everyday life in a foreign land.

This trip is not just about seeing if you can live in a new country; it’s about discovering if you can thrive there. It’s an opportunity to walk the streets, breathe in the local air, and imagine your life in this new setting. From sampling the local cuisine to navigating the streets, a scouting trip is an excellent tool for turning your expatriate dreams into a well-informed reality. Join us as we dive into why this trip is vital to planning your adventure abroad, ensuring you make the right decision with confidence and clarity.

What Should International Scouting Trips Include?

Here are some of the things you should keep in mind on your visit.

  1. Housing and Cost of Living: Explore different neighborhoods to understand where you might want to live. Assess rental prices, utility costs, and general living expenses in various areas.
  2. Healthcare System: Investigate available healthcare facilities, including hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies. Understand the healthcare system for expatriates, insurance requirements, and the quality of medical care.
  3. Employment Opportunities (if applicable): If you plan to work, research job opportunities in your field. Look into the job market, average salaries, and legal requirements for expatriates working in the country.
  4. Visa and Residency Requirements: Familiarize yourself with the visa process, residency requirements, and any legal paperwork for living and potentially working in the country.
  5. Cultural Adaptation: Spend time experiencing the local culture, customs, and social norms. Engage with locals to gauge how well you might adapt to the lifestyle.
  6. Language Barriers: Assess your language skills and the need for learning the local language. Consider language courses and the importance of fluency for daily life and integration.
  7. Transportation and Infrastructure: Explore the public transportation system, road conditions, and general infrastructure. Consider your commuting and travel needs within the country.
  8. Education System (if applicable): If you have children, look into local schools, international schools, and the quality and curriculum of the education system.
  9. Expat Community and Support Networks: Connect with local expat communities for valuable support and advice, which can help you settle in more easily.
  10. Climate and Environment: Consider the local climate and environmental conditions. Think about how the weather patterns, seasonal changes, and environmental quality align with your preferences and lifestyle needs.

Group Scouting Tours

We asked our good friend Jen from Expatsi to tell us about the advantages of group scouting trips. Jen organizes scouting trips with Spain and Portugal next on the agenda.

Split Costs

One of the biggest advantages of taking a group trip is that you can split costs for accommodations. We recommend apartment rentals like Airbnb and VRBO because you can get a better feel for neighborhood life than you can in a touristy hotel, and we’ll help make introductions so you can find roommates.

We also offer sessions with local experts on our group trips, which could be cost-prohibitive if booked one-on-one.

Planning & Research Are Done For You

Taking a group tour makes it easy if you need help figuring out where to start planning your trip. We take care of research and planning, so you don’t have to start from scratch learning everything an expat needs to know: the best cities, neighborhoods, or resources.

“For me, a group trip is a great option because much of the homework is already done. I love traveling, but I don’t like all the planning. Having a general itinerary, with suggestions but also with the freedom to pick & choose activities & do my own thing, is the perfect balance for me. Also – being able to regroup & ‘share notes’ is really valuable” — Z.K.

“I typically play a heavy role in planning group trips so I’m relieved that that work is being handled by someone who does it joyfully! I also like the idea of exchanging insights and being able to process with a group of people with the same goal in mind.” — I.M.

“​​Completely agree about avoiding the overwhelming task of doing all the research and planning. Also, joining a group like this will introduce a lot of ideas for locations, outings, activities, etc. that I might never have considered if I was planning the whole thing by myself — both from the hosts and the other members.” — A.S.

Make Friends

Traveling with others is already a great way to make new friends, but now you’ll also spend time with people who could be your new neighbors. This community can make the trip more enjoyable and memorable and help you build a support network in the country you’re considering moving to.

“One of the big reasons for doing the group trip, for me, at least, is having an opportunity to pre-build a little bit of community. Even though I’ll be moving with my husband when we do move, I know that loneliness can be a risk for me. So knowing that I will always have these connections, makes it less lonely.” —S.S.

Share Insights

When traveling with others, you can learn a lot from each other. You can share your experiences and insights and get different perspectives on the country and culture. These interactions can help you better understand what it would be like to live in the country and help you make an informed decision about whether or not it’s the right place for you.

“I think in this particular group instance the knowledge sharing can be invaluable. Instead of having to figure it all out on our own, we have resources amongst ourselves that can be shared and built on. There are things I don’t know that I don’t know. Things I might have researched that will make it easier for someone else. The connection in the unknown is comforting.” — M.G.

Other Group Scouting Trip Benefits

Here are some other benefits of taking a group trip to a country you might like to move to:

  • Safety: Traveling with others can be safer than traveling alone, especially if you’re visiting a country you’re not familiar with. Most places are very safe, but there’s always the risk of petty crime or scams.
  • Support: If you get sick or have any problems while you’re traveling, you’ll have the support of your group members. 
  • Fun: Traveling with other people can be fun! If you want to check out a market, find a local park, or linger over coffee or wine, someone can always join you.

“This group trip is ideal for two reasons: safety and the ability to travel solo. I’ve been to at least 5 countries and many states, but I’ve never had the courage to go solo traveling in a new country. This group gives me the opportunity to do it without knowing any family or friends there, but with the ability to make so many as we go. I like the idea of having moments of being alone exploring, but at the end of the day knowing someone is looking out for me. If I go missing there’s a group of people who will know and be concerned about it!” — T.M.

How to Choose a Group Trip

Here are a few tips for choosing a group trip that will help you gain the insights you need:

  • It’s not a vacation. Your scouting trip should be light on tourist traps and incorporate practical tours of neighborhoods, markets, and transportation instead.
  • Meet local experts. Your trip should offer opportunities to ask about healthcare, real estate, and visa options from people who provide those services or have used them themselves.
  • It’s customized to you. Your trip should include meetups and activities that match your interests so you can assess how you’ll like living there and meet folks who can help you acclimate.
  • Flexible schedule. The best system for scouting trips is a hop-on/hop-off itinerary so you can come and go as you please. Don’t get stuck on endless bus tours that don’t accommodate your needs.

A Group Trip we recommend

If you are considering a Group Scouting Trip, Expatsi is organizing a Spain and Portugal Trip in March 2024. We will be your hosts for one day in a gorgeous restaurant in the old part of Barcelona. We will educate you on Visas, Housing, Schools, Lifestyle, and more. You will also get to ask us anything about Moving to Spain and Living in Spain while you enjoy tasting Catalan tapas and local wine.

Solo Scouting Trips

Some people prefer to plan their own scouting trips, an approach with pros and cons.

Solo Scouting Trip Pros

  1. Flexibility and Personalization: You can tailor your itinerary to your specific interests and needs. This means spending more time in areas important to you, such as potential neighborhoods, schools, or workplaces.
  2. Authentic Experience: Traveling independently allows for more spontaneous interactions and a deeper immersion into the local culture. You can explore off-the-beaten-path locations and experience daily life as locals do.
  3. Focused Research: Without a group schedule, you can dedicate time to research your value, such as meeting with real estate agents, visiting schools, or setting up informational interviews in your field of work.

Solo Scouting Trip Cons

  1. Planning and Logistics: Organizing a trip on your own requires significant effort in terms of research, booking accommodations, transportation, and scheduling visits or meetings.
  2. Lack of Local Knowledge: Without a guide or organized structure, you might miss important insights about the area, cultural nuances, or essential information that could influence your decision. You won’t be able to tap into an existing network of experts, service providers, or resources.
  3. Potential for Overlooking Key Aspects: Without the structured itinerary of an organized trip, you might overlook some important aspects of living in the new country, such as specific legal procedures or hidden costs.
  4. Higher Costs: Organizing a trip independently is often more expensive due to the lack of shared resources. Costs for individual accommodations, transportation, and activities can add up quickly compared to group rates.

Where and how will you take your scouting trip?

Whether you choose a solo scouting trip or join an organized group, each approach offers unique benefits and challenges. Organizing your trip allows for a personalized and authentic experience tailored to your specific needs and interests. However, it comes with detailed planning and research demands, no community, and higher costs. On the other hand, a group or organized trip provides a structured itinerary, expert guidance, and valuable networking opportunities, though it may have less personalization and flexibility. Ultimately, the decision hinges on your individual preferences, comfort with independent travel, and the specific goals you have for your scouting trip. Whichever path you choose, a well-planned scouting trip is an invaluable step in ensuring that your move abroad is not just a leap into the unknown but a well-informed stride into a new chapter of your life.