There’s nothing more exciting than planning an international trip! But there is so much to do. And if this is your first trip abroad (congrats!) you may not know where to begin. So, I bring you an international travel checklist.
The first two installments in my Travel 101 Series detailed what to expect when flying and what to do if your flight changes. Those guides can be used for both domestic and international travel. But international travel involves a checklist of its own. Below I detail what things you need to do when traveling internationally.
The International Travel Checklist
Check Your Passport
I’m assuming you have a passport. If not, that needs to be step 1. But even if you have a passport, there are things you need to check before leaving. And not the day before, as soon as you know you will be leaving your country.
First, check the expiration date. Does it still have a full six months before it expires? If not, it would be best to renew it as soon as possible as many countries require an expiration date six months beyond your visit. Next, make sure there are blank pages available in your passport. Again, some countries require a blank page to enter a stamp.
Visit the State Department’s Website
If you are a U.S. citizen, the State Department’s website provides a wealth of information. You can check the State Department’s website to review entry and exit requirements for the country or countries you will be visiting. In addition to visa requirements, this page will also tell you passport validity and blank page requirements, and any vaccines needed.
If you are traveling from a country outside the United States, you can do an internet search for visa requirements for the country you are visiting and should be able to find the relevant information. I would suggest using official government websites to ensure you are getting the correct information.
Register With the State Department
U.S. citizens can enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Enrollment will allow you to receive information from the Embassy in your destination country and help the U.S. Embassy contact you in case of an emergency. This is a free service.
Traveling with Minors
If you are traveling with a minor, or minors, and both parents are not traveling, you should have some documentation of custody or consent. Some foreign border officials may require proof of custody or notarized consent from the other parent.
Contact Your Bank
Contact your bank and let them know which countries you will be visiting and the dates of your visit. Many banks apply controls on where a card can be used to reduce fraud. By letting them know when you are going to be gone and where you will be allows the bank to apply this information to your credit and debit cards to ensure they will work while traveling.
Also, I suggest taking more than one card and having more than one person carry cards in case one doesn’t work (which has happened to me) or a card is lost or stolen.
Also, I do not get foreign currency before travelling internationally. I have found it to be unnecessary. The easiest and least expensive way to get cash abroad is to simply use an ATM. Most airports will have ATMs where you can grab a few dollars to get you started. You can then use ATMs near your hotel to get cash as you need it as the rates will probably be lower.
Before you go, check with your bank on your daily withdrawal limits. Make sure you take into account exchange rates as the daily withdrawal limit will apply to the currency in the country you are in. If you think you need to raise the limit, discuss with your bank before you leave.
Make copies of your passports, visas, insurance cards, other identification, and credit/debit cards. I usually make a color copy of all of my documents and carry that in a different bag than the originals. This will ensure you have the information should you lose yours and may speed up the process of getting replacements, especially your passport.
Making an extra set of copies and leaving them with someone you can easily contact at home is a good idea too.
Review Cell Phone Plan
Review your cell phone plan to see if any international usage is included. If not, and you think you will need additional services, contact your provider prior to your trip.
I find I rarely have to use my cell phone plan since wi-fi is usually available; however, I have appreciated a reduced calling rate when I have had to make an actual phone call. My provider has a plan that allows me to sign up for a daily international rate but I’m not charged unless I actually use it.
Get Immunizations if Needed
Many countries require tourists to have vaccinations before visiting. Review any immunization requirements of the country you are visiting and schedule appointments with your medical provider to obtain them in a reasonable time frame. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a tool to help travelers determine if, and what, vaccines are needed.
Obtain an International Drivers Permit
If you plan on driving while on your trip, you need to review the country’s requirements to see if your driver’s license is accepted. If not, an International Driver Permit (IDP) is accepted by over 150 countries. The IDP must be accompanied by a valid driver’s license.
An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a document that verifies that you have a valid driver’s license. In the United States, you can apply for an IDP at Automobile Association of America (AAA) offices. If you are outside the United States, you should contact the appropriate government agency to get details on how to obtain an IDP. Do not use third-party companies.
Review Airline(s) Luggage Policies
Many airlines outside of the United States have more restrictive luggage policies. You should review the luggage policies, including carry-on policies, for each airline you will be traveling on during your trip. I make sure that my luggage meets the most restrictive policy of all the airlines I’m using to avoid any unexpected fees or last minute repacking at the airport.
Make Note of Your Country’s Embassy Information
Add the address and phone number for your country’s embassy in your phone or in your travel documents. You will more than likely never need it, but it’s nice to know it’s readily available should you need to contact them.
Pack the Appropriate Power Adapter
Make sure you purchase and pack a power adapter (and converter, if needed) that will work with the electrical system in the country you will be visiting. Got to make sure you can charge all of your electronics!
I like this adapter because it works in more than 150 countries and with 6 different kinds of plugs. And it has a couple of USB ports which makes it a pretty awesome little gadget.
Learn a Few Phrases
Learn a few phrases in the language of the country or countries you are visiting. Manners are appreciated all over the world and saying hello, please, and thank you go a long way to show local residents that you respect them.
Pack a Pen
Seems kind of silly, but trust me on this one. You will be required to fill out a form at some point. More than likely on the plane before you land in a new country and it makes it a lot easier and quicker if you have a pen of your own to use.
Preparing for any trip can be overwhelming, but following the tips included in this international checklist will help you be prepared and ready to enjoy your trip!
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