Your International Pre-Travel Planning and Safety Checklist
35 things to do before heading abroad
WHAT YOU NEED
1. Determine the status and needs of your passport. Ensure your passport isn't expiring and has the time-frame requirement for the country you are visiting. For example, many countries require that the passport has at least a six-month validity before expiration and that you have enough blank passport pages.
2. Confirm the country you're visiting doesn't require a visa and if it does, determine the process and timing to obtain it. Some countries allow you to do it on the spot online, others can be done arrival, etc.
3. Book your travel insurance
4. Review the vaccination requirements for the country you're visiting. Visit your travel doctor. And make sure to pack your yellow fever vaccination documentation if its a requirement for the country you're visiting. One resource for receiving vaccinations is Passport Health.
5. Register with GOES. Gives you the TSA pre-approval and a quick re-entry into the USA.
For US citizens your international travel needs can be determined here.
6. Review the exchange rates. Considering obtaining currency from your local bank for better rates.
7. Identify if the country you're visiting has an open or closed currency. And if they are mostly cash basis and if ATMs are hard to come by or don't often have a lot of cash. This could affect how much you take out (if you can take it out) prior to departure.
8. If you travel often, consider opening a checking account and/or credit card that does not charge foreign exchange fees on transactions (and earn points in the process). Ensure you have enough funds in these designated travel accounts before departure.
9. Call your banks and credit cards and put travel alerts on your accounts.
10. Determine if it's cheaper to get a SIM card or get a travel plan with your cell phone carrier. It's best to be able to call someone if you have an urgent matter. If you decide to go with international plan ensure it's activated before you leave.
11. If you plan to travel internationally frequently, consider saving an old cell phone or buy a cheap one, ensure it's unlocked, and take along on trips to purchase SIM Cards and pay as you go in each country you're in.
12. Determine the minimum amount required for a VAT refund and if the store will process or if it must be done at the airport. Give yourself enough time to arrive at the airport to process the refund. Some airports have a long and slow line.
13. Determine if there is a tipping culture and if so, what to expect to pay for services and when to do it.
14. Brush up on the local language. Some countries have a level of comfort with English, but it is always a good idea to great locals in their native tongue.
15. Understand the rules for behavior and dress code; things like touching, holding hands, kissing in public. Sacred grounds will not permit you to enter with shoulders uncovered and knees exposed, for example.
16. Research LGBTQ friendly-parts of the city and what the general attitudes in the local culture you are visiting are.
17. Download any necessary travel apps to help with your plans.
18. If you aren't planning to carry on, ensure you know the max weight restriction for your transportation.
If you're an efficient packer and don't want to have to check a bag be aware that every airline/aircraft will have strict restrictions on the weight permitted in the overhead bin. You can pack small, but heavy and still have to check a bag.
19. Know which travel adapters you need. It would be awesome if the entire world used the same electricity systems, but not the case. For example, the UK has their very own from Europe. Buying a universal adapter may help save time and money if you plan to travel abroad at least once a year.
20. Review what power your electronics requires. If you need fresh batteries before a trip, get those in time and power up all devices.
21. Check the weather. And research the style and fashions of your travel destination. This will inform your capsule wardrobe. You may prefer to maintain your own style. Or you may want to blend in with the locals. If you're traveling to a location that doesn't have a low crime rate blending in is highly recommended. And they may include wearing a t-shirt and jeans in a hot climate.
Consider designing your wardrobe to match the environment, architecture and weather, of course.
22. Determine if you need a wifi hot-spot. Plan to obtain the device and plan before departure.
23. Provide your emergency contact with all of your travel itinerary information (accommodation, known transportation, flight, etc.) And a copy of your passport. It may be best to have two contacts. Digitally store any important information such as phone numbers, itinerary details, passport information, visa documents, insurance, etc. Consider using an app like TripIt.
24. Prior to departure, take the time to review all necessary documents and print out boarding passes for transportations and reservations.
25. Register with the US Dept Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. They will send you alerts and provide you with closest embassy information.
26. Identify closest embassy/consulate
27. Being and stash emergency cash. Some folks will hide in the sole of their shoe, keep in a money belt, leave some in the hotel safe.
28. Make sure to travel around the city with a copy of your passport and leave the real thing locked away. Unless of course, you plan to shop and need it for tax reduction or gamble in a Singapore Casino. Research when you might need the physical version.
29. Dress like a local! Check out images of what folks in a city are wearing. It does help with your travel photography but also makes you less of a target for those interested in preying on foreigners. But always, stay relaxed and confident.
30. Determine the emergency phone number for a country, like that of 911 in America.
31. Travel with a cross body if you can and always carry on the front of your waist. Some folks pick up a local grocery store bag and put their purse in their so it's less attractive and you blend in with the crowd more.
32. Understand how to obtain medical care if you need assistance and if your travel insurance covers it. Most hotels should be able to assist you and even have a doctor come to your room.
33. Pack a lock if you plan to stay in a place like a hostel.
34. Walk around the city with only what you need. Don't bring too many valuables with you at once. In fact, consider leaving your engagement ring at home and swapping for a fake or alternative altogether.
35. If you walk around with a backpack, depending on the area, consider carrying it in front of you securely so you have eyes on it all times.
Have any more travel tips? Send them in!