Traveling abroad is exciting. In fact, It’s so exciting that we tend to overlook small details when it comes to planning for a trip - especially when you’re new to travel. You might be tempted to book that insanely cheap flight deal and wing it, but international travel will require more preparation. You’ll save yourself a-lot of money, time, and stress when you properly prepare for your trip. Do yourself a favor and check these things off your to-do list before you travel overseas:
1. TRIPLE CHECK TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
I wasn’t happy when I arrived at the Vietnam airport only to discover that I needed to pre-order my visa before arrival. Unlike other countries in South East Asia, I couldn’t apply for a visa in the airport. This major mistake resulted in a loss of hundreds of dollars and several lost travel days. Don’t be like me. Triple check the requirements for all travel documents.
Do you need a passport? If so, did you check the expiration date? Some countries don’t allow you to enter if your passport expires less than 6 months after your arrival date.
Did you check how many pages you have left in your passport? Some countries require you to have more than 1-2 blank pages before you entry.
Do you need a visa? If so, can you pay at the airport or do you need to order it online beforehand? How long will it take to receive your visa? Visit the US Embassy site for visa info.
Save time and money by triple checking the requirements for all travel documents. Be sure to print out copies, email copies to yourselves, or save them to an internet cloud for access incase you misplace them.
2. CHECK FOR TRAVEL VACCINES
Check CDC.gov for recommended and/or required travel vaccines. Alternatively, ask your doctor or healthcare provider which vaccines are necessary. Some countries require immunisation records upon entry, so be sure to request any necessary documents from your doctor.
This is something that you should research as soon as you book your trip, as some vaccines require multiple rounds of shots.
3. CHECK FLIGHT & BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE DETAILS
I may or may not have a bad habit of showing up for flights at the last minute. Most of the time, things work out just fine. However, I’ve missed a flight or two because bags were required to be checked 45 minutes before departure or the gate closed just 2 minutes before I made it. Hey - I never claimed to be a perfect traveler!
When you purchase a flight ticket, be sure to pay close attention to flight and details. Be sure to check:
When flight check-in begins AND ends
Gate closure time
Airport size & terminal details when you have a layover
Baggage weight allowance, bag prices, & overweight fees - especially when traveling on budget airlines
Cost of ground transportation from the airport to your accommodation once you land
Check entry & exit fees for the country you plan to visit
Download the Skyscanner app to search for cheap flights
4. UPDATE & CHECK YOUR MOBILE PLAN
Data costs can add up quickly when you go abroad. Contact your mobile provider for international coverage costs and available plans for you to use overseas. I personally have T-mobile, which offers free international data and texting. Check costs before you depart and arrange an international plan if you wish.
It usually helps to put your phone on airplane mode and only use wi-fi, to avoid data roaming costs.
Alternatively, you could purchase an in-country sim card once you land.
5. BUY AN INTERNATIONAL ADAPTER
You’ll need to purchase an international adapter to charge any of your electronic devices. Do some research beforehand to see what kind of adapter you need for the region you plan to visit.
Consider buying a portable charger as well!
6. PURCHASE TRAVEL INSURANCE
I can’t stress this enough. Travel insurance has saved me $1000+ after having being robbed and misplacing valuables. It may be another cost, but it could save you thousands if something goes wrong - especially if you plan on doing any adventure activities or traveling to a country with a high crime rate.
Consider coverage amounts and read all plan conditions before purchasing. Here’s what travel insurance may cover:
Damaged or lost belongings
Medical coverage and more
7. RESEARCH CULTURAL CUSTOMS
Do as much research as possible regarding cultural customs before you go. Here are some things to know:
What to wear - For example, you should know that many temples in Southeast Asia require you to wear tops that cover your shoulders and bottoms that cover your knees
Cultural greetings and language basics - For example, you should know that it’s respectful to bow when you greet someone in Japan
Proper etiquette - For example, you should know that it’s not appropriate to tip in most European countries
Political climate & more - Stay up to date on travel warnings & advisories
8. CALL YOUR BANK
Imagine trying to take cash out of an ATM to buy that delicious coconut gelato only to realise that your debit card is blocked. Been there, done that. It’s no fun, because then you have to call your bank($$$) while you’re overseas, be placed on hold, and wait until the block is removed from your card.
Banks deactivate debit and credit cards when they detect unusual activity to prevent fraud. That’s great & all, but it can be a pain if you forget to notify your bank before traveling overseas. Do yourself a big favor and inform your bank that you’ll be traveling before you leave the country. Notify them where and when you’ll be traveling.
It also helps to check if your credit or debit card will be accepted in the country you’re visiting. If not, then consider taking out enough cash beforehand. Here are some additional tips:
Consider bringing a card with no foreign transaction fees to avoid additional fees
Taking cash out of an ATM in the country you’re visiting will always be cheaper than converting US dollars/cash
Bring a credit card for incidentals & deposits on rental cars and hotels. Many companies require this!
Bring multiple cards incase one is stolen/lost
My favorite travel credit card is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees, so I’m able to limit my use of cash.
9. REFILL PRESCRIPTIONS
If you take any medication and plan to travel long term, consider asking your doctor to pre-fill your prescriptions in advance. Your medication may not be available in your travel destination and shipping costs can be extremely high. Add ‘medication’ to your packing list and pre-departure to-dos. Check this site for more information on medication while traveling abroad.
Carry medication in original packaging with a visible label
Pack any expensive medication in your carry-on to avoid loss/damage
Bring a first-aid kit for any over-the-counter medicine that you frequently use
10. REGISTER FOR STEP
Enroll in the STEP program to receive important safety information and security information while traveling overseas. This will make it easier for the embassy to contact you in case of emergency. It doesn’t hurt to take this extra safety measure!