Traveling abroad and long vacations are what I live for. But before I can throw caution to the wind and slip into full vacay-mode, there's a bit of adulting I always have to do. I've decided to share with my International Travel To-Do List with my fellow Wanderers here on the blog.
Here are the 9 Things to do Before Your Next International Trip:
1. Make sure your passport and visa are current
A passport is the key to entering and exiting any country. So if you're planning on leaving the country, make sure you check the expiration date on your passport. If it needs to be renewed, click here for all of the required U.S. Department of State’s forms. If you need to get a passport for your little one, the application process is a bit different from securing a passport for an adult. My blog post How to Apply for a Passport for Your Child contains some helpful information.
Also, the U.S. State Department's Country Information Page can be used to key in the name of the country you're planning to visit to determine if a visa is required for entry, read travel advisories, alerts and quick facts.
2. Register your trip
When traveling out of the country, it’s always a good idea to register your trip and itinerary with the U.S. Department of State's STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program). Once registered, you will receive travel alerts and warnings via email about your travel destination, if something happens. You can also periodically check for up-to-the-minute information regarding long-and short-term conditions that might pose as a threat to American travelers in the region.
3. Buy travel insurance
Travel insurance costs approximately 10% of the overall cost of the trip. As a general rule, I purchase travel insurance for all of our international trips and any domestic flight that costs more than $500. Having travel insurance really gives me peace of mind while abroad. If you are interested in purchasing medical insurance, the State Department also provides a list of Overseas Insurance Providers.
4. Pay bills and call credit card companies to inform them you will be abroad.
Since nobody wants to think about paying bills while on vacation, it's probably best to pay your bills or schedule your payments prior to your departure. Also, decide which of your credit cards are the best for travel (lowest international exchange fees, travel perks, etc.). Once you've narrowed down which cards to take, call the credit card companies to inform them of your travel dates and planned destinations to avoid fraud alerts or freezes on your card.
5. Make arrangements for mail and other scheduled deliveries
I frequently use the United States Postal Service Hold Mail Service to stop the delivery of all mail while we're on vacation. The Hold Mail Service website allows you to select the days you will be away and gives you the option to either pick your mail up from the post office once you return or to have your mail bundled and delivered on a date of your choosing.
Additionally, I also check with Amazon to ensure that my monthly subscription deliveries are moved to a date before we leave or after we return from vacation.
6. Fill prescriptions and label them properly
Make sure that you have an ample supply of your needed prescriptions. Keep your meds in the prescription bottle that has your name on it. And make a copy of the information on the prescription bottle and pack it in your carry on or personal bag for your records.
The Transportation Security Administration's website provides up-to-date rules and regulations on how to pack and carry your medication. You can also check the Country Specific Information section of the U.S. State Department's website to ensure that the government at your destination hasn’t deemed your prescription drug illegal.
7. Prepare your travel documents
Before leaving the house, print out all of your travel documents (boarding passes, itineraries, etc.) and keep them in one place. I usually place our documents in my personal bag or carry on. I usually make an additional copy of the information page of our passports to leave with a family member for safekeeping.
8. Choose a communication plan
Most cell phones will not work overseas. There are a few solutions to this issue. You can check with your cell phone service provider and sign up for their international plan. You can also unlock your phone and purchase a SIM card once you arrive at your destination. Lastly, you can purchase a prepaid mobile phone in the country you're visiting. I bought a prepaid cell phone during my first visit to China. It made communicating with my friends that live in China so much easier. And I was able to use the same phone on my second visit and I still have my ChinaMobile today.
Additionally, if you opt for an international cell service plan, I highly recommend that you and your family and friends download Wassapp or Viber apps (both use text messaging and voice over IP technology) so you can talk, text and share pictures for free while abroad.
9. Buy an international plug adapter and voltage converter
If you're planning to use any electronic devices while abroad, purchase and pack an international plug adapter and voltage converter.