Traveling can definitely get stressful before you leave for a trip. Usually you’re trying to get everything done before you go and your mind is all scattered. To alleviate the stress and so you don’t forget to do something, I created a list of of things you should do before every international trip.
*some of the links and suggestions might be specific to U.S. citizens.
Table of Contents
Check to see if there is a visa requirement and other important information about the country.
If you are a U.S. citizen, you can look up visa requirements on the Travel State Gov website. When you click on the link, type in the destination of the country you’re traveling to. A lot of useful information pops up. You can learn about if there are any travel advisories, vaccination requirements, visa requirements, how many blank passport pages you need, safety information, etc. There’s a TON of information and it’s good to read through it.
Check your passport.
Too many times I’ve looked last minute for my passport and started freaking out on where it is. Don’t be that person! Look for your passport ahead of time and make sure you have it. ALSO- check your expiration date. Too many times have I heard people realizing last minute that their passport is expired or about to expire. Some countries require your passport to be valid 6 months after you exit. Some countries also require a certain amount of blank pages in your passport. A guy on my flight wasn’t allowed to board the plane because he didn’t have any blank pages. So make sure your passport is good to go! You can read more of my passport tips and tricks you must do to avoid stress and not ruin your trip.
Talk with a travel nurse/doctor regarding vaccines/medication.
Even if you check the Travel State Gov website, there still might be other precautions your travel nurse/doctor will want you to get. I do this before every trip. They’ll tell you about precautions you should take (like being careful with stray dogs or you might get bit and get rabies…) or what places you’re traveling to that has a lot of malaria or what kind of vaccines you need to get, etc. It’s good to talk to them and know what you need to get before your trip. You don’t want to be stressing out during your trip about certain things that you could have easily prepared for. If you don’t have the option to speak with a travel nurse/doctor, I recommend looking up the recommended vaccinations and inoculations on the Center for Disease Control & Prevention.
If you have Kaiser, you have to schedule a phone appointment with a travel nurse minimum 4-8 weeks before the trip. They will ask you if you have your trip booked and the places picked out. They’ll send you a questionnaire that you’ll fill out that goes over where you’re going, etc. During the phone appointment, the travel nurse will go through it and discuss things you need to know and order any vaccines and/or medication you’ll need. It’s a lengthy call so make sure to dedicate a chunk of time for the phone appointment.
Call your banks and let them know what country you’ll be in.
ALWAYS call your banks and inform them where you’re going to so you don’t get locked out of your credit card. A lot of banks now have the ability to notify them through their app. If you don’t notify them, they might think there is fraudulent activity and freeze your card. Some credit cards don’t require it, but it’s always necessary to check if you need to or not. I always bring a spare debit card and a spare credit card in case one gets stolen and/or for emergencies. Make sure to inform the spare debit and credit card company as well. You should also make sure your credit card has no foreign transaction fees and your debit card does not have any ATM fees. Don’t pay extra money when you don’t need to!
Enroll in STEP.
Before every trip, I enroll in Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is for U.S. citizens and nationals to enroll their trip abroad to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It’s a free service and I do it for a peace of mind. If your group does not want to fill it out individually, you can enroll everyone traveling with you. Enrolling through the program is also beneficial because it will help the U.S. Embassy know where to contact you in an emergency.
Screenshot or write down where you’re staying and the directions.
Your phone dies. You have no service. You can’t find the reservation. All things you don’t want to be stressing about when you just flew numerous hours to get to your destination. Take a screenshot or write down your accommodation address and the directions to get there.
Move money around.
Ever hear those horror stories of using your debit card at an ATM and you later find out someone stole all your money? Well, that does happen often and that also happened to my friend. What happens is people put a device that reads your debit card in the ATM machine and then they take all your money. Move your money around to either your savings account or another bank account that you have. I keep a decent amount in my bank account that’s connected to the debit card I’m using abroad. When I’m running low on money, I transfer more over. Also, it’s best to only withdraw money from reliable ATM’s. For example, I try to only withdraw money at ATM’s that are attached to banks inside (usually not ATM’s that are accessed on the street).
If you have WhatsApp, great – you can skip this one and go to the next one. A lot of people use WhatsApp internationally. It’s a great texting and calling service when you’re traveling internationally. I’ve met numerous people who didn’t know what WhatsApp was and didn’t have it on their phone. Sometimes you can’t download it and activate it abroad. When you download the app, it will send a verification code via text message to your phone. So if you are on airplane mode or removed your SIM card, you won’t be able to receive the verification code to activate WhatsApp. It’s best to download and activate WhatsApp before you leave the country. A lot of people you will meet abroad use it to communicate to each other. So if you plan on meeting locals or other travelers, WhatsApp is a great app to communicate through.
Make copies of your passport.
Make a couple of copies of your passport. I take one copy with me (I leave it in my purse when I’m traveling) and I leave one copy at home.
Pack and buy any items.
Of course make sure you pack everything you need and buy any last minute items that you are low on! Some people are great at packing on their own (which is what I do now) but if you knew me a year before I started solo traveling, you’d know I made a packing list for EVERY SINGLE TRIP. I wasn’t always like that… but I was extremely scarred from a girls trip to Reno in 2010. Ever since then, I became a very paranoid packer and was always afraid I’d forget something. But as my dad always says, you can always buy something you forget. Just make sure you don’t forget the essentials: passport, credit card/debit card, camera, and medication. Over my years of traveling, I’ve put together a list that are some of my go-to items that I bring on every trip that I’m willing to share with you!
Pack an extra set of clothes, underwear and important items in your carry-on.
Always pack a set of underwear, clothes and anything important with you in your carry-on. You don’t want to pack it all in your checked luggage and get to your destination and find out your bag’s not there. Sometimes it takes a few days up to weeks to get your bag back so it’s smart to have an extra set of clothes with you until you find a store to buy clothes.
Arrange for your mail to be picked up or put your mail on hold at the post office.
This is a great tool to do that sometimes gets forgotten. Even though you’re on vacation, your mail isn’t. Make sure you arrange your mail to be picked up by a friend or put it on hold at the post office so your mailbox doesn’t get overloaded with mail.
Pay your bills.
Depending on when you’re traveling, your bills might be due when you’re gone. Pay your bills so you don’t have to worry about it while you’re on vacation!
Carry small amount of cash.
I always carry a small amount of cash on me in case I need it for an emergency. It’s nice to have, but it’s not an essential.
Buy travelers insurance.
This is a tough one… and I still struggle with whether or not I should buy travelers insurance. You obviously don’t think anything’s going to happen… but what if it does? It’s expensive though so you can’t bite the bullet and pay for it… Check your credit card and see if it has any travelers insurance. A lot of credit cards offer a lot of protection and benefits so you don’t have to buy additional insurance. Make sure to read the fine print though.
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