I am a big fan of checklists in general and I make lists for everything in my life. I have several travel checklists that I use to make sure that I am prepared and don’t forget anything before going on a trip. Even though I travel abroad a lot, I always refer to my international pretravel checklist to make sure I don’t forget anything before traveling abroad.
If you are you traveling internationally for the first time or just want to be sure you don’t forget anything important before your next international trip, here is a list of essential things to do before international travel.
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Checklist for International Travel – Essential Things To Do Before Traveling Abroad:
1. Make sure you have a valid passport.
If you have a passport, check the expiration date of your passport and whether there are any blank pages remaining. Just to be safe, check that your passport does not expire less than six months before your return date (some countries will not allow entry if your passport expiration date is less than 6 months before your departure date). If you travel abroad often, check if there are still blank pages left in your passport for entry and exit stamps.
If you don’t have a passport yet and are thinking of traveling abroad in the near future, make sure you apply for a passport as far in advance as possible. It can take some time to get your passport after applying especially if you want to apply by mail and not pay fees for expediting your application.
2. Check entry and visa requirements.
Check to see if the country you are traveling to requires a visa. You can check for visa requirements here.
Some countries are not allowing international travelers right now or they might require visitors to be vaccinnated or take a COVID test. You can check rules for every country here.
3. Research whether you need vaccines or malaria pills.
If you are traveling to less developed countries, visit your closest travel clinic to get any vaccines you need for your destination. In addition to vaccines, you might need malaria pills or a yellow fever shot depending on where you are traveling.
According to the CDC website, it is recommended you get vaccines or medicines at least 4-6 weeks before your trip. The reason is that it takes some time for some vaccines to become effective.
4. If you plan on driving, get an International Driving Permit.
If you plan to rent a car, you might need an International Driving Permit. You can get an international permit from your local AAA office.
5. Purchase a travel adaptor if needed.
You will probably need an adapter plug in order to use your electronics in another country. If you travel a lot, it makes sense to buy a universal travel adaptor like this one.
6. Apply for travel credit cards and debit cards.
If you plan to use a credit card abroad, make sure you have a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees. If you don’t have a no foreign transaction fee credit card, consider applying for a new credit card before your next trip. My favorite travel card is Chase Sapphire Preferred because it has no foreign transaction fees and earns double points on travel purchases.
If you do not already have one, consider getting a debit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees or fees for using ATMs from other banks. If you live in the United States, I suggest a Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account which gives you unlimited ATM fee rebates.
Ideally, you should bring at least 2 credit cards and 2 debit cards with you. While you can make due with one of each, I like to have 2 in case one is stolen, lost or the bank puts a hold on my account due to suspicious activity.
7. Let your bank know your travel plans.
Make sure to contact all banks that have issued your credit, debit and ATM cards and let them know of your travel plans. If you do not let your bank know you will be traveling abroad, when they see foreign charges they could put a hold on your account for suspicious activity. Some banks make it very easy to let them know you are traveling abroad and have online forms to let them know of your travel plans from your online banking account.
8. Make sure you have travel insurance.
Check if your travel insurance covers you abroad. If not, research and purchase travel insurance before leaving your country. You can purchase medical insurance, trip cancellation insurance and more. At the very minimum, I always purchase emergency evacuation insurance just in case something happens as paying for that would run thousands of dollars.
9. Research options for calling home.
I have T-Mobile cellular service so I have free data and texting when traveling abroad. If you have another cell provider and want to use your cell phone, check prices to call, text and use data from abroad. You might be able to sign up for an international plan to lower costs or switch to T-Mobile.
If you plan to use apps that allow free calls or texts (like Skype, Viber etc), sign up and download any apps before you leave.
10. Print and share itinerary and hotel, flight and other confirmations and make a copy of your passport and visa.
I like to print a hard copy of my flight and hotel e-mail confirmations – that way I don’t have to rely on having wi-fi or my data plan working to pull up my reservations. Plus, it is good to have a paper version of your confirmations in case an immigration officer requests a copy of your plans.
Another thing you might want to do before international travel is to take a photo or make a copy of your first passport page and visa and email it to yourself or store it in dropbox. That way if your passport is lost or stolen while you are in another country, it will be faster and easier to replace it if you have a copy.
I also recommend sharing a copy of your passport and your plans with a friend or family member in case of emergency.
11. Register with your embassy or consulate.
Register with your embassy or consulate – this will let your government know where you are in case of an emergency. U.S. citizens can enroll with the closest U.S. embassy or consulate using the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It’s also a good idea to print out the address and contact information of the local embassy.
12. Pay or schedule any bills due while you are abroad.
If I am traveling for a short trip, I like to prepay or schedule any bills that are due while I am gone. I don’t like to log in to my bank or credit card accounts from free internet connections for security reasons plus I don’t want to miss a payment because I don’t check my e-mail as often.
13. Put a hold on mail.
If you are gone for over a week, you might want to contact your post office to hold your mail.
14. Download books, movies or apps on your phone, e-reader and computer.
It is a good idea to download any books, movies, reading material or apps you need on your smartphone, e-reader and computer before you leave. You might need entertainment or reading material on your flight. Some apps can even be used offline so it is better to download them before you leave as it might be hard to find free wi-fi or the wi-fi might be slower. Here is my list of 10 must-have (and free) travel apps that you might want to install on your phone before your international trip.
15. Check your packing list to make sure you have all essentials.
Put together and check your packing list, in case you need to purchase anything before your trip. Make sure you fill your prescriptions and bring copies as well. Figure out how you will handle money (will you exchange currency beforehand, how much to bring, etc.). As your travel date approaches double check the weather at your destination to make sure you don’t need to pack anything else. If you are checking bags, pack all your carry on essentials in your carry on bag. You will most likely have to take a long flight, so check out my tips on how to survive a long flight.
Do you have a checklist for traveling abroad? What is on your international travel checklist?