Read Our International Travel Checklist Before Your Next Trip Abroad
You’ve renewed your passport, you’ve bought airline tickets, and your vacation time has been approved. You’re ready to leave the country! Or are you? Before traveling abroad, there are a few less obvious things to square away, life-wise. Here’s an international travel checklist to help you get your affairs in order.
Flying through multiple time zones? Our editor swears by this 4-day diet to avoid jet lag.
☑ Tell your bank you’ll be traveling abroad.
Call your bank (use the number on the back of your debit or credit card), or put up a travel notice on your account online, and to let them know the dates and locations of your trip. Don’t forget to factor in any layovers in additional countries, and mention the airline’s country of origin, too. If you’re on an Aer Lingus flight en route to London, for example, you won’t be able to make in-flight purchases if your bank doesn’t know it’s okay to authorize purchases in Ireland.
Check your PIN:
- Does it have four digits? Great! Many countries will accept only four-digit PINs. Double-check the standards in your destination, just to be safe.
- Does it start with a 0? Many countries won’t accept a PIN that starts that way.
- Contact your bank if you’re in doubt or need to make a change.
☑ Figure out your international phone plan.
Talk to your phone company. Tell them the dates you’ll be traveling abroad, then ask what your options are. Can you switch to an international plan? Do they have local phone rental options in the country you’re going to? Can they simply suspend your service while you’re gone? Find out. You might also consider buying a cheap phone in your destination. Pair a $50 phone with a local prepaid SIM card, and hello, international social life.
Avoid unexpected overages:
- Turn off data roaming, push notifications, and automatic email refreshes. These use data that you might end up paying for. Don’t let your phone roam in another country, unless you want your phone bill to cost more than your trip.
- Stay in airplane mode. Sorry, phone addicts. Keep that phone on airplane mode unless you specifically need to make a call or check email in a free hotspot area. Otherwise, whenever someone calls you—ding!—you will get charged.
- Use a map that works offline. Maybe you’re an old-school paper-map person. But if you aren’t, look into map apps that work even when your phone is in airplane mode, such as Maps.Me, which has maps of practically everywhere on the planet.
Editor’s Tip: Back up your photos before you leave. That way you’ll have plenty of room for taking new vacation snapshots, especially if you won’t be connected to the cloud during your trip.
☑ Photocopy everything. Everything.
Ever wonder how you’d get home if you lost your passport abroad? How would you board a plane? How would you even check into a hotel? You’d actually be OK . . . if you had photocopies of all your important documents on hand.
Keep your documents safe:
- What to photocopy: your passport, driver’s license, credit cards (front and back), and any vital pieces of paper you’ll need on your trip.
- Make duplicates. Keep one set in your luggage (or anywhere safe that isn’t your wallet), and give one set of copies to a trusted friend in the States.
- Stash valuable documents wisely. Consider leaving your license and a credit card in your hotel’s safe or your suitcase. That way, if your wallet does get stolen, you won’t be completely helpless.
Editor’s Tip: Register your trip with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)—it informs the nearest US Consulate that you’ll be in the area and how to contact you, in case of an emergency at home or abroad.
☑ Get acquainted with local customs before you travel.
There’s nothing wrong with looking a little lost or confused when you visit a new place, but passing for a local brings a thrill all its own. Learn about your destination’s common practices before you go and write them down, either on paper or in the notes section of your phone for speedy reference.
Do your research, then let it pay off:
- Keep foreign-language phrases handy. Sure, you’ve practiced “where is the bathroom?” in Italian a hundred times, but what if jet lag makes you forgetful? Write it down!
- Get ready for dinner. Do waiters get tipped in the country you’re visiting? If you order water with your meal, will you be brought tap, still, or sparkling—and will there be an upcharge? Make sure to brush up on dining customs before you sit down for a meal.
- Be crosswalk-conscious. If locals drive on the left instead of the right, you’ll need to adjust the way you assess traffic before crossing the street. Be extra careful of oncoming vehicles, and don’t even think about jaywalking.