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.
☑ Know Your Passport & State Requirements
Before you go abroad, make sure you know the basics:
- A passport is required for all travel outside the U.S.
- Passports must be valid for at least six months after the date of travel, and contain at least two blank visa pages.
- Before international travel, always check the State Department's website for important info on the destination and its entry/exit requirements.
Need to renew your passport? Make sure you've got at least six weeks before your trip! If you wait, the best you can hope for is two to three weeks, with a hefty fee for the expediting. So don't wait.
☑ Tell your bank you'll be traveling abroad.
Call your bank, or put up a travel notice on your account online to let them know the dates and locations of your trip. Don't forget to factor in any layovers in additional countries, too. Many banks no longer require you to notify them, but if you're not sure it's best to call anyway because no money = no fun.
☑ Check your pin number.
Most countries will only accept four-digit PINs and some don't allow pins to start with a 0. Double-check the standards in your destination, and contact your bank if you're in doubt or need to make a change.
☑ Figure out your international phone plan.
Talk to your network to find out which phone plan is best for your trip abroad. Some providers offer a fairly flexible plan for an additional $10/day, which means you can opt into the program and then keep your phone in airplane mode unless it's an emergency. You can also download international-friendly apps like WhatsApp for texting over WiFi that uses less data than traditional texting.
However, if you'd rather disconnect completely, here are some tips to avoid unexpected overages and keep you offline:
- Turn off data roaming and push notifications.
- Stay in airplane mode.
- Use a map that works offline.
- Save your plane tickets and reservations in your digital wallet or take screenshots so you can access them offline.
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 yourself safe and at-ease by photocopying these important documents:
- Your passport
- Driver's license
- Credit cards (front and back)
- Vital pieces of paper like lodging confirmations or receipts
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.
☑ Do your research before you travel.
There's nothing wrong with looking a little lost or confused when you visit a new place. But if you do your research beforehand, it will have more payoff. Stock up on any foreign-language phrase books. Read up to understand basic customs, like tipping bartenders or waiters. Familiarize yourself with any transportation like how to take the train, crosswalks, or even hailing a cab. The more you know the better. Here are a few handy apps that'll make all of that easier:
- Lonely Planet: downloadable maps that work offline, tips on top attractions and restaurants, limited phrasebooks
- Duolingo & Tinycards: simple language-learning apps that'll introduce you to the basics of more than two dozen languages
- Google Translate: simple translator app that allows you to download limited dictionaries so it'll work offline and has an amazing photo feature so you can simply take a picture of what you want translated and the app will do the rest
- Groupon: I mean, c'mon. We couldn't forget us, could we? Check for local deals wherever you're traveling!
This article was originally published in a slightly different format, and has since been modified by our editors.