Traveling internationally brings a specific set of challenges to travelers well beyond that of any domestic trip. Documentation, licensing, insurance, healthcare and bill payments at home are all important considerations. I have created a checklist to keep you covered and hopefully help ensure a problem-free international trip:
Check for country specific entry/exit requirements including visas, country warnings and advisories. You can find this on your government's travel website. In the US this is travel.state.gov and travel.gc.ca in Canada. These sites are a great place to learn detailed information about foreign county's entry, exit and visa requirements for Americans and Canadians. Travelers can find detailed information about safety and security problems, too. Also check their 'alerts and warnings' page for current and specific warnings and alerts around the world.
Register each trip. Register all international trips free of charge on step.state.gov (Americans) travel.gc.ca (Canadians). The service allows those traveling abroad to enroll their trip details online. The information entered is available to the appropriate American and Canadian Embassies and Consulates in case of emergency. They use it to phone, text and/or send you email alerts in case of local or family emergencies or possible evacuations.
Make sure your passport has six-month validity. Many countries around the word require visitors' passports to be valid for at least six months, either when they enter or leave their country. Renew your passport at least 8 or 9 months before its expiration just to be safe.
See if you need an International Drivers Permit. If you plan to drive in a foreign country, be aware that many countries don't recognize other driver's licenses as valid without an accompanying international driver's permit. Do your research first.
Have copies of all your travel documents available in case they are lost or stolen. In years past, savvy international travelers carried multiple printed copies of all their travel documents, passports, tickets, itinerary, wallet contents, etc. and left a copy with a friend or relative at home in case the documents were lost or stolen. Today, instead of printed copies, I recommend keeping them in password protected Adobe PDF files on your smartphone and tablet, plus saved on an online data storage service like iCloud.
Obtain necessary vaccinations for traveling to your destination and fill all prescriptions.
Check travel.state.gov or travel.gc.ca for any vaccines, medicines and additional medical advice for the destination you are traveling to. Also, speak with your physician about vaccinations and medication for your trip. Fill any prescription you'll need for your journey. Have a complete supply, plus some extra medication for the full duration of your trip. Keep them in their original containers to prove validity. Bring copies of every prescription and proof of every vaccination you have for your trip.
Investigate travel and health insurance to use while traveling. You may need to obtain health insurance for your trip. Check any work benefits and credit card coverage you may have to ensure you are protected. If not, don't leave the country without emergency travel medical coverage at a minimum.
Manage your credit cards and ATM card for international travel. If you don't have one, get a credit card that won't charge you high fees for international use. Make sure your ATM card will work internationally so you'll be able to obtain local currency quickly and easily. Before you leave, call your credit card company to give them your trip's destinations to prevent potential fraud problems.
Bring cash from home and some local cash if you're not flying into a major airport. Too many people forget to bring emergency cash for their return home. If you're flying into a small airport at your destination it may be difficult to obtain local cash there, so bring it from home. Otherwise it's generally easy and inexpensive to obtain local currency at bank based ATM's.
Contact your smartphone cellular provider for international travel. Your smartphone can be your best friend in an emergency or if you're lost walking in a big city, so make sure you don't break the bank using it. Without an international data plan and/or calling plan, you can rack up high charges quickly. Alternatively, consider purchasing or renting a local cellphone or SIM at your destination.
Be prepared to use local electricity to power/charge your laptop, tablet, smartphone, camera, etc. Bring the correct plug adaptors necessary to use local power at your destinations. Ensure your devices can handle the voltage or bring a transformer.
Hopefully this checklist makes your next trip international trip a smooth journey. Just keep in mind that even more planning may be necessary for your specific trip - particularly if it's off the beaten path. That being said, an experienced travel agent can be an invaluable resource to help you plan every detail of your next trip.
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