Planning a trip overseas doesn’t have to be stressful. Whether it’s your first time leaving the country, you’re getting ready for a solo trip, or a seasoned traveler, the key to having a good time while traveling abroad is to prepare for the journey ahead. It’s a good idea to tie up loose ends before you take off so you can enjoy every minute of your adventure abroad.
Here’s a checklist of ten things to do before traveling abroad to help you get ready for your next trip!
1) Passport & Visas
Did you check the expiration date on your passport? Do you have more than six months before it expires? Don’t get stuck at the airport with your bags packed because you forgot to renew your passport on time. Some airlines won’t let you board if your passport is not valid for up to six months after travel.
Top Tip: Take a picture of your passport and any visas you need and email it to yourself, so you have that information available if it gets lost or stolen.
After you’ve decided where you want to go, check to see if you’ll need a visa before you get there. Some places will grant you visas on the spot without a fee, while others require you to submit paperwork in advance. When I checked in for my first flight to Australia, I had to pay an extra $50 for an expedited visa because I didn’t bother to check if I needed one. Oops! A mistake I could have avoided had I done my research.
2) Getting cash without paying ATM fees
While you can bring money with you, eventually, you’ll need to get to an ATM to get more out. Find a bank that doesn’t charge you ATM fees. That way, you don’t have to take out large sums of cash. I use Charles Schwab and get reimbursed for ATM fees when I use cash machines around the world. Tell your bank about your travel plans to prevent any disruptions while you’re away. (You can do this online or on the phone.)
Be sure to check the expiration date on your card and order a new one if it’s going to expire during your trip. Charles Schwab sent me a replacement card via FedEx to Nicaragua when I realized it was about to expire. (It can take approximately two weeks to arrive, so let your hotel/hostel know that you are expecting mail and when you plan to pick it up.)
Avoid changing money at the airport. You won’t get a great rate. I prefer to wait until I get to a money changer in town for a better deal. If I have time, I’ll change any leftover bills to the local currency of the country I’m visiting next, just in case I need to pay for something when crossing the border. Never assume there will be an ATM at the border.
3) Search for Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees
Whether you’re booking a flight or accommodations for your trip, find a credit card that offers amazing rewards and travel perks. Look for credit cards that offer bonus miles for signing up. I like the United Explorer card because I don’t get charged foreign transaction fees. I earned enough miles and flew from Los Angeles to Hawaii for $6 with my United Explorer Card.
Just like your ATM card, notify your credit card company when you’re traveling, so your bank doesn’t suspect fraud. Check the expiration date to make sure it won’t expire soon and keep a copy in a safe place in case it gets lost or stolen.
4) Travel Insurance
When it comes to travel insurance, it’s not a question of IF you’ll need it, but WHEN you’ll need it. I’ve sprained my ankle in Nicaragua, was injured in a moped accident in Bali, and needed prescriptions filled in Australia. I’ve been reimbursed for those costs because I had travel insurance.
Accidents happen, make sure you’re covered so you can get medical attention when you get injured in another country.
5) Travel Immunizations
Are you up-to-date with your travel vaccinations? Another thing to do before traveling abroad is to make sure you have the vaccinations you need. I always pack my yellow vaccination card, because you never know when you might need it. I had to show my yellow card when crossing the border into Brazil and again in Honduras. Check with your doctor to see what you’ll need before your trip and plan to do this at least a month before you travel.
Here is a list of vaccinations for different countries.
6) Proof of onward travel
Some countries require proof that you have plans to exit the country at the end of your visa. Immigration agents want to make sure you won’t stay longer than you’re supposed to. That means you may be asked to show a flight, bus or train ticket with your name and the date. I usually show the agents an email with my itinerary on my phone.
If you’ve only purchased a one-way ticket, and don’t know where your next destination will be after visiting that country, don’t panic.
Book a 24-hour refundable flight on Orbitz.com or Expedia.com on the day you plan to travel. Make sure it says “cancel for free within 24 hours” so you get your money back. Show the email to the agent if they ask you for proof of onward travel.
7) Cell phones & SIM Cards
You don’t need an expensive International phone plan to travel. You can a) rely on Wi-Fi from your hotel or any restaurant you visit (if they have it), or b) buy a SIM card in each country you plan to visit.
If you don’t mind having limited access to the internet, then Wi-FI will work for you. Most hotels/hostels, restaurants, and some city parks or shopping malls have free internet access.
SIM cards are cheap, and you can get a phone plan for a day, week, or month for approximately $10 or less depending on the country you’re in and the plan you choose. Head to a phone store or kiosk and buy a SIM for your phone. You can swap the card yourself, or ask the person at the counter to do it for you. You’ll need to make sure your phone is unlocked (not tied to a specific carrier.)
I’ve never lost any photos or contacts by switching SIM cards. You can also keep your current Whatsapp number or use the new one.
8) Download maps.me or google maps
If you haven’t had a chance to get a new SIM card, remember to download maps on your phone before you arrive at your destination. That way, you can find your way around without internet access. You don’t need Wi-Fi to access Maps.Me, but you will need to use the internet to download any maps before you can use it.
9) Finding the Right Accommodations
Unless you are traveling during holidays or school breaks, you don’t have to book your accommodations weeks in advance. I’ve found affordable deals using Booking.com on the same day as well as weeks in advance.
Top Tip for Digital Nomads: If you plan to work during your stay, contact the owner/manager to ask about the internet speed. Read reviews to see if there are any issues with the internet, so you don’t have any interruptions while you work.
10) Do your Research
- + Check your dates to see if there will be any holidays in the country you’re visiting that can impact your travel.
- + Travel during the low season to save money and avoid crowds.
- + Check the weather so you can plan for any delays and pack accordingly.
- + Avoid baggage fees by making sure you get a free checked bag and pack light.
- + Bring a travel adaptor for your electronics so that you can use various types of outlets to charge your computer and camera.
- + Traveling with a drone? Check to see if you can bring it into the country you plan on visiting.
Don’t stress. Have fun!
You’re about to go on an exciting adventure. Even seasoned adventurers know you can’t plan every detail when traveling. The good news is, now you know what things you should do before traveling abroad. Learn to go with the flow and try not to stress if you miss a flight, or your bag doesn’t make it to your destination. (It happens, that’s why you got travel insurance!) Don’t try to plan too much because sometimes things work out a different way. That’s the beauty of travel; it’s always an adventure!
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