Taking your first international trip can be exciting but also a little scary, especially if you’re not well-prepared. Even if you’re an experienced traveler in your home country, going overseas presents its own set of challenges, but they’re easily managed with proper preparation.
We’ve assembled a checklist of several critical planning steps for your next international trip. Follow all of them, and you’ll be well on your way to an exhilarating globetrotting adventure.
International Travel Checklist: 10 Steps To Take
With any kind of travel, it pays to stay organized. As you might expect, the biggest differences between domestic and international travel are often bureaucratic ones –– documents that are necessary to get you past a checkpoint and on to a thrilling experience. Having an international travel checklist will help you stay on top of the most important tasks, so you’re ready when the big day arrives.
1. Get Vaccinated
If you want to stay healthy during your international travels, you need to get vaccinated. This is especially true if you’re traveling to developing countries where you could encounter diseases that are rare in the U.S.
At least 6 to 8 weeks before your trip, make an appointment with a travel clinic to go over your current vaccine record and learn which vaccines you’ll need. Many countries are now requiring the COVID-19 vaccine, and you’ll need to show your CDC vaccine card or a recent negative test result to enter.
2. Research Visa Requirements
The American passport is one of the most powerful in the world; there are only a couple dozen countries that require U.S. citizens to apply for a visa prior to arrival. If you’re visiting one of them, though, you’ll want to apply early.
Processing of visa applications is notoriously slow in many of these countries and may require you to send additional documentation. Fortunately, there are over 140 countries that Americans can visit visa-free!
3. Purchase Travel Insurance
Travel insurance covers more than just lost luggage or canceled itineraries. Most policies also provide medical insurance, since your home country insurance likely won’t pay for doctor’s visits abroad. Purchasing evacuation insurance will ensure your quick evacuation in case of an emergency, injury, or a natural disaster.
4. Sign Up for State Department Notifications
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) provides consular support to U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad. The State Department also sends out notifications relevant to your destination country to inform you of natural disasters, evacuation announcements, and changes in the security situation.
5. Check Your Passport’s Validity
Many countries won’t let you enter if your passport expires in six months or less. If you’re planning a multi-country trip, check to see if your passport has enough pages left for stamps and visas.
6. Decide How You’ll Stay Connected
International phone calls can cost you a few dollars a minute, which isn’t great for regaling your friends and family with stories from your trip. Fortunately, there are loads of options for staying connected on international trips, including Skype, which is free over Wi-Fi and only a few cents per minute if calling a landline or cell phone. Services like WhatsApp and FaceTime are also great options, as they are free to use when traveling abroad as long as you are using Wi-Fi. If you want to use your phone’s data capabilities while abroad, your best bet is to pick up a local SIM card (you’ll need to ensure your phone is unlocked first).
7. Apply for an International Driving Permit
If you’re renting a car abroad, it’s always a good idea to carry an international driving permit (IDP). They’re issued by the American Automobile Association (AAA) along with the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) and contain all the information on your state driver’s license but in a standardized format. IDPs are valid for a year and can be purchased in person at AAA or AATA’s office. You can also mail in an application, which could take a few weeks.
8. Read Up on Your Destination
How should I dress? What is the local language? What kind of power outlets do they use? While spontaneity is a big part of travel, learning a little bit about your destination can go a long way towards having a good experience on your next trip.
Getting a guidebook for your destination is probably the easiest way to learn, but you can also read travel blogs, watch YouTube videos, and peruse travel forums for a more personal perspective on the country.
9. Make a Packing List
A list within a checklist? You bet! A packing list prevents you from forgetting something essential, but just as important, it’ll stop you from overpacking. Only bring the things you’ll actually use. Here’s a sample packing list for an international trip.
- Essential medications: prescriptions, allergy meds, Tylenol
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Plug adaptors: Find out which type of outlet your destination uses
- First aid kit: buy a small off-the-shelf one made for travelers
- Laptop, phone, and E-reader plus their chargers
- Headphones: you might need a different pair than your phone’s to plug into your plane’s entertainment system
- A power bank: a small one in case your phone goes dead while you’re out and about
- Hand sanitizer
- Water bottle
- A Travel pillow, eye mask, and earplugs: these are invaluable on a flight
- Credit Cards
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and a foldable hat
- Comfortable walking shoes
- A pair of flip-flops
- Fleece jacket: useful on the plane even if your destination is tropical
*Most toiletries can be purchased at your destination if you forget something, and if you’re not checking a bag, your liquids allowance is limited.
Map Out the Route from the Airport to Your Hotel
If you’re staying at a well-known resort or hotel chain, you can probably just tell the taxi or rideshare driver the name of it and get there fine. However, many international travelers are using Airbnb, or booking boutique hotels that drivers will be unfamiliar with.
Your booking should come with coordinates that you can use with Google Maps to help direct you and your driver. Additionally, if your destination has suitable public transportation, you can experience the subway or bus system –– extra points for being an adventurous traveler!
Preparing for International Travel With TravelBug Health
Looking for more information on which vaccinations to get and safety precautions to take before going on an international trip?
TravelBug Health can help you prepare with a pre-travel health consultation and recommend the best vaccines to get before going abroad. Our consultants will assess your health history and risks to keep you safe when traveling overseas. You can receive all of the necessary vaccinations at TravelBug Health in Scottsdale, AZ. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or give us a call at (480) 435-2774.