A good trip is the result of good planning. And while you’ve left the details to the experts, there are a few things to consider before zipping up your bag for the last time and boarding your flight.
Fortunately, we’ve broken it down to a ten-step plan to ensure you have a safe, comfortable, and most importantly, enjoyable time abroad.
1. Check Your Passport and Apply for Any Necessary Visas
The moment after you decide to take a big trip should be the moment you take a look at the expiration date on your passport. It's a good rule of thumb that your passport be valid for at least six months after the date of your departure. While some countries allow you to enter with less, it’s a good idea to take a look at the State Department’s website for full details, just to be sure. If your expiration date is approaching, don’t put off renewing your passport.
Tourist visas are not required for entry into every country, but you will need a visa for many nations around the world. As soon as you know your destination(s), review visa requirements on the State Department’s website. It is important to note that depending on your destination, the visa application process can be costly and time consuming. It’s best to start working on it as soon as possible!
2. Get Vaccinated and Stock Up on Medicine
You want to be healthy and feeling good on your trip. Depending on where you're going, you may need to get special vaccines or medications—just in case. For the most comprehensive and up-to-date recommendations, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. The CDC lists health advisories by country and makes it easy to understand what you need. If you have any questions, be sure to consult your primary physician.
If take prescription medication, be sure you have enough to cover your needs for the entire duration (and if you're really being safe, a few extra days) of your travels.
And finally, you won’t regret carrying along a box of Tums, some ibuprofen, and Pepto-Bismol.
3. Prepare your Credit Cards & Pull Some Cash
Before you set off, it is important that you call or check with your credit card providers to let them know where you will be going and for how long. If companies see foreign charges without notice that you are abroad, they will immediately freeze your cards. If you've experienced this, you know it can be extremely frustrating to coordinate with credit card companies while you are trying to enjoy your trip. The easiest way to avoid this headache is taking care of it before you leave. Many credit card companies now enable users to set Travel Notifications online.
Another suggestion is to pull a little cash prior to departure for any incidentals you may need en-route to your destination and when you arrive.
4. Call your Carrier.
Mobile phones are ubiquitous these days: You’ll have full bars from the beach in Cabo all the way to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. If you plan on using your phone at all during your trip, be sure you set up an international roaming plan before you leave the country. Plans range in price and package capabilities but are relatively inexpensive, especially considering how quickly roaming and data charges add up if you forget to let your provider know.
5. Make Copies of your Travel Documents
Before you go, don’t forget to make at least one color copy of your passport ID page and any visas that pertain to the trip you are about to take. Store these copies separately from your passport. Hotel reservations, itineraries, vouchers, train ticket confirmations, flight confirmations, and all other travel documents should be copied as well.
If you don’t feel like carrying paper, we suggest you load all of your documents onto a USB drive for digital access.
6. Get the Necessary Gear for your Gadgets
Electrical outlets are different all over the world, so you may need adapters that allow you to plug-in wherever you are. Your best bet is to buy an adapter with different settings, so that you only have to worry about one extra electronic device.
It goes without saying, but don’t forget to bring all chargers, cables, and batteries that you may need to keep your devices up and running.
7. Learn Key Phrases in the Local Language
It’s helpful to practice and learn key phrases like “hello,” “thank you,” and “please.” Regardless of where you are, a little effort in the local language goes a long way. You may mispronounce a word or two, but at least you’re trying!
If you have any food allergies, restrictions, or medical conditions, it’s important to learn how to inform others of these issues. If you don’t feel comfortable with your language abilities, print off a document with relevant phrases or make flashcards to carry with you.
8. Check the Climate and Customs
Feeling comfortable in a new place is key. Before you pack, do a little research to understand the climate during your travel dates. Reconcile the weather with local customs. Depending on where you go, it may be advised that men wear long pants during meal times and women cover their shoulders when touring. Most religious sites require conservative attire. As guests abroad, it is important to be respectful and sensitive to local customs.
9. Buy Health and Travel Insurance
Before you go, check your health insurance and credit card policies to see if either includes international coverage. If not, it is recommended that you consider a short-term policy that will take care of your costs and needs while you are abroad should something unexpected happen. Policies and coverage vary from provider to provider, but the basic idea is that you can have your money refunded if your trip is cancelled or postponed, and that any health costs associated with your trip are covered.
10. Learn About Your Destination
Finally, traveling is most enjoyable and rewarding when you know a thing or two about the place. Understanding local customs, history, traditions, and a general sense of the host-country’s way of life will be valuable as you pack and once you arrive. Take a visit to your local bookstore and browse books on your destination. We recommend splitting your attention between fiction and non-fiction. Similarly, research a movie or two that relate to your destination. Not only will you become more familiar with the new place, but you will feel greater anticipation for your trip!
Our goal is to ensure you are prepared and ready to enjoy an amazing trip. If you have any questions at home or abroad, don't hesitate to reach out!