You just booked your first trip overseas and you’re super excited! You spent time researching the places you’ll go, mapping out your itinerary and buying the perfect travel backpack. All you’ve got to do now is book the flight. Right? Wrong!
You’ve spent so much time dreaming about this trip, the last thing you want is a lack of proper planning to keep you from fully enjoying the experience. Finding out last minute that you don’t have the proper paperwork or easily accessible cash can throw a major wrench in your plans.
Here is a quick checklist to make sure you’ve gotten all the details squared away so you can minimize the stress and maximize the fun of overseas travel!
Passport: If this is your first time traveling internationally, apply for your passport as soon as possible. It typically takes between 6-8 weeks to receive it. If you already have one, make sure to check and see that it’s current. Some countries require that your passport be valid for six months beyond your stay, so even if it isn’t technically expired, you may want to renew anyway to save yourself problems later.
Research Visa Requirements: Fortunately, there are many places that Americans can go without a visa. But, the last thing you need after a long flight is to find out that you are unable to enter without one. US citizens can check the State Department website to find the requirements of each country. Some countries may require weeks or months to get the necessary paperwork, so make sure to give yourself enough time.
Get Immunized: Contracting an illness while abroad can not only ruin your vacation but can sometimes result in months of recovery. The CDC has a comprehensive list of the vaccines you’ll need for each travel destination. Make sure to get the shots at least a month before travel so that they are fully effective. It can also be helpful to consult with a pharmacy or clinic that specializes in travel vaccines to stay updated on the most recent health issues around the world.
Get Your Finances in Order: It’s always a good idea to contact your credit card companies before you travel overseas. Not only will it prevent them from suspending your account due to “suspicious activity,” it will also give you the opportunity to ask questions about international fees. If you don’t know your PIN number, now is the time to find it out. Many credit transactions in Europe require a PIN. It can also be helpful to transfer some cash at your local bank before your trip. You can wait and do it at the airport, but airports are notorious for having terrible exchange rates.
Make Copies of Important Documents: You can never be too prepared when it comes to having your paperwork in order. Hard copies of your boarding passes and passports can be tremendously helpful if something goes awry. It’s also a good idea to take pictures of your documents and save them on your phone as a backup. If you are traveling with friends, carry copies of each other’s passports, just in case one of you has their documents stolen.
Check Your Cellphone Plan: A phone can be of tremendous assistance when you’re traveling. But, make sure to check with your cell phone company about fees and coverage. There are several options which you can discuss with your carrier. You can use your phone only when you have WIFI (making sure to keep cell data off), purchase an international plan, unlock your phone to use a local SIM card, or rent a personal hotspot.
Consider Travel Insurance: If your existing insurance doesn’t cover your travel or your plans are indefinite, you may want to consider travel insurance. There are a range of different policy options from health insurance to trip cancellation. Having that extra layer of protection can be an excellent way to clear your head of worries and go back to dreaming of the amazing adventure that awaits you!