Prepping for an international trip can be hectic, to say the least. You’ve got a million different things to remember (not to mention remember to pack), before adding some glorious new stamps to your passport and setting foot on foreign soil. Who wants to be that person who abruptly realizes, while standing in line at airport security, that they’ve forgotten their passport at home? Certainly not I.
If you’re like me, you derive a large part of the joy you get from the entire experience of traveling in planning the trip itself, and in little details like this. But even if you’re not, that’s what I’m here for!
Keep reading for the 7 things you need to do before leaving the country, ahead — and then get to checking ’em off your to-do list before jetting off overseas.
1. Make Sure You Have A Valid Passport (And/Or Visa)
First things first: Make sure you have a valid passport. If this is your first time traveling abroad (and even if it’s not), it’s important to know that different countries have different regulations — with some requiring your passport remain valid for at least 6 months from your return date. I don’t have to tell you what a buzzkill it would be if your passport’s not up-to-date! In some cases, you may even need to expedite it. Been there — like I had to when traveling to Costa Rica in January.
This is obvious, but equally important: You’ll want to check, and then double-check, that you brought your passport when you’re actually headed off! I like to take photos of mine while traveling, just in case; that way, I can leave it locked in the safe in my hotel room for safekeeping, while still technically having the information “on hand.” This is necessary in countries like Costa Rica, where if you get stopped by authorities, you’re required to show your travel documents.
Pro tip: Make copies of any other important travel documents and store them on your phone locally. That way, you’ll still have access to them even if your Wi-Fi is spotty.
2. Check For Travel Advisories
It’s always a good idea to check travel advisories before you get to your destination. This means anything from inclement weather conditions to safety advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State (which you can check here).
If you really want to be prepared, you can register for STEP, or the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, to receive important alerts and enable others to find you more easily in case of an emergency.
3. Notify Your Bank And Credit Card Companies
With the advent of chip technology, not all credit card companies require you to notify them when traveling internationally, but it’s always good to cover your bases!
4. Exchange currency beforehand
I’d suggest using your credit card whenever possible, but exchanging currency before your travels, so that you have cash on deck if need be. You can also withdraw money from an ATM once you’ve arrived at your destination, but depending where in the world you are, exchange rates can be risky.
5. Upgrade Your Phone Plan
If you ask me, upgrading to an international phone plan while traveling is a game-changer. Wi-Fi can be unpredictable at best, depending on where you’re going, and even potentially dangerous to use in some areas — hey, the frequency of identity theft is a sad truth in today’s world.
Most phone plans make it extremely easy to purchase an international plan, and pay an allotted price per day for unlimited data usage. And if you ask me, it’s totally worth it to be able to post real-time updates on the 'gram — not to mention be able to use Google Maps wherever you go. (Okay, so maybe I don’t have the best sense of direction, and of course there’s nothing like the feeling of getting lost in a new city… but sometimes you really do need to figure out where you’re going!)
6. Do Your Research
This one is KEY, in the same vein with double-checking travel advisories before taking off on your trip! It’s important to do your research when traveling to another country, whether it’s something as seemingly obvious as checking the weather, making a plan for how you’ll get from the airport to your hotel or Airbnb, or practicing simple phrases in the language.
Being aware of cultural customs (i.e. dressing appropriately) is also important to bear in mind when traveling to certain regions in the world. It can even make or break your trip.
7. Check-In to your flight Early
Last but not least: Check-in to your flight early, if you can — and be sure to get to the airport at least 2 hours before your flight. If you’re like me, you’re almost always running late. This means you should absolutely plan for that while heading to the airport, to keep abreast of any last-minute snafus. Especially if you’re taking a red-eye flight.