International Travel Checklist: 7 Things to Do Before Leaving the Country

Taken in one of the master suites at the El Santuario Resort & Spa in valle de bravo, mexico

Taken in one of the master suites at the El Santuario Resort & Spa in valle de bravo, mexico

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.

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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.

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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.

Happy travels!

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Your Ultimate Guide to Wine Country's Hidden Gem

The gorgeous and welcoming interior at Spoonbar, located in downtown healdsburg, ca.

The gorgeous and welcoming interior at Spoonbar, located in downtown healdsburg, ca.

Located a mere hour and a half's drive north of San Francisco (that's about 65 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge), the charming town of Healdsburg, CA, is the perfect wine country weekend getaway.

For busy city dwellers and Bay Area visitors alike, the town is still fairly under-the-radar — which, if you ask me, is ideal for those accustomed to the chaos fueled by Napa and Sonoma during the summertime months. 

So why Healdsburg, you ask? Think cozy tasting rooms and wineries, plus local bistros brimming with delicious organic and farm-to-table eats to nosh on.

Every block has at least one winery — sometimes two. If that's not enough to draw you in, fellow winos, consider this: It's all about the experience while visiting this hidden wine country gem. 

And if you're looking for that truly well-rounded experience while visiting, sign up for one of SAVOR Healdsburg's walking food and wine tours! You won't regret it — I certainly didn't. Now let me walk you through the places that gave me a taste for this little northern Sonoma Valley town.

Photos are my own, unless stated otherwise.

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The Taste of Tea

The Taste of Tea is a lounge that offers a unique culinary experience combining, in their words, "art and science." The menu is replete with delicious tea and specialty drinks, along with tasting flights and more. They also offer spa services in their Relaxation Lounge.  

If you're like me and grew up drinking tea, you'll love this place — and leave with an incredible wealth of newfound knowledge on the subject.

You can also opt for a gemstone-infused water tasting flight — but only if you're into radiating overall feelings of happiness and wellbeing, of course.

Or, if you're a matcha lover (same!), you'll want to try one of their famous, nonalcoholic “marteanis." These are gemstone-infused mocktails served in martini glasses, and created from a mixture of cold drip teas, sweet syrups, fresh herbs, and a delicious sugar-coated rim. Utterly delectable.

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Portalupi Wines

Next I got the chance to stop by the Portalupi Wines tasting room, after the eponymous winery. Portalupi is an open, affable, and family-run tasting room with a focus on Italian varietals, locally produced wines, and the “Cal-Ital" lifestyle.

Perfectly enticing for food and wine pairings, this cozy tasting room is a definite must when making the rounds about town, though it's slightly hidden away. Portalupi also offers a special refillable "wine in a glass milk bottle" deal that can't be beat, especially for those visiting during the week! Take yours to go while settling in for a little picnic at Healdsburg's music in the park plaza events. They take place on Tuesday evenings throughout the summer.

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Bravas Bar de Tapas

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After a long afternoon of wine tasting, your next stop should definitely be award-winning, authentic Spanish tapas restaurant and bar, Bravas Bar de Tapas.

You'll want to settle into a spot on one of the prettiest patios in town, like I did, and dig in to as many delicious small plates and bites as you can possibly manage!

If you're a fan of goat cheese, try the goat cheese toast with caramelized golden onions and white truffle honey.

The Patatas Bravas — fried potatoes with a kickin' hot tomato sauce and garlic aioli drizzled over — are another delicious choice.

The specialty cocktails should not be glazed over, either — with a sparkling sangria option that is just as heavenly as it sounds, or mezcal- and habanero tequila-infused libations like “Feel the Bern," you just can't go wrong.

Young & Yonder Spirits

Newly opened artisan craft distillery Young & Yonder is another must while in Healdsburg. The distillery offers a selection of handcrafted vodka, gin, absinthe, and whiskey. Plus, it's located in an industrial park warehouse, which was recreated into a sumptuous — and spacious — tasting room. Here it's all about the vibe.

Young & Yonder spirits are produced in small batches by husband and wife team, Josh and Sarah Opatz. The two left their homes and careers in San Francisco to make the move up to Sonoma County and realize their dream of opening their own craft distillery. And recently realize it they did, to critical acclaim.

Dry Creek Peach Farm

Although July through August sees Dry Creek Peach Farm's glorious peach season in full swing, I lucked out in that the day of my visit — a breezy, mild day in late May — coincided with the family-run farm's first peach picking! 

When husband and wife duo, Brian Sullivan and Gayle Okumura Sullivan, informed me that their first batch of peaches had sold out in 20 minutes flat (!), I knew I had to try one for myself. And, even as a California girl, I'll never look at any other peach the same way again.

That's not even to mention the delicious peach bellinis Gayle whipped up for me, which we happily sipped on while discussing the ins and outs of the farm, upcoming stone fruit season, and all of the different varietals of peaches they offer, of which there are hundreds. 

She even shared with me that when the New York Times asked Alice Waters what she would order for her last supper, the famous chef and author's response was, “I would have a Last Chance peach. In late August or September."

If it's good enough for Alice Waters, it's certainly good enough for me! So if you're in the area, I would 10/10 recommend making the drive out to Dry Creek Valley to try one of their famous peaches for yourself. Inquiring minds might like to know that the famous Dry Creek peach bellini mix is available for purchase as well.

Spoonbar

Situated in the heart of Healdsburg, Spoonbar is a seafood restaurant and cocktail bar with an array of artisanal craft spirits, cocktails, and local California cuisine on the menu. This uber-swanky lounge has an open, airy interior and colorful decor that serves to place its mouthwatering fare on even more vibrant display.

When I say that Spoonbar's creamy, fluffy Parmesan and pecorino risotto, with little bursts of flavor from the truffle “caviar", is actually life-changing — I mean it. 

Offerings on the wine list and cocktail menu are not to be ignored either. With wines sourced from nearby Russian River and Dry Creek, along with positively divine tequila and whipped egg white-infused libations, like the one pictured here — there are endless options to choose from.

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DaVero Farms & Winery

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DaVero Farms & Winery is, first and foremost, a farm that operates under Biodynamic® principles. 

Nestled as it is within the Mediterranean microclimate of Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley, it makes sense that owners Ridgely Evers and Colleen McGlynn made the decision to grow olive trees when they first found the land that became their home farm over 30 years ago. 

Nowadays, though, DaVero is home to far more than just olive groves. A stroll through the grounds surpasses burgeoning gardens and estate vineyards, citrus, lavender, a variety of produce, fruit trees and, yes, those famous olive trees. That's not even including animals like their chickens, sheep, and pigs! 

DaVero is unique in that it also offers a variety of tasting experiences. Because their approach is farming first, they also offer private “farm to bottle" tours of the farm in addition to wine and olive oil tastings, an experience I got the chance to undergo with Colleen. 

Colleen shared that at DaVero, they do not believe in flavor manipulation. Because they are not looking to make wines that are uniform or predictable, that means that they don't always know what they are going to get year in and year out. 

“But that's the beauty of working with what you have out there," Colleen told me. They strive to create wines that elicit “the truest expression of that grape, in that place and time."

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Duchamp Hotel

Lastly, let's just say that the Duchamp Hotel does not fall under your typical wine country digs. Named for legendary 20th-century French surrealist Marcel Duchamp, design aficionados and lovers of an intimate villa experience alike will go wild for the Duchamp.

Additionally, although it's slightly tucked away, the Duchamp is located about two blocks from Healdsburg's main plaza. This makes it a hop, skip and a jump away from the many tasting rooms in the area. 

When you get back from a long day of wining and dining, spacious private bungalows will lend a welcoming overnight experience to your stay there. Perfect for a romantic getaway! Or, if you go solo as I did, ensconcing yourself in one of the lovely bungalow cottages on the hotel property is ideal for some serious downtime.

A version of this article first appeared on Livingly.com. It was also featured on Healdsburg.com.