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20 Tips To Prepare For International Travel

“Travel brings power and love back to your life. -Rumi”

  1. Check Your Passport- Many countries will deny you entry if your passport is going to expire within 6 months. Do yourself a favor and make sure you have enough time on your passport before you leave.
  2. Stash Copies of Your Passport- Make 10 copies of your passport and put them in pockets, purses, luggage, and backpacks. Scan yourself a copy and email it to yourself as well. If you lose your passport or have it stolen, it will be much easier to get a new one from your embassy if you have a copy.
  3. Consider Getting Traveler’s Insurance- It is not uncommon to get sick or injured while traveling abroad. Having international medical insurance will help ease your mind and cover you in case of emergency.
  4. Enroll in the US State Department Smart Traveler Program- If you are from the US, enrolling in the STEP program ensures that the State Department knows which countries you will be in when and they will email you travel alerts as they come up (erupting volcanoes, civil unrest, flooding, etc.).
  5. Write Down Your Emergency Contact Information- The first few pages of your passport should have a place for you to include emergency contact information. In case of emergency, officials can easily contact your family or next of kin.
  6. Research Water Safety Ahead of Time- Don’t assume that the tap water is safe to drink at your destination. Water borne illness is a leading cause of traveler illness. Just because the locals drink the water doesn’t mean you should. Your digestive track might not be accustomed to the same bacteria as they are. If you determine that you need to avoid drinking tap water, don’t forget that the ice cubs will be made from tap water and should be avoided, too.
  7. Consider Fee-Free Debit Cards- There are a number of companies that refund international ATM fees, one is Charles Schwab. 
  8. Bring OTC Medications- Buying medications in a foreign country can be daunting. You aren’t familiar with the local brands and it might be difficult to ask for them in a second language. Bring OTC pain meds, all prescriptions in their original bottle, allergy pills even if you don’t usually have allergies, something for indigestion, and consider getting an antibiotics from your doctor just in case. Taking pro-biotics for 2 weeks before your trip can help reduce stomach issues as well.
  9. Tell Your Credit Card- Your credit card might deny international charges if they don’t know you are traveling. To avoid being suspected for fraud, call the 1-800 number on the back of your card a week before you go to let them know.
  10. Download “Waze” on Your Smartphone- Waze and other apps have free maps for most countries in the world. This program runs off of data, so you might need to buy a data plan for your phone while you are abroad, but you can search restaurants, lodging, activities, and avoid traffic with this easy to use program.
  11. Research the Exchange Rate- Have a general idea of the local exchange rate before you go. Try to exchange money at banks. You can usually exchange money on the street but you will get a better rate at a bank.
  12. Bring Adaptive Chargers- The electrical outlets might be different in the country you are visiting. Find out beforehand and bring the correct adaptive device if needed.
  13. Spend Time Planning What You Pack- Your luggage may get lost, and even if it is found, it might take the airline several days to get it back to you. Bring an emergency change of clothes and overnight toiletries in your carry on at a minimum.  Walk yourself through each day of your upcoming trip and ask yourself “what will I need”.
  14. Check Baggage Rules- Your airline might charge extra for international baggage and the weight limits might change as well. Check these online before you pack.
  15. Bring a Detailed Itinerary- Write down all reservation numbers, flight numbers, confirmation numbers, addresses, and phone numbers that you will need while you are there. You may or may not have easy access to the internet, so don’t plan on being able to bring it up in your email.
  16. Turn Off Your Data and Roaming- If you bring your cell phone, turn off the data and roaming before you get on the last leg of your flight. Your company will start charging you data and roaming as soon as it detects that you are in a foreign country, and even having the phone on for a few minutes when you land could rack up a serious bill.
  17. Download a VOIP App- Magicjack, Skype, and Wassap are all apps that will allow you to talk to your family back home while you travel abroad. Magicjack has a voice and text plan, Skype has a videochat and voice plan, and Wassap allows you to text and voice message anyone in the world.
  18. Avoid Being Targeted- Tourists are easy targets because they are in unfamiliar surroundings and may not know the local language. Protect your money and other valuables and don’t fall for scams. Although most local people help travelers out of the goodness of their heart, some countries are more dangerous than others and you should always be on guard. This is not to say you shouldn’t kick back and relax on your vacation, just be cautious of offers that seem too good to be true.
  19. Check the Weather- Going to different hemispheres, crossing oceans, and changing elevation are all things that affect weather. Don’t assume that because you are traveling in June that it will be warm everywhere you go.
  20. Check the State Department’s Travel Advisory Website- Political climates change rapidly and natural disasters occur without warning. Check the current safety levels of your destination and avoid finding yourself in an unsafe situation.