It has been over 10 years since our first International trip to Europe, back when I only had to pack and plan for myself. Now that we are preparing for our next big trip as a family of four, I find a checklist essential. Here is a list of things I do before heading out of the country:
- Apply/Renew a Passport
Even if you wave this step off, thinking you’ve had one for years, don’t overlook checking the renewal date! Some countries refuse entry if your passport is set to expire within 3 – 6 months of your travel dates. Adult passports are good for 10 years, but children’s passports are only good for 5.
2. Visa requirements
There are different travel stipulations for every country, allowing visitors for 30 days to 3 months or longer. Some require a Visa, and others don’t. Check with the US State Department to search each country and find out what requirements are necessary, if any.
3. Immunization requirements
Along with Visa’s, some countries have immunization requirements or recommendations. It’s important to check on this ahead of time. Some immunizations require multiple shots, spread out over a specific time period and several visits to the doctor’s office.
4. International Driver’s Permit
Sometimes a US Driver’s License is acceptable for car rental, but often having an International Driver’s Permit could be helpful as an extra protection, especially when English is not widely spoken or understood where you are traveling. It is only a small fee to obtain one, $20, and worth the effort, in my opinion. Find a local AAA, and visit or mail in your information to obtain one.
5. Health Insurance Coverage
Some people purchase an insurance policy when they travel outside of the country. Start with your current health plan and see if your plan covers you for overseas travel. A visit to my plan’s website and a quick search was all it took for me to confirm coverage.
6. Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees
I speak from experience when I suggest to check your current credit card and find out if you will be charged a foreign transaction fee for every single purchase. We chose Capital One’s credit card, which has no foreign transaction fees. Wallet Hub has a complete list of credit card options.
7. Language essentials
You will very likely visit a place where a language besides English is spoken. I strongly encourage you to learn some basic words and phrases to enhance your travel experience. Not only will it help you navigate another country, but the locals will be much more welcoming when you attempt to greet them or speak a few words in their language.
Aside from that, conversing with the local people is often one of the most meaningful experiences of travel! When we visited France, I will never forget the front desk hotel attendant who absolutely refused to hand me the room key each day until I properly asked for it in French. As soon as he saw me coming, he was yelling at me in French (in a friendly French way of course!)
I personally used DuoLingo and Google Translate while in Mexico, and found them both extremely helpful. Even though I was “speaking” the proper word in Spanish, my pronunciation was apparently WAY off, and the poor taxi driver could not understand what I was saying until I was able to have him read the word from my App. The point is to try.
8. Stop Mail or Set Up Virtual Mailbox
Arrange for mail to be stopped while you are gone, or set up a virtual mailbox if you will be traveling long term. Click below to read my step by step guide about setting up a Traveling Mailbox.
9. Notify your bank about your travels
We always let our bank know when and where we are traveling to avoid problems. You run the risk of your credit card transactions being flagged as fraud if you don’t. We simply log into our bank online and submit the information with travel locations and dates. On a side note, always carry a back up credit or debit card in case you run into problems. It is not uncommon for ATM’s to eat cards or your credit card information to be compromised, leaving you in a lurch for a day or two.
10. Photocopy passports and credit card information
We also photocopy our passports and credit card information (and carry them in a separate location from the real things) while we travel, just in case the originals are lost, stolen, or compromised in some way. We also have a copy saved digitally in case we need it.
11. Measure and Weigh your luggage
If you haven’t flown in awhile, you may be surprised at the changes in luggage policies. Many airlines charge fees for each checked bag, and carry on bags as well! Even if the size is right, don’t forget to weigh it.
12. Leave a copy of your itinerary
Emergencies happen. Make sure someone at home has your itinerary in case they need to get a hold of you. I leave the name and phone numbers of known accommodations.
Finally, don’t forget to relax, have fun, and soak up the experience. Safe travels!
Below are some products we like and use for traveling overseas: