planning travel

Traveling the World? Start Here.

International travel is a thrilling, eye-opening experience. But before you head to the far corners of the globe, do yourself a favor and make sure you’re prepared – it can make or break your trip. Here are seven items to check off your to-do list before you go.

Do a little research

If the U.S. government has posted a travel warning or travel alert about your destination, proceed carefully. The former means that long-term issues have made it a risky place to visit, and the latter means short-term problems have made it dangerous for travelers. Either way, take note – a trip there may not be covered under your traveler’s insurance.

Get your paperwork in order

If you get the green light on your destination, proceed to your paperwork. Make sure your passport isn’t expired (and if it is, you’ll need about six weeks to get a new one unless you’re springing for expedited service). Check the State Department’s website for information about your destination to see whether you’ll need a visa. You’ll also get a rundown on medical info, crime rates, entry and exit requirements, local embassies and consulates, and other details that you should know before you go. If you’re planning on driving in your destination country, you’ll need to find out if an international driver’s license is necessary.

Research travel vaccinations and prescriptions

Exotic locales are awesome, but yellow fever? Not so much. Protect your health when you travel internationally with a quick visit to your local travel clinic. You can also check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site for specific information (things like health risks related to local water and cuisine and non-prescription items to toss in your luggage) as well as vaccine requirements. Give yourself lots of time – you’ll want to get vaccinated at least six weeks before you travel.

If you’re bringing prescription medications, double check that they aren’t illegal in your destination country (the US State Department has your back there). Pack your medicines in their prescription bottles in your carry-on, and bring enough for your entire trip. You don’t want to run short while you’re away. Bring a letter from your doctor if you need syringes (and don’t forget to declare them).

Prep your credit cards

Bring a few credit cards along, and be sure to contact customer service reps for each of them before your trip. Let them know you’ll be traveling internationally so their use in your destination country isn’t flagged as suspicious. Traveler’s checks aren’t as welcomed as they used to be, so stick with your bank card for ATM withdrawals (and the best exchange rates, too). And here’s a hot tip – memorize your PIN by hand. The keypad in another country may be hard to understand.

Insurance is your friend

Your state-side health insurance may not cover you off American soil. It might be prudent to spring for medical evacuation and emergency medical insurance if you’re heading somewhere dodgy. And consider travel insurance if you’re putting down a lot of money upfront or booking things months in advance.

Pack wisely

Skip the valuables, pare down your wallet or purse to the essentials and bring spare glasses or contact lenses if you wear them. Baggage tags with your name, address and telephone number are wise, and Transportation Security Administration approved locks can also come in handy. Just double-check that you can send locked bags on flights within your destination country.

Be aware of expectations and etiquette when you travel internationally. Skip the tank tops if you’re heading somewhere conservative, brush up on tipping, and practice a few easy phrases in the native tongue.