You want to plan for the international trip of a lifetime, the one that has lingered on your bucket list. Now that it’s time to turn your dream into a reality, how do you get started? Especially if you haven’t traveled extensively, your to-do list may feel overwhelming. Although each person’s list will be as unique as their destination, our checklist can serve as a guide.
1. Check your passport and visa requirements.
With a U.S. passport, you can travel to 184 countries without a visa,1 but it is important to understand the requirements of any country you visit. Some countries will not allow you to enter if your passport expires within six months of your trip. Keep in mind that a U.S. passport expires after 10 years and may take up to eight weeks to obtain a new one. Refer to the State Department website for more information.
2. Solidify your dates.
Determine how long you will be away and get dates on appropriate calendars — your employer’s and that of anyone else affected. Many Americans don’t use all of their allotted paid time off. According to Project: Time Off, a research initiative by the U.S. Travel Association,2 Americans who spend time planning their vacation days are more likely to use all of the time they have earned.
3. Make reservations and conduct research.
Start making reservations, double-checking that all dates are correct. Then consider how you will spend your vacation. Do you have tour reservations? Will you go shopping, or visit museums? Learning about your destination can make the planning fun.
4. Take care of medical needs, including immunizations.
Many countries require or recommend updated vaccinations. Because some vaccines require multiple doses, start investigating these early. Make sure your medications are refilled and up to date.
5. Consider insurance.
For most people, travel insurance is only necessary when you leave the United States. Travel insurance typically covers emergency medical coverage, evacuation, lost luggage and trip cancellation. World Nomads or a travel agency can help. You can also enroll your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This can help if you have an emergency while traveling or your passport is lost or stolen, and provides travel alerts.
6. Notify your bank and/or credit card company.
Have you let your credit card company know you will be traveling? A quick call can prevent your bank from rejecting charges it believes are fraudulent, especially if you are traveling in “high-risk” countries. Make sure you use a card that does not charge foreign transaction fees. Check the card website or call if you are unsure.
7. Know how to access foreign currency.
You shouldn’t rely solely on using a card while traveling abroad. Budgeting in advance can help you determine how much cash you think you will need. Do you plan on withdrawing cash from an ATM upon arrival? Another option is to order foreign currency from your bank ahead of time, keeping in mind that it may take a few days or more to arrive.
8. Check your cell phone coverage.
Will you be able to use your phone in the country you are visiting? Contact your carrier to verify your coverage and options for calls, texts and data use.
9. Make copies of important documents.
Some accommodations require you to provide a copy of your passport; plus it is helpful to have a copy in case the original is lost or stolen. Digital tickets for some modes of travel, such as for trains, are not always accepted and a copy is useful in case you are away from Wi-Fi/cell service or lose your phone. Consider giving your itinerary to a friend or family member in case they need to find you, and include important addresses and phone numbers, like the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You should keep a hard copy for yourself as well.
10. Prepare your home.
You may want a pet sitter or house sitter. Should you stop your mail? Are your bills on auto-pay, or can you pay before traveling? To prevent theft, consider setting a timer so lights turn on, making it appear that someone is at home.
11. A week before.
You’re almost ready! Check the weather at your destination and begin packing. Consider a survival kit for your carry-on bag with items such as prescription medications, ibuprofen, earplugs, a snack, reading/listening materials and your other necessities. Now is a great time to download music or podcasts you like. Don’t forget to pack a phone charger and travel adapter if you need it.
12. Before you go.
Make sure your electronics are charged. Turn off or unplug anything at home as appropriate. Lock your doors. Then take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the trip!
1 Henley & Partners Passport Index
2 Project: Time Off – State of American Vacation Report
Information contained herein has been obtained by sources we consider reliable, but is not guaranteed, and we are not soliciting any action based upon it. Any opinions expressed are those of the author and based on interpretation of data available at the time of original publication of this article. These opinions are subject to change at any time without notice. Investors should consult their financial and/or tax advisor before implementing any investment plan.