International travel offers the opportunity to experience the way people live in other countries. It also allows travelers to see famous sights around the world, learn about new cultures and taste new cuisines. As exciting as all of that sounds, the preparations for such a trip are complicated, and it’s important to know what you need to do and take care of all the details well before your departure.
Passport and Other International Documents
Anyone who travels overseas must do so with a passport, so obtaining one or renewing an existing one should be one of your top priorities. Be sure you allow plenty of time when doing this because unforeseen circumstances can delay the process.
You should also consider obtaining some sort of identification that you can carry with you so you can keep your passport locked up for safety. A state ID card or an international driver’s license will work. By carrying a state-issued ID, you won’t have to worry about theft or loss of your real driver’s license.
Check State Department Website
International travelers, especially those on extended trips, would be wise to check the State Department website frequently before they leave. If you’re traveling to a country where there’s any possibility of discord, register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. As long as the government is aware you’re in a foreign country, they can take any necessary measures to keep you safe. They can also help if your passport is lost or stolen.
Health Care and Medical Insurance
Anyone traveling overseas should have a thorough physical exam before they go. It’s always a good idea to allow a doctor to look you over to make sure you don’t have any unexpected health issues. Your doctor can also give you prescriptions to ensure you have a supply of any medications you’ll need while traveling. If you need shots to travel to your destination country, this is the time to get them.
You should also contact your insurance agent to find out whether your existing health insurance will cover you while you’re abroad. If your existing coverage won’t protect you overseas, you should look into available options for travel medical insurance. An international medical insurance policy should cover you in the event of any accidents or illnesses.
People traveling at times of the year when weather or other unexpected circumstances can disrupt travel or require you to change your plans may want to consider purchasing travel insurance. If you’re going on a very expensive trip and have had to put down a deposit for lodging or pay the full airfare in advance, this safety net might allow you to recoup a portion of what you’ve already paid.
Knowing What to Pack
Sometimes it can be hard for people to know what to pack. Investigate customs and habits of the country to which you are traveling. If you’re going to a European country and will be attending cultural events, do some research and be prepared to dress appropriately.
It’s also important to be careful about what you take. Thoughtful packing will keep you from being a target for thieves. Pack clothing that won’t need ironing, and consider that hair dryers and other extras will add weight to your luggage. Pack your carry-on luggage carefully, too, and pay attention to TSA restrictions regarding prohibited items.
Making Travel Reservations
Familiarize yourself with the layout of the different planes that fly overseas. This will have an important bearing on how comfortable you are during your flight. Some planes have areas with significantly more legroom, larger seats and more flexibility. If you’re traveling for business, it might be worth your while to consider upgrading to business or first class. You’ll get priority boarding, food on the flight and you may be able to check more than one bag at no charge.
Food for Travel
When you make your travel arrangements and book your flight, you’ll know whether you need to plan to bring food along for your trip. Unless you’re traveling first or business class, there is no free food on international flights, so you may want to shop for snacks suitable for travel well in advance of your trip.
Transportation to the Airport
Remember that on overseas flights, you need to arrive at the airport a minimum of two hours before your flight leaves. This will give you plenty of time to check your baggage and get through security. If you aren’t going to drive to the airport yourself, make a point of calling ahead to reserve a taxi, shuttle bus or other transportation several days before your trip.
Instead of traveling with large amounts of cash or traveler’s checks, consider taking a credit or debit card. If your bank has international branches, you’ll be able to withdraw money as you need it, and any service charges are likely to be less than the extra you’d pay by getting money in advance. Make sure your hotel has some sort of safe or vault where you can keep your passport, itinerary and other valuables. Be sure to leave copies of your credit card information, passport, itinerary, and any other important medical or other information with family members before you go. By taking care of all of the details in advance, you’ll reduce your stress level as you deal with last-minute preparations.