1. Passports and Visas
The most important thing to check off your list is obtaining a passport. Obtaining a passport can be a long process that depends on many things. Sometimes it can take months, so it’s good to start the application way in advance. Most U.S. post offices accept passport applications and will even take your picture for a small fee.
If you have a passport already, be sure to double check the expiration date before you go on your trip. Since most passports last up to ten years, it can be easy to forget when they expire.
Not all countries require a visa for visitors. However, it’s always smart to find out this information before you purchase your ticket. Countries like Brazil, China, and Nepal are all examples of countries that are visited often by U.S. citizens, but require travel visas to enter. Most can be applied for online.
2. Talk to Your Bank
If you go to another country and start spending money without notifying your bank, there’s a chance that they will shut your bank account down temporarily. Avoid this obstacle and talk to your bank before you travel abroad. Some banks will even have a special credit card you can apply for just for foreign travel.
3. Vaccinations and Medicine
Getting the right medical treatment before you travel to different countries is a must. Some countries legally require you to get a vaccination before you even step foot on the land. You’ll want to definitely look into the public health safety concerns for any country you travel to. Our immune systems are only accustomed to what we have been experiencing within our own borders. Go to your doctor before you travel abroad to ensure you are taking all the right precautions.
4. Buy a Cellphone That Works Internationally
Although it may be nice to go off the grid, realistically you will still need a functional cellphone on your trip. If you don’t turn your cellular data off when you go to another country, it could result in thousands of dollars of phone bills. If you are going to use your phone across borders, you should talk to your phone carriers first. You may find that you just want to use it for wi-fi in other countries.
If you want to have a phone that can text and make phone calls internationally, you will have to prepare in advance. There are a few different options. You can buy a phone in the country when you get there. Use an online service to talk to people. Buy an international data plan. Ultimately, it depends on what you can afford, what country you’re going to, and whether or not you even want to have a cellphone with you.
5. Health Insurance
Not everyone has a health insurance plan that covers international travel. Check in with your health insurance carrier about the options you have. The chances that you will need medical assistance while your out of the country may seem slim, but not preparing for the possibility can cause a lifetime of debt. It’s always a good idea to find out ahead of time where the closest medical centers are when you are traveling as well.
6. Pack Appropriately
Don’t leave packing to the last minute. Not all countries have the same amenities and may be lacking some essential items (like band-aids and toothpaste). Pack lightly and pack smartly. Check in with your airline to find out how many bags are allowed for free per ticket. You’ll also want to check and see how much an extra checked bag costs. Condensing your luggage to one suitcase may seem difficult, but it’s worth the effort. Keep in mind that most airlines also won’t let on bags that weigh over 50 pounds without an extra fee.
7. Learn Some Key Phrases in the Native Language
Wherever you go, it’s important to know at least a few of the more important phrases so you can communicate with the locals. Although English is generally spoken in popular tourist areas, there may still come a time when you desperately need to find the bathroom and wish you knew how to communicate it to someone around you. Many smartphones have free apps you can download that help you translate foreign languages.