I don’t know about you, but I am a compulsive planner, especially when it comes to travel. I love having every detail ironed out in advance so all that’s left to do on my trips is kick back, relax, and explore! That said, my international travel planning takes it to a whole ‘nother level. There are so many extra details that need to be thought about before traveling to another country. Here’s my list of dos and don’ts that will help you plan your next trip abroad:
Do buy travel health insurance
Whether you’re hiking in Peru, scuba diving in Bali, or even casually walking along the street in Barcelona, and you happen to get sick, injured, trip over your own feet…(that would never happen to me!) you want to make sure you’re covered. World Nomads is always my go-to for short term trip insurance. Their plans usually start at about $50/week and are super easy to sign up for online. They’ll provide you with full coverage while you’re abroad. Better safe than sorry!
Do check to see if you need any kind of tourist visa
Airlines will usually notify you upon booking your plane ticket if you need to apply for any kind of special tourist visa. Just in case they don’t, I usually like to do a quick Google search before I go just in case! Nothing will put a damper on your trip like showing up to the airport and realizing you can’t go because you’re missing standard paperwork!
Don’t assume that everyone speaks your language
One of my favorite things to do before traveling is to learn a little bit of the local language. I like to learn at least a few important phrases: hello/goodbye, please/thank you, where is the closest bar…;) In my experience, even if you’re not fluent, native speakers will appreciate you at least trying to speak their language. My favorite language tools are the Coffee Break podcasts. These offer great beginners’ lessons—you can choose between Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Chinese. The lessons are about 20-25 minutes long, so PERFECT to listen to while you’re getting ready. The best part is that they’re free to download through Apple’s Podcast store!
Do notify your credit card company that you will be traveling
A lot of cards will flag international activity as fraud if they don’t know you’re traveling. There are few things more annoying than being stuck in a foreign country with no access to your money! I always find it’s best to just notify the bank that you’ll be going somewhere. I bank with Chase and they even let you do it online…super easy!
Don’t bother buying the airline travel insurance
Ok, ok. I know I said to be extra cautious and get the travel health insurance. But when it comes to the airline insurance, I consider that to be a waste of money. On the surface, it seems like adding the $25-ish fee to your ticket will grant you the flexibility to cancel or change flights as you please. That’s not really the case. The insurance only grants you that freedom if you can prove life events—such as a death in the family or military deployment—keep you from your trip.
Do consider applying for Global Entry
Let me tell you, when I was sprinting to a connecting flight in the Atlanta airport on my way home from Paris after spending an hour an a half waiting in line in the immigration hall, the only thing running through my mind (well, aside from “Wow, I’m out of shape”) was “I need to apply for Global Entry”. I applied immediately as I returned home and am happy with the decision! Global Entry is a program through the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol that allows members of the program speedy reentry into the country. Trust me, it’s easy to get. You complete an online application, pay $100, and take a 5 minute interview at your local airport and then you’re set for 5 years. Global Entry gives you the privilege of access to the expedited lines when returning to the U.S. The icing on the cake is that Global Entry grants members with TSA Pre-Check clearance. Imagine how nice it is to not have to remove your shoes and drudge across the nasty airport floor in your bare feet…amazing!
Don’t forget your passport
Ok, it seems obvious, but I swear I recheck my bag a million times to make sure I’ve packed my passport any time I’m flying internationally! Something else to think about: many countries have their own rules regarding the number of blank passport pages required to enter. A lot of countries also require that your passport doesn’t expire within the next 6 months of your trip, so I recommend checking those local rules before you go.