It’s easy to overlook a small but important detail in the excitement of preparing for an overseas trip. You may have perfected your packing list, but there are still a few mundane items that can really make or break a good holiday. Avoid unnecessary stress by checking off this international travel checklist before leaving for vacation.
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International travel pre-departure checklist
1. Check visa and passport requirements for your destination. Do you need to apply in advance or can you obtain one at the airport on arrival? Confirm with your destination countries website for visa requirements and entry/exit fees that are often required in the exact cash amount and in local currency.
2. Many countries require a minimum of 6-months left on your passport and a certain number of blank pages, to enter. If you have less than six months until it expires or only a few blank pages left, you may need to apply for a new one and that takes time.
3. Check required and recommended vaccinations and medications. Some vaccines like rabies, Hepatitis B or Covid-19 require several shots over a number of weeks or months. Don’t leave this until the last minute.
4. Before leaving home, inquire about the safety of drinking tap water. If you need to drink bottled or treated water it is helpful to pack a refillable water bottle and remember your SteriPEN if you have one.
5. Also, know how local water quality impacts food safety. Here is an excellent guide by the World Health Organisation on general food safety rules for travellers.
6. Get yourself a travel-size medical and first aid kit. Along with basic bandages and disinfectant type items, a full kit will contain medications to help you combat travellers’ diahorrea and other mild ailments. See the CDC’s checklist of contents for your kit. If you have a kit already, make sure all medications are within their used-by date and sterile bandages are still securely wrapped.
7. Purchase appropriate travel insurance for your destination, trip length and activities. Make sure you read the fine print, particularly if you are the adrenaline-junky type. Many adventure activities are excluded from basic travel policies. Frequent or longer-term travellers might consider an annual plan. See my full guide to travel insurance here.
8. Figure out the local currency and exchange rate, along with common payment methods in your destination. You may be visiting a mostly cash economy, or they might accept debit and visa cards.
9. If you are using a card for either payment or withdrawing cash, make sure you understand all the fees your bank will impose on you. It may be worth the time to apply for a new card with better international transaction rates. Also, contact your bank and let them know your itinerary so they don’t freeze your card the first time you try to use it. Some banks allow you to register international travel through their online banking portal.
10. Make copies of your passport, visa and itinerary and give them to a reliable friend or family member. Also, keep a digital copy in a secure cloud location like Dropbox so you can access them online from your destination if required.
11. Get familiar with local etiquette including tipping customs in your destination. Knowing how to dress appropriately will assist in making the right packing decisions.
12. Find out what level of English is commonly spoken in your destination. Even if English is prevalent, learn a few useful phrases in the local tongue – it will endear you to locals and usually makes them more willing to help. Simple phrases like hello, please, thank you, do you speak English? and where is the bathroom?, can go a long way.
13. Research internet connectivity, WIFI hotspot availability and the pros and cons of buying a local SIM card versus utilizing global roaming. We love to use eSIMs when travelling and you can purchase one for your destination before you even leave home–read more about eSIMs here.
14. Check the luggage allowance – weight and dimensions – for all modes of transport. Domestic flights and puddle-jumpers at your destination may have far greater restrictions than your international flight.
15. As I mentioned in How to Survive a Long Haul Flight, knowing how to get out of the airport and to your accommodation without faffing about or being taken the roundabout route to hike up the taxi fare, can be a real relief when you finally touch down in your destination.
16. Along with airport transfers, research safety with regards to taxis, rideshare and public transport, so you can make the best transport decisions throughout your trip.
17. Remove unnecessary items from your wallet such as spare credit cards, in case of loss or theft.
18. Memorise the PIN numbers for the debit and credit cards you will be taking. Many countries use a PIN to authorise transactions instead of a signature.
19. Investigate common tourist scams and security concerns in your destination. Have an idea of local crime rates and locations to avoid (there’s always at least one). For more details on maintaining personal security see these Travel Security Tips Every Globetrotter Should Know.
20. Do your laundry including sheets and towels. You don’t want to come home to housework at the end of your fabulous holiday abroad.
21. Pay upcoming bills or schedule automatic payments to avoid late fees or service shut-offs.
22. Organise someone to collect your mail or get a temporary hold/redirection.
23. Back it up. Backit up. Back it up! Back up your smart phone and files on any other device you are travelling with, in case it is lost, damaged or stolen. Best practise is three backups, saved in three different locations. We use a combination of physical hard drives and a cloud backup service to ensure risk is spread across different devices and physical locations.
24. Recruit someone to water your plants.
25. Arrange pet sitting if required.
26. Clear out perishable food items and empty your rubbish bin.
27. Turn off and unplug unnecessary appliances to save on your power bill. For longer trips, I even empty and turn off our fridge/freezer.
28. Set your thermostat appropriately to save on energy but also keep your pipes etc from freezing.
If you have anything else to contribute to this international travel checklist, drop it in the comments below, or share this post with a traveller who might need it.
Peace, love & inspiring travel,