Travel Tips

International Travel Checklist: 17 Things to Do Before Departure

If you have completed the Phase I of Designing Your Trip, you’re one step closer to your adventure! 

The next phase of preparing for traveling abroad involves sorting out bookings and other logistics.  While these tasks are not exactly the most exciting part of your journey, they are necessary to ensure that your trip goes without a hitch and you remain healthy and safe on the road.  Besides, if you follow this International Travel Checklist, everything you need to do to prepare for your departure is laid out for you!  

Your only job is to go through each item and check them off.  To make it even easier for you, I made a printable travel checklist at the bottom of the page that you can download and use 😉

17 Things To Do Prior to Your Departure

1. Passport

If you don’t already have one, apply for a passport right away.   It may take a few months to process a new passport, so make this a priority.  Some embassies offer “express service” for an additional charge if you need to facilitate the processing time.

If you already possess a passport, check the expiration date and the number of blank pages you have left.   As a general rule, most destinations require that the passport is valid for at least six months after you leave their country, AND you have a minimum of 2 blank pages.

2. Vaccinations

Depending on where you are headed, it is wise to check with the CDC for recommended vaccinations. You may also inquire about Malaria pills if you are heading to mosquito-prone locations.

3.  Credit cards/ATM cards

If you plan to travel for a long time, it may be worth applying for a new credit card and ATM card that does not charge you foreign transaction fees!

When I lived in the US, I had Chase credit card and ATM card – but when I was preparing for my 6-month backpacking trip, I learned that 5% transaction fee would be applied for every CC purchase, and some outrageous foreign exchange rate AND service charge (I cannot recall precisely) for cash withdrawals.

So I did some research and applied for Capital One’s Venture One credit card and Charles Schwab’s ATM card.  I have been using these two cards for the past six years of traveling abroad and have been happy with both – the exchange rate is very reasonable, and neither charges any transaction fees.

4.  An Outbound Ticket

Some countries require that you show proof of onward travel before entering.  This proof is usually required when you are checking into your international flight, enforced by the airlines.

To prevent needless stress at the airport just a couple of hours before your departure, do a bit of research on your destinations and know the entry requirements.

5.  Visa

Speaking of entry requirements – let’s talk visa!

If you do not apply for and obtain a necessary visa, you will undoubtedly be denied entry into certain countries.   Use this online resource to check your destinations for any visa requirements.

6.  International License

Do you plan to drive a motor vehicle during your international travels?  Make sure you have the proper credentials to do so.

7.  Unlock your phone

It is essential that you take an UNLOCKED phone if you want to be able to use an international SIM card (and I highly recommend that you do!).

If you are unable to unlock your existing phone, consider buying a cheap unlocked phone or getting an international calling plan so that you can make a phone call while on the road.

8.  Prepare Your Packing List

Your travel packing list will inevitably vary depending on where you are headed and how long you will be traveling.  But there is an essential list that almost every traveler will need no matter your itinerary – check out this Ultimate Packing List  for your preparation needs!

Happy shopping!

9.  Book flights and accommodations

Flights:  In all the years of my travels, I have used every app under the sun for cheap flights, including Momondo, Kayak, CheapOair, Priceline, and many more.   Honestly, I have found Skyscanner to provide best prices all around.

I have read travel bloggers’ posts about last-minute booking sites, but I have never used them, as I do not like to “wing it” when it comes to planning my flights.

I used to use several online sources to compare prices when I was shopping for a flight – but it took so much of my time and, in the end, Skyscanner was always the winner.  So now I go directly to Skyscanner and save myself time, stress, and money.

Accommodations:  For booking rooms, I have used Airbnb, Hostelworld, Agoda, and booking.com.

If you are ONLY looking for hostels, then Hostelworld is an excellent resource.   But if you want to browse through various accommodation options, I have found Agoda to offer the most diverse selections and best prices.

If you are flexible with your budget, Airbnb has some great homes and rooms.  I have used Airbnb only a handful of times, as I have found it to be generally more expensive than other apps (especially their service fee).

Since I am usually on a budget when I travel, I have found that Agoda always provides cheaper options.  But Airbnb is also great if you want to meet local hosts at your destination – I used it when I visited Vietnam and met some great hosts.

Depending on where you are traveling, Booking.com is another excellent resource for a wide selection of accommodations.  So try a few, and see which app you prefer given your preferences.

10. Inform Credit Card companies of your travel destinations

Make sure you inform your credit card companies of your planned international trip so that your card does not get declined!  I have had this happen more than once (even after I informed them!) and it can be stressful trying to sort it out in a foreign country where you may or may not have reliable internet to Skype a customer service line!

11.  Download Essential Travel Apps

With new apps coming out all the time, it’s hard to keep up with the trends but here are some basic, useful apps that I have been using for years when traveling:

  • Google map
  • Google translate
  • Agoda
  • Skyscanner
  • Tripadvisor
  • Booking.com
  • Hostelworld

12.  Take new, crisp bills

If you plan to exchange foreign currency abroad, take new, crisp bills.  I have been refused many times for trying to exchange bills printed before 2000 or old, wrinkled bills.

13.  Give a copy of your itinerary to loved ones

It’s wise to let someone know where you plan to go and stay, particularly if you are traveling solo!

14.  Prepare A First Aid Kit

No matter where you are headed, I highly recommend a first aid kit.  It came in handy for me at unexpected moments during my travels, and I was SO happy I had it with me.

I started my trip with an awesome, light-weight, waterproof first aid kit that I bought at REI.  Now, I create a First Aid Kit checklist and refill and replenish it as I go along my travels.

15.  Download Digital Entertainment

How much electronics you want to carry with you is a personal preference and choice, but if you wish to minimize your load, I say take one iPad with all your digital books, movies, and games, etc.  I did not carry my laptop during my trip, as it was too cumbersome.

16.  Get Travel Insurance

When I traveled for ten months around SE Asia, I was fully covered with World Nomads.  Luckily, I never needed to use it.  But I had a peace of mind knowing that I was covered for any accidents, losses, injuries or any other urgent care if anything happened to me far away from home.

Peace of mind is priceless, but since you can buy it for less than $90/month, I say it’s worth it! 

Once I settled down abroad and started working as a dive professional, I switched my coverage to a scuba diving insurance, Divers Alert Network.

17.  Upload Copies of Important Documents

In the event of unforeseen circumstances (theft, luggage loss, damages, etc.), you may want to prepare backup access to the following information.  Before you depart, make sure you copy all the documents needed to travel abroad.   Upload these copies to a cloud, where you can access it from anywhere.

  • Passport/any other ID
  • Credit card/ATM card
  • Travel Insurance member #
  • Checking & Savings account #s
  • Travel Itinerary & confirmed bookings
  • Vaccination paperwork

Download this FREE Printable PDF

International Travel Checklist

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase using the link in this post, I get paid a small commission at absolutely no cost to you (yay for you and me!).

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