Traveling abroad is exhilarating and fun, but it does require a certain amount of planning to insure the best trip possible. A little preparation pre-trip can go a long way especially when something takes a turn for the worse abroad.
At least 90 days in advance make sure you have an up-to-date passport with your current legal name (to avoid rush fees and unnecessary stress). It should have at least a few blank, clean pages, and will not expire until after your return.
At least 90 days pre-trip (again to avoid rush fees and unnecessary stress) research if advance visas will be required. Many countries contract with visa processing services where you apply online pre-trip. It is sometimes possible to apply for visas at embassies and consulates abroad, or at points of entry such as airports or ferry ports on the spot. If you are doing an around-the-world trip or visiting several countries you will have to plan carefully. Keeping in mind you usually have to mail in your passport to obtain a pre-trip visa.
At least 90 days pre-trip check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to see what vaccinations if any are recommended. Make an appointment with a travel clinic or your physician to get the correct ones and keep in mind that some may require a series that can take several weeks to complete.
Scan into your email and take with you any prescription medications you take along with their generic names, clear documentation of who prescribed them, and why you take them. If you wear glasses or contact lenses keep a copy of your prescription in case you need to replace them abroad. I like to travel with a general antibiotic and an anti-fungal medication to self-treat. Discuss this at the travel clinic or with your physician.
Once you purchase your plane ticket buy travel insurance that offers trip cancellation, medical coverage, lost or stolen property, and evacuation coverage to the hospital of your choice in case of a serious medical emergency. You do not want to get injured in Nepal and not be able to afford being airlifted out (think $25k+) much less to a hospital not of your choice for treatment.
Pre-departure call your bank and credit card companies to put a travel alert on your account. Also, make sure your providers do not block any of the countries you are planning to visit. While visiting Thailand one of my bankcards would not work. When I contacted my credit union they informed me that they did not allow transactions in Thailand, period. Luckily, I had a travel partner with another bank so we could access cash!
7. STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program)
Register with STEP the US Department of State's traveler program so the local embassies and consulates know of your presence in country. You will be sent email notices of security warnings and it will help them contact you in case of an emergency (i.e. political, natural disaster).
8. Documenting Travel Gear
Take pictures or video of everything that you are taking with you and leave it at home. In case you need to file an insurance claim for lost, damaged, or stolen property this will help get your claim approved and help you remember what you all had with you.
9. Important Documents
Scan copies of all your documents and bankcards to yourself, front and back, if you do not already have electronic versions (ie. guesthouse confirmation, plane ticket). Store these copies in your email, in a password-protected document, in a “travel" folder so that they are easily and widely accessible. If your passport or bankcard is lost or stolen this will expedite getting duplicates. Leave a copy of this information with a trusted family or friend back home, too.
10. Proof of Purchases
Have in your email warranty confirmations, serial numbers, and proof of purchases of any items of high value such as computers, tablets, phones, or camera equipment. It will expedite reimbursement from travel insurance once you return home too! Once when I was in Quito my camera was stolen and I happened to find my exact camera for sale on the black market. The reason I knew it was mine is because I had the serial number off of the warranty confirmation in my email! Unfortunately, I did not get my camera back because by the time I returned with the police it was no longer “for sale." But I used the serial number for filing a police report and was reimbursed in full by my travel insurance company for its cost once I got home.
If you plan to drive abroad check into the country specific requirements 60 days pre-trip. You may need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP). Check with your auto insurance company if you are covered abroad and with your credit card company. Often if you charge a car rental, Visa for example will offer you certain auto insurance coverage.
This guest post was written by Cori Hildebrandt, avid traveler and Volo partner.