Going on a trip overseas can be overwhelming. Most people think that packing is the first step of preparing to leave for a trip, but there is a lot to do before you even start packing. Below we have gathered tips you should follow in the days leading up to your departure to ensure you will not be caught off guard while traveling.
International Driver Permit
There was a day in time when an International Driver Permit seemed to be unnecessary for international travel. You could usually show your driver’s license from home and be able to rent a vehicle. However, recently, many car rental agencies are starting to require these permits. There is a good chance that you will not be asked, but if you are asked, you will have to have it or they will not rent the car to you. If there is any chance you will rent a car while traveling internationally, do yourself a favor and get an International Driver Permit.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. https://step.state.gov/step/. Consider registering for this program as it is always good to expect the unexpected while traveling.
Contact Your Credit Card Customer Service
Let your bank know that you will be out of the country so they do not freeze your account when the bank sees charges from abroad. Research the foreign transaction fees for your card. Many travel-focused credit cards do not charge a foreign transaction fee, so if you travel often, it is worth applying for a travel-related credit card since it also comes with many other travel perks. Make sure you bring more than one credit card with you as back up in case you lose one or one is not working as expected.
Research Your Credit Card Travel Insurance
Many travel reward credit cards include a version of travel insurance. While it is recommended that you buy comprehensive travel insurance to protect yourself during your travels, you should find out as much as you can about what your credit card does offer and how to ensure you are covered. For example, some credit cards offer rental car coverage, but only if you decline any insurance offered by the rental car company and if you charge the entire rental on that card.
Contact Your Bank and Research ATM Locations
Do more than just contact your bank to let them know you will be using your card outside of the country. Research the foreign transaction fee for cash withdrawals. Most banks charge 1% fee for cash withdrawals outside of the United States. If you have a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees, you will probably want to use that instead of cash since there are no fees. However, you can not always use credit cards, especially in more rural areas. Thus, you’ll probably need to make at least one trip to an ATM on your trip.
Insider Tip: In Europe, ATMs are branded as Plus or Maestro/Cirrus. What does that mean? It basically means VISA (Plus) or MasterCard (Maestro/Cirrus). Thus, if you have a VISA ATM card, you can only use an ATM machine if it has a Plus logo, and if you have a MasterCard ATM, you can only use an ATM machine with a Maestro/Cirrus logo. Some ATMs have both logos, but not all. Here are links for locating Plus ATMs and Maestro/Cirrus ATMs.
Research the Currency
You may know the currency of the country you are going to and the conversion rate, but that does not mean you understand how much you will be spending. For example, many countries use the euro, but a meal in Germany and a meal in Greece will vary greatly in price. It is helpful to have an expectation of how much you will be spending on goods and services.
Read More: 5 Quick Tips for Last Minute Travel
How Much To Tip?
Since we are talking about expectations and spending money, let’s go ahead and talk about tipping in foreign countries. Go ahead and research this before the first meal of your trip. Do not be the tourist frantically searching for a wifi signal to research the proper amount to tip for a meal. Some countries pay restaurant employees a living wage, so there is no need to tip for the service.
Check The Forecast
Do not assume that just because you are visiting a place that is usually cool and rainy that it will be cool and rainy during your visit. Always pack a jacket, a pair of shorts, and a bathing suit. Sometimes weather surprises you and does the unexpected!
International Travel Phone Plan
There are steps you have to take before leaving to be able to use your phone plan overseas. Most providers offer data at $10 a day as needed data international plan or a flat fee for 30 days of usage plus per-minute calling rates. You most likely can sign up for the international coverage online, but it always pays to double-check with an online chat or phone call to make sure everything was set up properly before being caught off guard with no phone service while traveling.
Charge Your Electronics
Make sure your electronics are charged before you leave your house. Finding an empty plug at an airport is not a guarantee. While charging up your phone, laptop, or tablet, do not forget about your camera battery. You may want to hit the ground running as soon as you arrive at your destination, so avoid the disappointment of missing that perfect shot by ensuring your batteries are charged!
Manage Your Device Storage
Make sure you have enough storage on your phone or camera memory card for photos. The last thing you want to do is miss that perfect shot because you have no storage left and have to go through and decide which photos to delete to make more room. While you are at it, go ahead and back up existing contacts and photos on your phone and cameras before departure in case you lose it while traveling.
You can also utilize this useful device that will backup your iPhone photos on the go without a need for a computer or an external drive.
Adaptors and Converters for International Travel
If you travel, you must have a universal power converter. It is the only way to ensure you will be able to charge your electronics while traveling. Make sure all of your electronics are dual voltage. If they are not, you will also need a converter. Most current electronics like your phone, computer, tablets, and cameras will have dual voltage, but make sure of it. Older models of camera or hair appliances like hair dryers or straighteners may not. Most hotels and even vacation rentals provide hairdryers these days, but if you travel with your own, make sure it is going to work before carrying it around the globe. You can buy them here.
Make Copies of Important Travel Documents
Most documents can be kept electronically these days, but there are three items you should always keep a paper copy of while traveling 1) Your passport 2) Your credit card numbers and their customer service contact phone numbers 3) Your travel insurance policy number and contact numbers.
Checked Baggage Rules For International Travel
Baggage fees vary dramatically between carriers and fare codes. Before checking a bag, research the costs so you are not caught off guard. It may be worth the effort to make your items fit inside a carry-on, even if you have to pay for a load of laundry at some point during your trip. If you can not limit yourself to a carry-on and are traveling with others, it might make more sense to check a large suitcase versus two smaller ones to save the per-bag fees. The standard checked luggage size is 27 x 21 x 14, but many airlines allow larger.
Do not forget to weigh your checked bag. If it weighs over fifty pounds, you will either have to pull some items out and pack them in your carry on or pay fees for heavy baggage. In Europe, some airlines have fees kick in at weights lower than fifty pounds while others charge checked baggage fees on a sliding scale based on weight, so make sure you research before you travel.
Do not forget to make sure your luggage tag info is up to date!
Carry On Baggage Rules for International Travel
Standard carry on size for US domestic flights is 22”X14”X9”, but in Europe, the standard rule of thumb is 21”X14”X9”, but again it varies by airline. There are also some European airlines that only allow one carry on bag versus a carry on bag and personal item bag. So always check before you go and plan accordingly!
Follow the 3-1-1 Rule for packing any liquids in your carry on:
3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume) ; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3.4 ounce (100ml) container size is a security measure.
Check-In To Your Flight!
You can check-in for your flight starting 24 hours before departure. This is particularly important to do if you are flying in Economy seats as this is often your first chance to choose your seats. You will have seats assigned during the check-in process, but if you want to improve them, this is your best chance.
Now that you have researched answers to the items in this checklist, you are ready to start packing and preparing for your flight!
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