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I am so excited! My brother, cousin, and I got accepted to participate in the Birthright program! We’re going to Israel in one month! Yay! (Update in October 2020: We went on our trip. It was amazing! Read more about it here.)

I realized that now is probably a good time to go over my international travel checklist. This is a comprehensive list of everything that I do before traveling internationally. Hopefully this list will help you prepare for your upcoming trips and ensure that everything is taken care of before you go! It’s best used for short term trips up to about a 3 week to one month trip. For longer term travel there are more things to do, so be sure to read up on that separately.

If you're traveling internationally, check this list of things to do before you go! International travel checklist, travel preparation checklist, travel tips, travel hacks

Time-Dependent Tasks

1. Check visa and vaccination information (ASAP – months in advance)

Getting a visa can either be really daunting or completely unnecessary. It just depends where you are going and where you are from. For example, my family planned to go to China and the visa took us months in advance to get. On the other hand, when my boyfriend and I went to New Zealand, not only did we not need a visa, but the customs process was even easier because we are from the US.

When you check visa information, you’ll also need to see how long you can stay with the visa. That varies as well. I recommend using the search bar on this ‘dot gov’ website to search for your destination country. It will bring up a page that looks like this:

International Information

This page will tell you the contact information for US citizens in that country, visa, and vaccine information.

At this point, I would also recommend looking to International Driver’s Permits as well. Some countries require it and others can use your normal license on its own.

Lastly, check that your passport isn’t expired or expires within 6 months of your travel plans. That is usually the cutoff for customs.

2. Get some international currency (4-6 weeks out)

Many places have ATM’s that are readily available, but they also tend to charge fees for withdrawing money. Some banks also have their own fees if you use a foreign ATM. I recommend getting at least some currency so when you arrive at your destination, you already have something to work with.

It’s really easy! You can call your bank to see how long it will take for them to get your desired currency in. Some banks will allow you to arrange it over the phone, online, or if not, you can go into a local branch. They’ll either mail it to you or call you when they get it, and you go in to pick it up! Super easy!

I also recommend downloading some helpful travel apps that will make currency conversions a breeze while you’re abroad.

New Zealand Currency

3. Purchase an international outlet converter and plugs (a week out, if shipping)

This is SO important! Make sure that you have the appropriate outlet converter and the right plugs. Not all countries have the same voltage output so you need to make sure that you convert that voltage before you use your cords from home. Your own cords were made for a specific voltage.

The outlet plugs are also different around the world. I purchased this one below and it works great! It also comes with a convenient carrier bag.

Other Important Tasks

4. Put a hold on your mail and newspaper

Be sure that you put a hold on your mail and newspaper, if you are going to be gone for a while. You don’t really need everyone noticing piles of mail or newspaper indicating an empty house! You can do this pretty quickly online now.

5. Enroll in the STEP Program

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a U.S. government program where you can register your travels with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. This is important so the Embassy can contact you in the case of an emergency in your destination, such as natural disasters.

You can enroll for free here.

6. Make copies of your documents

In case you lose your passport, ensuring that you have a copy can be so helpful! I generally make two copies, one for myself and one for someone back in the US. I would also recommend making copies of your driver’s license, so you have a second form of ID and for rental car purposes.

Now with the pandemic, you also definitely want a copy of your vaccination card. I recommend taking front and back photos on your phone, saving them as favorites so you can get to the quickly, and scanning digital copies just in case! You can never be too prepared when traveling.

Canada Bridge

7. Get traveler’s insurance

There’s a couple different ways to do this, but I think it’s really important to get some sort of coverage for yourself. You never know what’s going to happen.

First, you can generally get traveler’s insurance when you book flights. It can be helpful for specific airline coverage and generally has some sort of health coverage as well.

However, I recommend using World Nomads to get insurance. They cover so many things including lost baggage, trip cancellation, overseas medical and dental, medical repatriation, assault, and more! I have also found that they are by far the cheapest with the most coverage.

8. Notify the bank of your travel plans

Before you travel, notify your bank of your travel plans. You don’t want them to freeze your cards because you forget to tell them you were going abroad. Most banks have the option to set travel plans in their app! You can also change it at any time.

Club Med Bahamas

9. Pack!

Everyone either loves or hates this part. For me, this step is when I actually get excited! It’s really happening!

Double check the weather and be sure that you have the proper attire. Do some research and make sure that you’re wearing culturally appropriate attire as well.

Don’t forget your currency and outlet converter that you just got!

And if you’re really great at packing be sure to use good carry on luggage or your favorite suitcase.

10. Prepare for your flight

The final step is to plan your flight. You should arrive at least 3 hours before your departure time for international flights. Make sure you are following carry-on and TSA rules.

Don’t forget your passport!

Click here for my 10 flight essentials (including things I loved as a kid and those I’m loving now)!

Kids in Airport

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Here is a comprehensive checklist for international travel. 10 tasks organized by when you should complete them.
Here is a comprehensive checklist for international travel. 10 tasks organized by when you should complete them.

Looking for more travel planning resources? Fear not, check these out:

Brown University gate

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Recent PhD graduate and hyper-planner of Periodic Adventures, my goal is to share travel inspiration, budget tips, detailed guides, and fun travel stories!


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