International Travel Checklist: Things To Remember Before You Travel Abroad

International travel is exciting, rewarding, and even life-changing. It can also be a little overwhelming. There is lots to think about, and it’s best to plan ahead. We’ve put together this international travel checklist to help you make sure you haven’t forgotten anything important, and that your travels go as smoothly as possible.


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Important documents

There are several important documents that you will need every time you travel. It’s best to make physical and digital copies of your documents. Leave some at home with a trusted family member or friend, and take copies with you as well. This ensures that you can get the information you need if anything is stolen.

Passport

Make sure that you have a valid passport. Many countries will not allow you to enter if your passport is not valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return, so make sure yours is up to date.

Visa and other entry requirements

Research the entry requirements for your destination, as well as any countries you may pass through. Some places do not require a visa if you are just visiting for a short period; some places will require that you register for a free tourist visa; and others will require you to purchase and provide proof of a visa. Do your research so you don’t get stuck at customs.

A good place to start your research is your local government website, and the government website of your destination. If you need to purchase a visa, make sure to do so through an official channel. Many companies advertise and charge for visa services at inflated prices, even when the visa should be free.

Emergency contact details

We always put together a document using Google Docs that includes all of our flight and accommodation details, and any emergency contacts. We then share the document with close family or friends so they know where we are at any given time, and how to get in touch in case of an emergency.

Driving license/permit

If you are planning on driving during your trip, check whether your driving licence is enough. Some countries may require you to get an additional driving permit.

Health and medical precautions

Travel insurance

Make sure you have valid travel insurance for your trip. The world of travel insurance can be very confusing, and having done a lot of research ourselves, we know there is no perfect policy out there. Things to look out for include emergency medical expenses, compensation for delays, and lost luggage replacement. Keep in mind that while many policies do include compensation for stolen items, they put a lot of restrictions on what can be reimbursed. There’s no way around this, but make sure you understand what they actually cover.

The medical expenses are the most important element. You don’t want to be refused essential emergency treatment because you don’t have insurance, or be sent a large bill afterwards.

It is wise to print out a copy of your insurance policy, and make sure you have the insurance provider’s emergency number saved in your phone.

Vaccinations

Check whether you need any vaccinations before you travel. It’s always sensible to check with your doctor first.

Prescriptions and medication

If you require any medication for an existing condition, make sure that you have enough with you to cover the length of the trip. Pack a first aid kit with painkillers, plasters and bandages, and medicine for allergies or travel sickness. It won’t always be readily available.

Safety and security

Is it safe to travel?

Check foreign travel advice for your destination with the government, and sign up for travel alerts if possible. Make sure you research the laws in your destination, so you don’t accidentally offend someone, or worse, get arrested.

Stay connected

Call your phone provider

Figure out what the costs are for using your phone abroad. You don’t want to get a bill that costs thousands for using your phone abroad. If you are able to use your phone abroad, you may need to enable data roaming. If not, keeping your phone on airplane mode is a good way to avoid any unintentional costs.

It may be cheaper to buy an international SIM card when you arrive; some countries have really cheap SIM-only plans. Do some research and figure out what the most cost-effective option is for you. If you plan on using a different SIM card, you will need to make sure your phone is unlocked.

Download anything you might need

You never know what the wifi or data signal situation is going to be like when you arrive, so make sure you have anything you might need saved to your device. This includes digital copies of your important documents, maps of the local area, and any in-flight entertainment such as movies, music or podcasts.

Don’t forget a portable charger.

There’s nothing worse than finally finding WiFi and realising that your battery is about to die. Okay, maybe there are some things worse, but it’s still pretty annoying.

Money matters

Call your bank

Let them know that you will be using your cards abroad. If you don’t, they may assume that any foreign transactions are fraudulent and block your card. That’s a hassle that nobody needs.

Figure out which card is best to use

You want to minimise international fees as much as possible. We personally travel with a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees, and a debit card that has no fees for withdrawing cash abroad.

Where possible, opt to pay in the local currency and use your card provider’s exchange rate. It’s almost always better than the one you will be offered in stores or at ATMs.

It’s worth making note of the emergency number for a lost or stolen card. It’s usually on the back of the card, but if the card is missing that won’t be much help.

Take some cash for emergencies

Ideally some of the local currency, as well as your own. The cheapest option is usually to withdraw cash from an ATM in the local currency, but it can be helpful to have a small amount with you before you arrive. Don’t plan on exchanging money at the airport, as the exchange rate will usually be worse than in other locations.

Take care of everything at home

Depending on how long you will be away, you may want to arrange for someone to feed your pets, water your plants, and generally take care of your home. If you trust your neighbour, ask them to keep an eye out for any suspicious favour.

It may also be worth speaking with the post office to temporarily hold your mail, and don’t arrange any deliveries. A pile of mail on the front doorstep indicates to thieves that your home is empty.

Destination information

Make sure you know what to expect when you arrive!

Language

If they speak a different language to you, it is always polite to learn basics such as hello, please, and thank you. People will appreciate you making the effort!

Although English is widely spoken throughout the world, especially in the more popular tourist destinations, don’t assume that you will be able to get by. Learn as much as you can, download a translation app or take a phrase book, and be prepared to smile, nod, and gesture.

Currency

As previously mentioned, take some local currency in case you need cash upon arrival. Do some research as to what things should cost. You don’t want to get ripped off by a taxi driver as soon as you arrive.

Accomodation

Decide if you want to stay in a hotel, hostel, AirBnb, or somewhere else. We always use booking.com to find somewhere to stay. You can find great deals, and many places offer free cancellation which is helpful when you are still finalising your plans. (That’s an affiliate link. We get a small commission if you use it to make a booking, at no extra cost to you. We appreciate it!)

Figure out how to get to your accomodation before you arrive. It’s never fun to arrive in a foreign country and realise you have no idea where to go. Sometimes we make the decision after we’ve landed, but we always do research first so we know what our options are.

Even if you like to travel spontaneously and not book everything in advance, we recommend booking at least your first night. You don’t want to get stuck in a foreign country with nowhere to stay.

Itinerary

Make a list of everything you want to do, and double check opening times. You don’t want to get somewhere only to find out that it closes early that day and miss out.

Kayla has a story about travelling to the Palace of Versailles from Paris – with several mishaps along the way – only to get there and find out that the palace is closed on Mondays. The next day she found out the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays.

You’ll have a much better trip if you research these things beforehand!

Maps

Download a map to your phone, or go old school and take a physical one. Even though we can use our phones, sometimes it’s easier (or more fun) to grab a free map and start exploring.  Know the best ways to get around; some cities are better to explore on foot while others require trips on the metro.

Packing

A packing list is an entirely separate article! We’ll be back with that soon.

For now, remember that packing is always less stressful when you make a list of everything you need and leave plenty of time to get it done. Waiting til the last minute is a surefire way to start your trip on the wrong foot.

The night before

Get plenty of rest and set multiple alarms. Use your phone or a battery operated alarm clock in case of power failure during the night. If you have an early flight, make sure everything is ready to go before you go to bed so you don’t have any delays in the morning.

On the day

Make sure you leave plenty of time to get to the airport. You don’t want to miss your flight because of traffic or delays on public transport.

It’s also a lot less stressful going through airport security when you aren’t rushing. The person in front of you will take forever to empty their pockets, carefully untie their shoes, or realise they haven’t put their liquids in a bag. But who cares? You can breeze on through, safe in the knowledge that you have plenty of time to spare.

Have fun!

There’s a lot to think about, and travelling can sometimes be stressful or overwhelming.

Remember why you are travelling, take it easy, and enjoy yourself!


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  1. alison netzer on 9th June 2018 at 11:29 am

    Thank you, am leaving today for an international trip and although I’ve done it a ton, there is always something. This was helpful.

    • Joe on 9th June 2018 at 11:52 am

      Thanks, I’m glad we could help!

  2. Kavita Favelle on 10th June 2018 at 8:31 am

    I have a packing list that I amend for every trip, and it includes all the key things you list in the checklist. It’s soooo easy to forget one without a list! Great comprehensive checklist, hopefully will help some travellers that are a bit forgetful!

    • Joe on 11th June 2018 at 8:04 am

      Thanks for the lovely comment. You’re right, it’s so easy to forget if you don’t have everything written down!

  3. Lana on 10th June 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Great checklist! I always take my first aid kit on every trip, packed with everything … even blister plasters! You just never know. We always take some cash out and a credit card with no transaction fees. Our last trip to Copenhagen, I didn’t check if all the sights were open on Monday. I was gutted to find a couple of places closed. I really need to take on the tip with getting rest the night before. I am so last minute with my packing! ; )

    • Joe on 11th June 2018 at 8:06 am

      It’s so disappointing to find places closed! That’s definitely happened to us a couple of times before as well. We try not to be so last minute with the packing, but sometimes it just happens!

  4. A stroll around the wolrd on 10th June 2018 at 9:54 pm

    Nice post! I always search for visa requirements before purchasing the flight tickets…some countries require a very long waiting list!

    • Joe on 11th June 2018 at 8:08 am

      That’s definitely the smart thing to do. Until I started looking, I never knew that some destinations could take so long!

  5. Claire on 11th June 2018 at 12:48 am

    That is certainly a comprehensive list! Though it may seem to be a lot to prepare but I do agree with you that the items you have listed are still essential for a smooth sailing trip! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Joe on 11th June 2018 at 8:11 am

      Thanks Claire! There’s certainly a lot to think about, but it’s worth getting everything sorted before you go so that you don’t have to worry about it while you’re travelling.

  6. Medha on 11th June 2018 at 4:37 am

    I am flying tomorrow night on a trip and I have come across your post at the perfect moment – I was reading through it and mentally checking if I have done all of it. Very comprehensive and useful list, especially about getting travel and medical insurance, downloading offline maps (I am going to be on a road trip so even more useful), downloading important documents and keeping a copy handy.

    • Joe on 11th June 2018 at 8:12 am

      Glad we could help. Have a fantastic trip!

  7. amit on 11th June 2018 at 10:24 am

    You seem to have covered pretty much everything here, the number of times I keep checking that I have my passport and flight itinerary is unbelievable but I have to say I do have quite a smooth process in making sure I have everything but it is good to have a checklist and to re-check because you never know when something might get missed out. I tend to take more digital copies with me now rather than paper but like you mentioned good to have both forms for important docs.

    • Joe on 11th June 2018 at 6:49 pm

      Thanks for the detailed comment, Amit. Yep – we always double check everything!

  8. Alexander Popkov on 11th June 2018 at 7:46 pm

    Heh, I seem to have already everything ready to travel, at any point. And Have fun is the most important part of course.

    • Joe on 11th June 2018 at 9:46 pm

      You must be a pro! It is indeed. Thanks for your comment!

  9. Pujarini Mitra on 13th June 2018 at 12:40 pm

    This is a great list. Personally, I can’t think of anything that I would add. We always carry digital copies and hard copies just incase. And medical insurance is a must.

    • Joe on 15th June 2018 at 12:11 pm

      Thank you, that means a lot to us. You can never be too careful when travelling!

  10. Sandy N Vyjay on 15th June 2018 at 5:45 am

    A checklist is a must. Especially when it is international travel, one cannot afford to take a chance. We too check and cross-check what we are taking before every trip. Your checklist includes everything that is necessary and is a good reference point to start.

    • Joe on 15th June 2018 at 12:14 pm

      Thanks Sandy. We use checklists for everything, otherwise I’m sure we’d end up forgetting something!

  11. Saakshi Maheshwari on 15th June 2018 at 11:41 am

    Wow! thats a perfect checklist for all international travellers. I usually follow my checklist but seems like I will have to make some amends soon. Useful stuff, must say!

    • Joe on 15th June 2018 at 12:15 pm

      Wow thank you! I’d love to know, is there anything on your checklist that we may have missed?

  12. Ami Bhat on 16th June 2018 at 5:07 am

    You seemed to have covered most of the important things. Good tip on the portable charger for that is something that a lot of us miss. A perfect checklist for all the paperwork you need. I am sure a lot of us will benefit from this one.

    • Joe on 18th June 2018 at 4:33 pm

      Thank you for your kind words!

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