– Your Comprehensive International Travel Checklist –
Don’t you just love the excitement of counting down the days to your next international trip?! Daydreaming of sipping cocktails by the pool or finally visiting that incredible bucket-list destination…
The anticipation you feel before traveling abroad is almost as much part of the adventure as the trip itself.
If you’re at this stage of eager anticipation, your adventure is likely just around the corner. You have all the big stuff planned and booked, and you have your travel itinerary mostly sorted.
If not, check out how to create a travel itinerary you will love to help you with your planning!
But, before you get too caught up in the daydreams, there are a few important things you need to do before traveling abroad!
Work through the items on this pre-travel checklist to make sure your adventure is completely stress-free.
Whether it’s your first trip abroad or you just need a quick reminder, here are 12 essential things to do before traveling internationally!
PS – This post may contain affiliate links: That means that if you purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Of course, I only recommend products/services that I have used and believe are great! Please read my disclosure for more info.
This might seem obvious but before you can even think about traveling abroad, you need to have a current and valid passport.
Double check that you have your passport handy, and when it expires. Many countries require that your passport is valid for at least six months from your date of travel.
If you travel a lot, you’ll also want to make sure you have enough empty pages, as this is another requirement.
If you do need to renew your passport (or apply for it for the first time) before traveling abroad, make sure you give yourself plenty of time.
It can take a few weeks to process your new passport and get sent out to you.
Of course, you’ll likely need your passport when you’re booking your flights too. Double check that the name you book your tickets under exactly matches that on your passport.
Quite often, airlines ask you to fill in pre-departure passenger information online before traveling. This might be done at the time of booking, or on their online system prior to departure. Usually this means submitting certain information from your passport including your passport number and expiry date.
Pro Tip: Always save a digital copy of your passport just in case! For example, on Google Drive or in your email inbox.
Visas & Entry Requirements
Depending on where you’re going and what passport you’re traveling on, there will be different rules for how long you’re allowed to stay as a tourist, and whether you need to apply for a visa before traveling there.
If an entry visa is required, bear in mind that approval can take anywhere from a few minutes to a number of weeks or even months! There are some visas which you can apply for ahead of time, while others will be issued on arrival.
Never assume that a visa is not needed, even if you’ve been to that country before!
The last thing you want is to arrive at the airport for check in and have a minor panic attack because you should’ve applied for an entry visa ahead of time.
I only say this because it honestly happened to us just this past year!!
We were turned away from the check-in desk and told we wouldn’t be able to fly until the visa was approved.
Luckily, Australia’s system is online, free and pretty quick! So, we were able to scuttle off, apply, get approval, and come back to check in just in time!
I’d like to think I’m a pretty seasoned and organised traveller but these things do happen! I can’t tell you how glad I was that we’d arrived at the airport as early as we did!
Still, some countries’ visa applications can take much longer, even if you are able to apply online.
When I travelled the Trans-Mongolian railway years ago, for example, I needed visas for Russia, Mongolia and China. All of this took rather a lot of coordination and I only barely managed to get them all as I had to send away for the Russian and Mongolian visas by courier, each taking a few weeks to process.
Pro Tip: It can be worth carrying a couple of spare passport photos with you as some countries will require this as part of your visa on arrival application.
Vaccinations & Medication
Again, vaccination requirements vary greatly by country. Often, you won’t need any, but some countries have both recommended and mandatory vaccinations.
However, your doctor should be able to help you figure out exactly what you’ll need based on where you’re planning to go. I definitely recommend always talking with your doctor on vaccinations. The guidelines can change at anytime, and your doctor will be able to provide the most up-to-date information.
Don’t leave vaccinations to the last minute – some may need to be administered over a course of multiple weeks.
In some cases, you may even need proof of a vaccination in order to be allowed into the country.
This is true for many African countries where you’ll need a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate. In fact, you may even need to be able to prove that you’ve had the shot before applying for your tourist visa!
In addition, if you take any prescription medication, make sure you fill these ahead of time.
Check that you have enough to cover your trip and at least a few days after you return. Depending on the medication, you may also want to bring a letter from your doctor or a copy of your prescription to show to airport staff if requested.
Buy Travel Insurance
I would highly recommend that you buy travel insurance before traveling internationally! Even though you assume you’ll never need it, accidents happen and treatment will get very expensive very quickly without insurance cover!
Always check the small print of your policy and make sure it covers what you need and expect.
How many days are you covered for? Does it cover the activities you plan to do while you’re away (such as horse riding, scuba diving, bungee jumping or even hiking!)
If applicable, check whether your travel insurance has an excess waiver on rental cars included in your policy.
Actually, if you’re renting a car while you’re away, also check whether you’ll need an international drivers licence or not. For example, in most of South East Asia, you’ll need an international drivers licence if you’re planning on renting a scooter.
Does anyone here remember the days of travellers’ cheques?? Yup! I used them years ago when I went on exchange to Japan in my last year of school… But, those days are long gone and now you’re usually good to go with your bank card from home.
The downside of using a bank card is that it can get pretty expensive. Some banks charge a lot for withdrawing foreign currency. I’m a huge fan of online banks and swear by my Revolut card for free foreign withdrawals and live exchange rates!
Check out my full review: Revolut – The Perfect Travel Card
If you’re using your regular ATM card, make sure you let your bank know that you’re going away. Otherwise, they might block your cards for suspicious activity.
Also, double check the expiry date of your bank cards before traveling!
In addition, it’s worth checking the foreign exchange rate of the currency you’ll be using on your trip compared to your home currency. Downloading an App like XE.com is great for checking what things cost in your own currency.
Pro Tip: To save money on everything from transport to accommodation to activities, it can be worth seeing if you’re eligible for a student card or seniors card. Or if you already have one, make sure you bring it along!
Buy Travel Essentials
As part of your pre-travel prep, I’m sure you’ve put together a detailed packing list! Right?
This is a great way of keeping track of what you need, and what to remember to bring on your trip.
One of the important things to do before traveling abroad is to purchase any items from your packing list that you don’t already have. Think of things like sunscreen and insect repellant. Surprisingly, these can often be more expensive at your destination than at home.
It can also be a good idea to bring a basic first aid kit with some basics like pain killers, antiseptic cream, plasters and antacid.
In addition, make sure you have the right travel adapter for your electronics so that you can charge them while you’re away.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget that larger liquids (more than 100ml) will need to go in your checked luggage. If you’re planning on travelling with hand luggage only, keep your liquids small!
Roaming rates can get extremely expensive!!! Definitely check up on roaming rates for your provider before traveling internationally.
Those of us from Europe are pretty lucky these days as the ‘new’ EU regulations (introduced in 2017) stipulate that you can roam “for free” throughout the EU. This means that you’ll be charged the same abroad as you do at home.
For example, if your plan includes free minutes, you’ll be able to use these in other EU countries (including Norway and Liechtenstein, under current agreements).
But, roaming outside of this, especially when it comes to data usage can get very expensive very quickly. To avoid coming home to an extortionate phone bill after your trip, check the roaming cost with your provider before you travel.
The alternative is to get a SIM card at your destination. We’ve done this a few times during our travels in South East Asia, and found that some countries offer ridiculously cheap data plans! Definitely a great alternative for staying connected while traveling abroad.
Pro Tip: Some airports hand out SIM cards free of charge to arriving passengers. These may even include a small amount of data.
Research your destination and make a list of any activities or experiences you’re interested in doing.
Sure, you might not get to do them all this time but having a general idea of what you’d like to do, and how much those things will cost is a useful thing to do before traveling.
If applicable, book any can’t-miss activities or day trips ahead of time. This can sometimes save you money and certainly disappointment if tickets sell out fast.
For example, when we went to Florence a few years ago, we missed out on going to the top of the Duomo at Florence Cathedral. As it turns out, tickets sell out days in advance. Had I done some research ahead of time, we would’ve purchased our tickets before we got to Florence and avoided disappointment…
Pro Tip: Use Get Your Guide to research activities and pre-book your top priorities
Consider how you’ll get to and from the airport both at home and at your destination. Booking airport parking online in advance can often save you a lot of money!
Unless you’re a seasoned traveller, it might be less stressful to have a taxi or shared transfer shuttle pre-booked at your destination to take you to your accommodation. For transfers, I like to use Hoppa.
It’s worth double checking for any public holidays at your destination as transport might run on a reduced schedule.
It’s also a great idea to have a printed map and/or directions to your accommodation from either the airport, or the local bus or train station. Arriving at a new destination can be disorienting. Having a clear plan of how to get to your accommodation takes some of that stress away.
Pro Tip: Download Maps.Me and the relevant offline maps to help you get around at your destination!
Finally, check out what the transport options are while you’re at your destination. Knowing whether you’ll be doing a lot of walking, taking public transport, or even cycling before traveling there will help not only with your packing but also with making the most of your time.
Make Copies Of Important Documents
As I briefly mentioned before, I highly recommend saving digital copies of your important documents in a safe place before your trip. Although you may never need them, it’s reassuring to know that you can access them anywhere and at anytime.
You can do this in a variety of ways. Simply email copies to your own email address or save them to Google Drive, Dropbox or a similar cloud based service.
There are also great Apps for your phone like TripCase to save your travel itinerary and other details.
Check out all of my 7 Must-Have Travel Apps to download before traveling!
Documents you should make copies of before your trip include;
- Travel Insurance
- Your itinerary
- Booking confirmations including flights, transport and accommodation
Pro Tip: I personally also like to have a paper copy of my flight and accommodation details as well as my insurance policy and relevant emergency contact numbers. That way, I’m not relying too heavily on my phone. At the very least, I’ll take a screenshot of those details so I don’t have to get online to access any of those details.
Share your flight details and a (rough) travel itinerary with a friend or family member at home. It’s reassuring to know someone knows where you are and how to contact you in case of an emergency.
Also, register with your government if possible.
While you’ll (hopefully) never be in a situation where things go horribly wrong, if there is a problem in the country you’re travelling to, your government will know where you are and can offer assistance if necessary.
I’ll be honest and say I never used to think about this before. But with the COVID-19 pandemic breaking out this year, embassies were a great source of help for travellers stuck abroad.
- If you have any pets, arrange for pet-care
- Sign up for the frequent flyer membership for the airline(s) you’re traveling with
- Earn points for your trip that you can use for future discounts!
- If you have any specific dietary requirements, request special in-flight meals (if these are provided)
- Normally this can be done online by selecting the “manage your booking” option on the airline’s website
- Research and download some Apps specific to your destination
- For example, we often used Grab in South East Asia (an alternative to Uber)
- Download books to your e-reader and/or movies for your tablet to keep yourself entertained while you travel, as well as at your destination
- Or, if you prefer, some Podcasts, movies, series or music!
- Learn a few local words and customs. Even just knowing how to say Hello and Thank You will be greatly appreciated!
- An App like Google Translate can be a great help, and many languages are available offline
- Check your camera’s SD card and clear up space on your phone
- You will definitely be taking lots of photos and maybe even videos. Plus, you want to make sure you have any old photos backed up at home
- Pack an extra set of clothes in your carry-on bag
- Unfortunately, luggage does get lost or delayed… You’ll be glad you have some fresh underwear and another outfit to wear at your destination
- Put your house and car keys somewhere safe and make sure they are in your hand luggage!!!
Last Minute Checks & Things To Do At Home Before Traveling
Yay! You’re almost ready to head off on your adventure! Before you pull that door closed behind you, make sure you’ve covered off these last minute checks;
- Double check the dates on your tickets and how many hours before departure you need to check in
- Leave a set of house keys with a trusty neighbour, friend or family member
- Maybe even ask them to water your plants and collect the mail if you’re away for longer
- Turn off or unplug appliances and other electrical items so that they don’t work too hard while you’re away
- Think of things like your heating, water immersion, TV, stereo, and so on
- Turn other appliances to holiday mode if they allow it
- For example, your fridge (And empty it of perishables!)
- Speaking of food – bring some snacks for your travel day!
- Partially close blinds/curtains and set a few lights on timers
- This will create the appearance of someone being home
- Empty your bins
- Check that all windows and doors are locked
- Set the house alarm if you have one
How do you feel before traveling abroad? Do you plan everything in great detail or are you more of a ‘take it as it comes’ type of traveler? If you use one, what’s on your international travel checklist?
Let me know in the comments below!
Related Posts You Might Like