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International Travel Checklist

Sep 19, 2019

International Travel Checklist

International travel is an opportunity to make memories while discovering new places and experiencing new cultures, but it’s important to still be responsible so that your trip runs safely and smoothly. Below are some suggestions of things you should do before and during your trip to make sure you and your money are protected.

Things to Do Before You Travel

  1. Contact your bank or credit union

    If you live in Philadelphia but suddenly begin making purchases in Paris, your bank may temporarily suspend your card. Random international charges are often flagged as fraudulent, so be sure to let your bank or credit union know when and where you plan to travel before you embark on your trip.

  2. Set up auto-pay for your bills

    When you’re on island time, you’re focused on relaxing – not your bills. But, due dates are just important when you’re abroad as they are at home, so consider temporarily enabling auto-pay for any bills that are due during your trip. If you don’t want to use auto-pay, try to pay them ahead of time so that you don’t risk hurting your overall credit score while you’re soaking up the sun.

  3. Make sure all of your documents are up to date

    There are multiple documents you’ll need when traveling abroad like your visa, passport, and driver’s license. To ensure that you don’t wind up getting turned away at TSA or Customs, take a moment before your trip to check that your documents will not expire before or during your trip. Keep in mind that if your passport is set to expire within 3-6 months of the end of your trip, you could be denied entry to some countries. If you’re traveling to multiple countries, you should also double check that you have enough passport pages to fit all of your destinations.

    If you plan to rent or drive a car at your destination, find out whether an International Driver’s License is required or if your U.S. license will do prior to booking. This is especially important if the reservation is non-refundable, because no one wants to lose their hard-earned money. You should check all of your documents early enough that you have time to resolve any problems.

  4. Check the country’s entry/exit fees

    Something that you may not have thought to check is whether or not your destination has entry or exit fees. According to US Customs and Border Protection, 56 countries charge entry and/or exit fees that range from $14 to $100, with an average of $26.77. Take a moment to research what the fees associated with your destination are so that you aren’t blindsided or overcharged at the border.

  5. Buy your tickets ahead of time

    Unique excursions can make your trip an immersive experience, so do some research to see what interests you and book ahead of time if you can. Booking your trip ahead of time is especially helpful when planning a vacation during the holidays. This way, you can find and compare the best deals across sites to save a few bucks. You’ll have the luxury of skipping lines at the ticket booth once you’re there, and most importantly, you’ll avoid being overcharged onsite.

  6. Stock your wallet strategically

    Aside from alerting your bank or credit union of your travel plans, there are some other financial considerations to be made when preparing for international travel. You should start by selecting one or two cards to bring with you and checking that they’re accepted in the country you’re visiting. You shouldn’t bring all of your credit cards with you in case your wallet gets misplaced or stolen, but you should be prepared just in case. If you pack what you consider to be enough emergency U.S. and local cash in a bag separate from your wallet, you’ll have some money to fall back on if needed.

    Also in that separate bag, you should include important information like your credit card number and the card issuer’s contact phone number should you need to report your card stolen. Keep in mind that toll-free numbers do not work outside the U.S., but credit card companies will accept collect calls at a designated number, so when you’re notifying your card issuer(s) of your travel, ask them what the best contact number is.

    If you haven’t already, memorize your numeric PIN because ATM keypads abroad are different than those in the U.S. Traveler’s checks are no longer universally accepted, so plan to use your bank card to withdraw money for ATMs. If you don’t want to gamble with higher ATM fees abroad, determine how much cash you feel comfortable traveling with and visit an ATM near home before leaving.

  7. Pack appropriately

    Instead of packing last-minute, take some time a week or two in advance to make sure you aren’t leaving anything important like extra contact lenses, prescription glasses, or medications behind. You should also buy and pack toiletries, a first-aid kit, and sunscreen ahead of time so that you don’t get stuck paying higher prices targeted at tourists in need.

    Avoid packing any valuables (aside from necessary electronics like your phone, laptop if you’re traveling for work, etc.) because wearing expensive jewelry and clothing can attract thieves who target tourists. If you do bring valuables, keep them in your carry-on or locked in the hotel safe – never keep valuables or money in your checked luggage.

    To travel the world on a budget, you’ll need to think about packing. To save some money, try to pack as little as possible so that you don’t have to spend money to check extra bags. Once you’ve double checked that you have everything, attach luggage tags that have your name, address, and phone number both inside and outside of the bag.

  8. Buy travel insurance

    People often opt out of purchasing travel insurance, but your trip plans can be derailed at any moment due to things like unforeseen weather conditions. If your trip requires a large down payment or is booked many months in advance, you should strongly consider purchasing trip interruption and cancellation insurance for protection. While paying the money upfront can seem unnecessary, it can end up saving you hundreds or even thousands of dollars down the line.

  9. Print everything

    Technology is great, but it’s not always the most reliable. If you don’t want to pay for an international phone plan or are unsure of what WiFi will be available, print everything, including your boarding pass; copies of your driver’s license, passport, and visa; car rental receipts; excursion confirmations; and hotel reservations. It’s crucial that you keep all of this information handy in case of a misunderstanding or if you don’t have WiFi when you need to pull up your receipts. Having hard copies of all of your legal documents in a separate bag from the originals is important as it ensures that you will not end up stranded abroad if you misplace your identification documents.

Things to Do During Your Trip

  1. Tip Wisely

    Make sure that when wrapping up a meal at a restaurant, you don’t double tip – unless you want to! Read through the entire check to see if the restaurant already added gratuity to the bill so that you don’t accidentally tip 40% instead of 20%; included gratuity is common with parties of six or more. When opening your wallet, be careful how much cash is visible to avoid becoming a target for theft.

  2. Keep in touch

    If you’re traveling alone, you should consider registering with the Embassy so that they have your information in the event of an emergency. You can also enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions and other important updates. In addition to this, if you’re traveling alone, you should give your itinerary to a trusted family member at home who can keep tabs on you while you’re living your best life abroad.

Erin Ellis

Erin Ellis
Accredited Financial Counselor ®
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