“Flight attendants please prepare the cabin for landing…” This advice isn’t just great for flight attendants, but extends to travelers, especially international travelers. Preparation for landing is key and can make the difference between a terrifically awesome trip and an awesomely bad one.
No matter whether you are staying a week or a year, there are certain things you should do and know before leaving home.
- Go to travel.state.gov to get pertinent travel information regarding warnings & alerts around the world for U.S. travelers.
- Enroll in STEP – Smart Traveler Enrollment Program – a program run by the State Department to aid you in case of emergency while traveling or for family at home to contact you regarding emergencies while you are away.
- Know what documents you must have. Every U.S. citizen MUST have a valid passport in order to re-enter the United States. Do you need a Visa or IDP – International Driver’s Permit?
- Go to http://www.cdc.gov to get vaccination information. Research this early as many vaccines require time to take effect or are a series of doses that are given over a specified period of time.
- Have two copies of important documents. One should be left with someone at home, the other kept with you during travel in a place other than the originals. These documents include: Passport ID page; Itinerary; Foreign Visa; Hotel Confirmation; Airline Ticket; Driver’s License; Credit Cards you are carrying with you; Traveler Check Serial Numbers.
- Know how you will handle money. Does the country accept U.S. dollars? Will you use your credit or debit card to obtain local currency at an ATM? Do you know where ATMs are located? What fees will apply? Contact your credit card companies to let them know you are traveling abroad.
- Know the local laws and customs. Breaking a local law can land you in jail and the US Consulate/Embassy will not be able to get you out.
- Check with your health insurance provider to understand what you are covered for while traveling or living overseas. You may need supplemental insurance. Ask about prescription medications and how to obtain a refill override (many insurance companies will waive the refill period and provide up to one year of medication). Know how to carry them safely and legally. Some drugs may be illegal in the country you are traveling to and you’ll need a medical ‘note’ to carry them with you.
- Research whether favorite products are available. For example, many women prefer using tampons which may not be available to purchase; or many prefer stick deodorant which also may not be available particularly in Asia or certain European countries.
- Finally, research local American Clubs or University Alumni clubs. They make a great way to feel ‘at home’ quickly and learn about the lay of the land you will be calling home. Even if you aren’t staying for an extended period, these groups can offer you advice on where to go, what to do, and how best to do it from a more ‘local’ perspective.