Updated: Nov 5, 2019
My plan for this week's riveting episode of the Global Exotic Adventures chronicles, was to present five (or so) must-do's when preparing for overseas travel. In researching, I came up with way too many to include here and still keep your interest. Some were MUST-do's (i.e., for safety, peace-of-mind) and some were 'do if applicable to your trip'. I narrowed it down to six do's, knowing that there are many more I could include, but won't; there are others that might apply specifically to your trip, but I find these are the most 'MUST' of the bunch, that you might not think of without a reminding nudge. If you're not about to embark on a journey overseas, forward this to someone who is, so that when they relate their travel misadventure you're not thinking "gosh I wish I had sent them Juliet's sage advice." Don't be that person.
International travel can be confusing and overwhelming the first time, but with planning and forethought (not fore-worry) it doesn't have to be. Presuming you follow my advice and use the services of a good travel advisor to design your trip, most of the mechanics of overseas travel like inoculations, visas and trip protection will be out of the way, leaving these things for you to do yourself:
1. Photocopy Your Passport
Your passport is a precious security and identification document. Guard it like you guard your birth certificate, credit cards, house-keys and children. Before you leave the country scan a copy of your passport and email it yourself and to a friend or family member that you trust, and print a paper copy to carry with you. In a foreign country you can carry the paper copy, while the real one is locked in your hotel safe (that's another helpful hint).
2. Register With STEP: Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
STEP is a free service provided by the U.S government to keep citizens traveling overseas updated on safety conditions for specific destinations. STEP can also locate you in a foreign country should the need arise, and lets the US embassy know how many U.S citizens are in foreign countries if a national disaster or attack happens. This allows for a more accurate plan to be made to safely evacuate American citizens back home. Clearly this might be more of a necessity in certain countries more than others, and especially the further you are away from the US. However, given the times we live in, vigilance is warranted. You can use the STEP and the State Department's Consular Information Program in the planning process to help you decide whether a destination you'd like to visit is as safe a you hope it is.
3. Call Your Bank
This is a must-do in my household: call the 1-800 number on the back of your credit card and let them know of your travel plans. They’ll ask for your departure and return dates, and layovers. Calling your bank before you travel will keep your account from being flagged or frozen. When your bank feels charges are outside of your normal modus operandi, they should be flagging and freezing like crazy. You don't want this when you're overseas. In fact, consider doing this even for domestic travel away from your home state.
By the way, traveler's checks are no longer the preferred way to have funds available during travel; exchange rates tend to be less than optimal (even most overseas ATM's give a better rate) and they are not as widely accepted as they once were.
4. Call Your Cellphone Provider
Again, one of my have-to's. Why? If your cell-phone plan does not include service at your destination, the charges for calling and texting can be astronomical. Connecting to cell towers overseas may require an extra step or two and your provider can give you how-to instructions. Certain international locations may need an upgrade to an international plan. At the very least, you'll know before you go.
5. Share Your Flight Info With Someone
Share your flight information and itinerary with a friend or family member that isn't traveling with you, in case of emergencies. 'nuff said.
6. Be aware of Entry and Exit Fees Many countries charge a fee for you to enter and/or exit, separate from any visa fees; the requirement and the cost may vary with duration of stay or other factors. Again, the Consular Information Program is a great source of information. The fees may also be called by a variety of names such as 'reciprocity fee', 'entry levy', 'departure tax'...they all refer to the same thing; you'll want to have these amounts figured into your budget.
I hope this helps you be ready for your trip overseas. Are there must-do's you already have on your list? Let me know what they are in the comment section below.
'til next week.