by Terri Guthrie
I had to learn through trial and error about what to pack for international travel. Here’s a checklist of traveling tips that have worked for me. Hopefully you will find this helpful if this is your first time traveling abroad, or even if you are a seasoned traveler!
- Check-in with your doctor and insurance carrier. Double check and make sure that you have all of the proper vaccinations and that you have renewed all essential prescriptions. Also, ask your medical insurance provider if your policy applies overseas for emergencies. If it doesn’t, and you want to add extra coverage, consider supplemental insurance.
- Bring copies of your passport. If your passport gets stolen or lost you want to be sure that you can still get back into the country, or be able to prove your citizenship. I laminate several copies and always carry a copy with me in my purse. I usually keep the real one in my hotel safe. For extra backup, leave a copy of your passport at home or with someone you trust. Consider making an electronic copy you can store in your email account as well.
- Make sure your passport is VALID. I once witnessed an older couple be denied check in to Paris because one had an expired passport. Second, check to see if the country or countries you’ll be visiting have a 6-month beyond requirement. This is a great website http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country.
- Get your hotel’s business card. This is a great thing to have handy to help you remember the address or to show your taxi driver. Be sure it’s in English AND the local language.
- Look up the monetary conversion before you go. Finding out that one Danish Krone is equal to just 19 cents … bad surprise. Make sure you do your math before you travel to get a sense of the conversion rate.
- Make sure your credit card will work in the country you’re visiting. European banks have switched almost completely to the more secure chip-and-PIN technology, and fewer businesses abroad are accepting the outdated magnetic-strip cards.
- Go to a bank or ATM in the country you’re visiting. The conversion centers in the airport or around the city tend to be huge rip-offs. You won’t get charged as many fees at the ATM or the bank, and the conversion will be exact. Be sure the ATM charges you in U.S. dollars, if offered the choice between dollars and local currency.
- Always have local cash. Not every place takes credit cards, especially important places like trains or buses. It’s just wise to always have cash on hand – a great safety-net!
- Call your bank or credit card provider. Sometimes banks think that fraud maybe occurring if transactions are suddenly happening in foreign countries. They WILL turn off your card as a security measure. It has happened to me and is not a good feeling. Contacting your bank to let them know what country you are traveling to is always a good idea.
- Check the country’s entrance/exit fees. Some countries require travelers to pay in order to enter or leave the country. These fees are not included in the price of your airline ticket, and can range from $25 to $200.
Do Your Research
- Buy tickets now for places you know you want to visit or see. By buying in advance you’ll be able to skip more lines, and find more deals targeted toward you.
- Get guidebooks. Guidebooks usually include maps, key words or phrases, and give you enough detail on certain sites that you won’t need to purchase the pamphlet at the venue. And download apps before you travel. Avoid downloading charges from your wireless carrier and get your apps before you leave. ‘City Maps To Go’ is a great app!
- Research events going on while you’re there. This will help you make sure that you’re not missing big events going on in the city like festivals, ceremonies and natural events. Also be sure to research a few national dishes to try. You don’t want to leave the country without experiencing what it’s famous for!
Keeping Electronics Charged
- Bring a charger adapter. Countries have different size plugs and voltage. So if you want to use your iPod, make sure you can charge it.
- Check the voltage of your electronics. From my own experience I know that nothing is worse than having an adapter and still not being able to use a blow-dryer or a straightener because the voltage isn’t high enough for that country. Or it can also burn up your appliance.
- Activate your phone’s global capabilities. There’s usually a charge for doing this, but it is much less than the roaming charges you’ll get if you don’t. Texting is a quick and easy option for communicating back home.
Luggage & Packing
- Pack an extra set of clothes in your carry-on bag. Lost luggage happens. Also, I always carry reading material, a sweater, socks, neck pillow and earplugs on my flights. Basically, anything that you cannot live without needs to be in your carryon i.e. passport, medicine and documents.
- To check a bag or not to check bag. Each airline has its own set of guidelines as to how many bags can be checked or carried on for free. Make sure to look up what your airline’s rules are to avoid any incremental fees. Also, take a photo of your luggage in the event your luggage is lost by the airline. It will be much easier to show them a picture than trying to explain this in a foreign language.
- Keep the small stuff. Pack iPad, mobiles, cameras, video games etc. in carry bag. Make sure not to have sharp pointed objects (not even scissor), perfumes, oils, liquor, and other liquids in your carry bag. All your carry on should be 3 ounces or less. Also, take a variety of medicine with you in the event you get sick. I promise, you’ll be glad you have it!
- Bring snacks. Traveling abroad is fun, but eating in a foreign country can sometimes be challenging. Bring small snacks that will tide you over until you find that perfect restaurant or food cart. I take granola bars and nuts with me. Be very careful about what you eat and drink, especially in countries that have generally poor living conditions; always drink bottled water, never tap water. Having my own snacks and drinking bottled water has saved me on many occasions!
Have fun, be street smart and enjoy the experience of being an international traveler!!!
Terri Guthrie and her pilot husband, Ron, travel around the world and share their experiences with readers of The Cross Timbers Gazette.