The Ultimate International Travel Checklist For Your First Time Abroad

International travel rates dropped 75% in 2020, due to the COVID19 pandemic. Now that we’re getting back to (our new) normal, we’re quickly building back up to pre-pandemic rates. 

If you’re a first-time international flyer, congratulations on your upcoming trip! We’re excited for you to experience the kind of wanderlust we’ve built this blog around. 

Since we’ve flown the world a few times, we wanted to put together some international travel tips to help you plan your first trip. Read more below!

Check Your Passport Before You Book

When traveling internationally, the number one issue people run into is an expired or otherwise faulty passport. While it’s an easy fix, the government takes a while to process applications and requests. You want to start the application or update process as soon as you book your trip, or even before! 

If you’ve never applied for a passport before, here’s a short summary of the steps you need to take.

  1. Download the US passport form from Travel.State.Gov. 
  2. Get official passport pictures 
  3. Bring documents to prove your identity and nationality
  4. Go to a passport processing site (you can find them online)
  5. Pay the fees and wait

Updating an expired passport is a similar process, though you’ll skip the first step above. Some passport facilities have photo stations while others don’t, so do your research in advance. 

As per the Department of State, anything needed sooner than eight weeks should go through an expedited process (which requires a separate form and has a higher fee. 

Your passport will come in the mail eight to twelve weeks after you’ve completed all the steps. 

Double Check About Visas 

On that same note, you’ll want to research traveler visas for your destination. The most commonly traveled places, like Europe and most Caribbean countries, don’t require a visa if you’re staying less than 60 or 90 days. 

If you need to apply for a visa, contact the embassy of the country you’re traveling to. These are usually in the closest big city to you, or could be a few states away. The visa application process requires an up-to-date passport, so you’ll need to complete the step above before applying for any visas. 

Look Into Travel Immunizations 

Before times, travel immunizations were only for the most remote destinations, like developing and under-developed countries. Now, with COVID-19, you need to do a little more research before flying to more popular destinations. 

Even post-pandemic, international travel still holds some vaccine restrictions. Make sure you have your COVID-19 vaccination card with you, and that it’s valid and in good condition. You should store it in a secure place (along with your passport) while you’re traveling.

If you need a replacement card, you can call the health department in the city you got vaccinated in. Even if you were vaccinated through a third party, all doses are on file with the health department, since the government distributed the vaccine. 

These requirements are constantly changing as we start to navigate out of the pandemic, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t automatically assume that someone will accept a photo or a photocopy of your vaccine card unless you have written and official proof. 

Buy Power Converters 

One of the most common mistakes first-time international travelers make is assuming they can use their electronic chargers in a foreign country as they would here. The majority of the world runs a different electric current type than we do in the US, which could fry your chargers or devices without a converter. 

Luckily, Amazon has pages of travel plugs that convert the higher overseas voltage to something your devices can handle. You can even get universal chargers that work with all plug types. Be sure to get two or three plugs per person, depending on how many electronics you have to use. 

Do Some Cultural Research 

Have you ever heard the rumor that French people hate Americans? First of all, it’s not 100% true, but it’s proof that cultural clashes can cause travel issues. 

We won’t make France any more of an example than we already have, but a few hours or even thirty minutes of cultural research will help you more than you know. Especially if you’re traveling to locations that don’t often have an influx of tourists or conservative locations. In the UAE, you can get arrested for having certain personal devices in your luggage. 

Not the way you want to start your trip! 

Think About Phone Plans 

A lot of people go overseas with the intention to keep their phones on airplane mode and only connect to wifi hotspots. This works okay, but it doesn’t give you access to your navigational tools or to live translation apps. 

If you don’t know the language where you’re going and plan to be on foot/driving around, spring for your international phone plan or stock up on data. Your phone carrier can help you pick the right options for you. 

It will be more expensive, but it’s temporary and worth the cost! 

If you choose not to, make sure to have memorized some phrases and know how to read a physical map! 

Choose Your Shoes Carefully 

Another common mistake first-time travelers make is underestimating how much walking they’ll be doing. Traveling abroad will get those daily step goals accomplished! 

Make sure you’ve broken in your shoes before you go and pick function over fashion. Sensible shoes aren’t the most exciting thing, but they’re an essential part of your travel checklist! 

How to Travel Safely While Having Fun 

Finally, let’s touch on things like pickpockets and other crimes. When traveling, you should always use hotel safes, keep your essential documents close to your body when on the move, and watch out for tourist traps. 

Don’t sign any petitions, help someone who walks up to you, or otherwise engage with people in high-traction areas. Keep your wits about you, wear your purse cross-body so you can keep a hand on it, and don’t store anything important in your back pockets. 

If you lose something or have it taken, go directly to the nearest embassy after alerting the police. 

International Travel: It’s Worth It!! 

We know that the planning process for traveling abroad can be lengthy, expensive and that there’s a learning curve. That said, international travel is worth all the preparation when you finally get on that plane and go. 

Ready to start packing? Read our international travel packing list, here.  

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