International travel is a beautiful adventure, the opportunity to see and experience the world beyond your front door.
It also represents a significant investment of both time and money. As with all major investments, it’s best to prepare for these trips as carefully as possible. Our international travel checklist will take you through what to consider throughout your trip, prepare in advance and pack to make your adventure as smooth as possible.
Benefits of Traveling Internationally
Some of the benefits we gain from international travel seem self-evident. Everyone can use an occasional break from their daily routine, and visiting another country is one of the boldest and most dramatic ways to take one. Traveling abroad allows you to meet new people, learn new things and try new food. Sometimes it can even offer the chance to find a whole new you — the version of yourself that you become away from home.
Beyond these commonly cited advantages, international travel also offers several subtler benefits. Actively engaging with another culture can boost your creativity by interrupting your usual thinking patterns and encouraging you to approach ideas from a different perspective.
Travel can also help boost your confidence as you gain experience navigating an unfamiliar setting. Once you’ve successfully mastered a foreign transit system or built a friendship without a common language, your usual challenges can seem much more manageable. Rising to these challenges has another benefit, too — you’ll come home with some great stories.
One of the greatest benefits international travel has to offer is the feeling of coming home. Your surroundings will feel comfortingly familiar after some time away, and you’ll be able to appreciate home more than ever.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Before getting into international travel essentials, here are a few things to keep in mind throughout your trip planning.
Health and Safety
While it’s always important to guard your health and safety, it’s essential when traveling abroad. Make this the first item on your checklist before an international trip.
If you require medical attention, you could end up owing money even if you have insurance. Medicare coverage only functions within the U.S., and medical facilities in other countries often don’t accept U.S. insurance. Plan for the possibility of sickness or injury in a foreign country:
- Consider supplemental health insurance that will cover any assistance you think you may need on your trip.
- Check the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) websites to review any potential health risks for your destination.
- Enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive safety condition alerts for your destination.
Creating an international travel checklist gives you the security of a structured plan, and a trip itinerary will do the same. Create your itinerary with the following steps:
- Decide how long your total trip will be.
- Set your initial budget for the trip.
- Make a rough outline of your schedule. If you’re visiting multiple places, decide how long you’ll spend at each destination.
- Find potential flights and accommodations.
- Find things to do in each area, noting your top priorities.
- Review your estimated costs against your budget, revising if necessary.
- Once you’ve made your final decisions, book your travel and accommodations.
Ensure that at least one other trusted person has a copy of your itinerary before you depart, and notify them if any changes come up during your trip.
If you plan to exchange any money for foreign currency, it’s best to do so before you leave. Your best options are:
- A credit or debit card: Consider applying for a card without international fees or, if you already have one, verify that you can use it for purchases in a foreign country at no additional cost. Many credit cards with this feature also offer rewards for purchases like airline tickets or hotel reservations.
- Your local bank or credit union: If you plan to use physical currency, these institutions usually offer the best exchange rates. Also, ask if they will buy foreign currency when you return and if they have ATMs in the country you’re visiting.
- An online money transfer company: These companies let you transfer money between bank accounts through websites or phone apps. In some cases, you may be able to load money into an account with them that converts to local currency when you use their card.
- Withdrawing cash at an international location: If you need money in your destination country, make a withdrawal at a local bank if possible. In cases where you must use an ATM, alert your bank first. If you have to use a non-bank ATM, process the transaction in local currency for a better exchange rate.
International Travel Checklist
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to address the specifics of what you need to travel internationally.
The early planning stages of your international trip checklist set a foundation for your entire trip. You should address these items at least a month before your departure:
- Health insurance: Find out if your existing policy covers emergencies in other countries, and consider purchasing a short-term supplemental policy for your trip if it doesn’t. You should also consider investing in medical evacuation insurance, which can save you over $100,000 in an emergency.
- Travel insurance: In addition to medical concerns, travel insurance can protect you in case of flight delays or cancellations, lost baggage and a lost or stolen passport. Alternatively, opt for an insurance plan that covers both your health and travel needs. With ARREVA Advantage, our plans offer a variety of concierge services as well as medical coverage. Find the insurance plan that works best for you today!
- Vaccinations: Check the WHO and CDC websites for vaccinations required to travel to your destination. Schedule your vaccination appointment at least a month before your trip.
- Transportation and accommodation: Book your flights, hotels and car rentals well in advance.
- Destination research: Read up on your destination. Look for information on exchange rates, cultural norms and customs, weather conditions and legal restrictions.
- Finances: Check your credit cards for any foreign transaction fees. If you plan to use cash, research your local options to find the best exchange rate.
- Prepare your phone: Research your mobile provider’s international phone plans and verify that you will have service when you reach your destination. If you discover that the international plans are too expensive, consider setting up a mobile hotspot as an alternative.
30 Days Before Your Trip
In the final 30 days before your trip:
- Notify your bank and any credit card companies about your travel plans.
- Apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) and purchase supplemental auto insurance if you plan to drive.
- Make copies of your travel documents and leave one with a friend or relative.
- Arrange for someone to watch your home, plants and pets.
- Load your phone with offline maps, entertainment and a language translation app. You can also download a copy of your passport, and other important documents or upload scanned versions to the cloud.
- Sign up for STEP alerts.
- Stop your mail.
- Weigh your luggage. Ensure it falls within the weight limits for any flights you have, with some extra leeway for souvenirs you pick up on your trip.
Along with your usual underwear, socks and toiletries, stock your luggage with these international travel must-haves:
- Passport, visa, medication prescriptions, IDP and any other travel documents
- Insurance and ID cards
- Cash, debit cards and credit cards
- A travel health kit with essential medications
- Pen to fill out customs forms
- Cell phone and charging cord
- Portable backup charger
- Universal plug adapter
- Antibacterial wipes
- Sweater or scarf
- Extra glasses or contacts
If you’re compiling a checklist for flying overseas, add these items to help you stay comfortable during your long-haul flight:
- Compression clothing
- Reusable water bottle
- Neck pillow
- Eye mask
- Sleeping pills
Remember — anything you can’t or don’t want to replace should go in your carry-on bag.
Let REVA Keep You Covered When You Travel
Your overseas trip checklist has you prepared for nearly anything, even the unexpected. If you have an emergency while traveling abroad, REVA’s got you covered. We accept all major carrier coverage for our medical evacuation and international air ambulance services.