Are you planning an international vacation? If so, you have likely already delved into all of the travel planning involved. But besides securing a passport and packing all the right items, there are many other things you need to keep in mind and plan for while you’re away.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has its own checklist for international travel which should definitely be read thoroughly. This includes information about travel warnings and restricted destinations (certain countries or areas) and your travel will be seriously warned against, or even prevented, if any of these are one of your destinations. This may be due to dangerous or unstable conditions and/or lack of the U.S. Government’s ability to assist American citizens due to the closing of an embassy or consulate.
Global Index Peace Map 2009
Passports and Visas
Once you have chosen your travel destination, you must then ensure you have an official passport that is valid for at least six months from your departure date. If not, you must get it renewed, which you can do at some post offices, online, and other various locations you can find by using the U.S. Government’s Passport Acceptance Facility Search Page.
It is extremely important not to forget or lose your passport when traveling, as it can make it impossible or very difficult to get to and from your destination.
You may also need a visa or visas depending on the location, amount of time you’ll be there, and reason for your trip. These visas enable you to enter and leave these countries and they consist of special stamps and notations government officials add to your passport.
Notification of Foreign Travel (NFT)
In addition to working with the HHS’s GovTrip online service, you may also need to submit your Notification of Foreign Travel (NFT). This document will be populated with the information you entered in GovTrip, but you must complete any other information before signing it. You then need to wait for an NFT pre-approval and final approval from those responsible for foreign security briefings, and they will also help you with obtaining security briefings, passports, visas, and country clearances.
Booking Your Flights
When booking your flights, you can choose to create your travel order and reserve all travel reservations with the GovTrip service or book your own international flights. If booking on your own, however, regulations state you must fly with U.S. Flagship, or domestic carriers. This is per the Fly America Act and Open Skies Agreements. You can request a waiver, but these waivers are difficult to obtain.
Be sure to reconfirm your flights with the airline 72 hours before your departure to ensure everything is in order.
Depending on the country or area you are traveling to, you may also be required to receive certain vaccinations. For example, regulations require the yellow fever vaccination when traveling to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America. You can usually find out which vaccinations are necessary by contacting your physician. You should then bring with you a health book which is a record of these vaccinations.
You may want to consider travel insurance for your international trip. It is generally inexpensive and can come in handy when traveling. This includes travel medical insurance, insurance for trip cancellation, lost or delayed baggage, and other amenities. You never know what can happen while you’re in another country, so be sure you cover all your bases.
If you take medications regularly, you need to be certain you pack enough, or even more than enough, for what you might need. Trying to find a pharmacy and getting the right prescription in a foreign country can be difficult, and you don’t want to run that risk if you can help it. You may even consider bringing over-the-counter medications you may need to prevent you from having to decipher labels in foreign languages should the situation arise.
When you’re traveling to a foreign country, it is important you know at least some basic phrases in the country’s native language to ensure your safety and convenience as you travel around. There are many phrasebooks available, including some that are accessible via your smartphone and others that are even talking apps to ensure correct pronunciation.
You will likely not have certain appliances and chargers that plug directly into whatever outlets are standard in the country you are visiting, so it is important you find the correct adapter to bring with you. Some are specific to a certain area, others are all-in-one, and they can usually be found online.
Then of course, there is the issue of packing clothes, toiletries, and all of the other traditional amenities you would pack on any trip. A few days before you leave, brainstorm all of the possible situations you might be in and what clothing, toiletries, or other items you might need to be prepared, comfortable, and safe. Don’t want until the last minute, as this can easily cause you to forget something. Remember to pack all device chargers and entertainment for the flights. Pack clothing for different occasions, like warm or cold weather (or both), casual and formal, and all coordinated accessories.
Things to Leave Behind
In addition to what you should bring, you also need to leave certain things behind. For one, and perhaps most importantly, you need to leave a copy of your itinerary, including all flights, hotel information, and excursions, with a friend or family member back home to ensure someone always knows where you are.
Other items to leave behind are a copy of your passport and visas, any unnecessary credit cards, unnecessary IDs and membership cards, expensive or religious jewelry, and anything resembling a weapon.
Another important aspect of international travel preparation is sometimes overlooked: the safety and protection of your home while you’re away. One way to protect your home is to let your family, friends, and neighbors know about your travels so they can keep an eye out or occasionally pass by to check on everything.
One of the best ways to secure your home while you’re traveling internationally is to have a proper home security system set up, complete with locks, alarms, cameras, and anything else you think you might need for optimal home security. You can use the SafeWise security system finder tool to compare different systems and decide which features you want and which plan is best for you and your home.
Safety is of utmost important while you are on your international trip, for yourself, your belongings, and your home. Visiting somewhere far away is exciting, and using this checklist will help you ensure the best trip possible.
Written by Carolyn Heneghan
Carolyn is a nutrition and environmental crusader who loves using and exploring technology almost as much as she enjoys writing about it. Learn more