Everything You Need To Do Before International Travel (For Those Of Us Who Don’t Go As Often As We Like)

I wish I could tell you I’m a frequent international traveler. I’m working on it, and this year I’m taking two trips abroad before the halfway mark. The thing is, even with that preparing for a five-day hop down to a Mexican resort town isn’t the same thing as taking off to Southeast Asia for two weeks. As I prepare to launch off on my longest trip yet and the furthest from home it has involved remembering all those things I had to do before international travel and learning some new ones I should have done in the past.

I don’t typically get travel insurance, but my trips aren’t normally this complex. Remembering you need to find out the timeline on visas and vaccinations. And did you know you can register with your embassy so they know how to contact you in the case of emergency? I guess I’ve missed that one in the past.

So as you start planning your international trip take a look at this list of things to do before international travel for those of us who might not go as frequently as we’d like. Below you’ll find tips to get you started and make sure to sign up for the free printable checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything.




What you need to do before international travel. Checklist for what to do when going abroad. Must do before traveling. What to pack and what to do.

6 Months Prior

Plan

I pretty much never book a trip 6 months out. You might, and if so I’m impressed, but at six months you should start the planning stage. It’s important to start researching before international travel on things like where you want to go and finding a date that works for you.

Make sure to black out the dates, even if it’s in general. This will stop you from booking other things during that time that might hold you back from booking your trip when that part comes around. Also, knowing what season you’re going and how long you will have will help narrow down destinations if that isn’t set.

Logistics

On the logistical side, make sure your passport is going to be valid well through your trip. Some countries require it to be valid for up to three months after. Check out what the countries you’re visiting require. 2016 marks ten years needing a passport to get into Mexico and Canada. That means thousands of extra people will be renewing their passports this year! Make sure to plan extra turn around time, if your passport expires in six months send it in now.

Also, start looking into Visas for the countries you’ll be visiting. Do you need to plan ahead or can you handle it when you arrive? Mark on your calendar when you need to send your information to the consulate if you do.

3 Months Prior

Plan

Start watching for flight deals at about this time. You probably won’t want to book yet but you wouldn’t want to miss out on a great sale. Take a look at a few sites I like to use. Typically book international flights about 10-8 weeks out. Also, start researching your itinerary, what cities will you visit and how much do you want to book ahead of time. It’s can be a great time to start booking accommodations if it’s the high-season. If not you can put that off for awhile.

Logistics 

Talk to your doctor about whether you need any vaccinations or medicine for where you’re going. It might even just be flu season on the other side of the equator but you want to be safe. If you haven’t already, look into the Global Entry Program where you can speed through customs and also get TSA Pre-Check when you’re flying domestic.

If you’re planning on renting a car or scooter, look into getting an International Drivers Permit. You can pick on up at your local AAA office for a small fee.What you need to do before international travel. Checklist for what to do when going abroad. Must do before traveling. What to pack and what to do.

1 Month Prior

Plan

Now it’s time to dig into activities. Build up a list of research on things you want to do and places you want to go. One of my favorite resources in Pinterest, where you can find other blogger’s articles on locations. More resources that can help you plan. You don’t need to go crazy with booking but look at tours and tickets that might be hard to get when you arrive.

Logistics 

A couple more things to check off your list. Register with the embassies of the countries you’re visiting just in case something goes wrong. In that vein, make sure to get travel insurance. Whether it is something serious or just needing to buy some extra things because of lost luggage it’s worth being covered. I use World Nomads when I travel and they have great coverage at good prices.

Pack

Start looking at what you need. Do you have it? Is the type of luggage you have what you’ll want (my favorites). What are the bigger things you might want like a waterproof camera or special hiking gear? Start looking into the things that might take you a little longer to get or that you want to take your time and compare.

3 Weeks Prior

Logistics

Time to start getting some smaller details done before international travel. Look into how you’ll make calls and use your phone while abroad. Do you need to talk to your carrier or do you plan on buying a disposable phone when you arrive?

Make sure to take a look at your regular bills as well. Will any of them come up while you’re gone that aren’t automatic? If so make sure to set them up before you go.

Prep Your Home 

If you’re traveling for more than a week put your mail on hold with USPS. It’s easy and free and helps keep your home safe.

Pack

You’ve looked into the bigger ones but what are smaller items you don’t just have around the house that you’ll need to pack. Things to keep your belongs safe, an adapter for international outlets and if you’re carrying on you might want to look at things like stick sunblock and bar shampoo.

Miscellaneous

To make sure you aren’t stressing to book them the week you’re leaving, make any appointments you’d like to have before you leave. For us ladies, that might include your hair, nails or a wax.

What you need to do before international travel. Checklist for what to do when going abroad. Must do before traveling. What to pack and what to do.

1 Week Prior

Logistics

If you’ve planned it right you shouldn’t have much left to do and shouldn’t be stressed out the week before you leave. Yeah, right! A couple things left include telling your credit card companies and banks you’ll be traveling so they don’t cancel your card.

Print out hard copies of all your travel documents from IDs to confirmations to emergency and medical information.

Also, exchange currency, ideally at your bank since you tend to get the best exchange rate. Look into if there are ATMs to use so you can avoid carrying too much cash on you.

Prep Your Home 

Give a friend or neighbor your key and codes to get into your house in case something goes wrong while you’re away.

A Few Days Prior

Pack

Time to get started packing and an important one is your carry on. Make sure you have everything you need from entertainment to comfort to health to snacks. Take a look at my 8 things I can’t fly without and sign up below for the checklist with the other things you shouldn’t forget on a long flight.

Also, make sure to download everything you’ll need during the trip from e-books to music to apps.

Prep Your Home

The worst thing is coming home from weeks of travel to a home that is a mess. It’s no fun but clean you home before you leave. Even do your laundry. Make sure the house is how you like it when you get home.

When You’re Leaving

Prep Your Home

One last walk through in your house, unplug and turn off everything. And double check you have everything you need, do not be like me and leave your chargers at home.

Get Ready to Enjoy and Make Some Memories

The Before International Travel Checklist

While this post goes into good details on what you need to do before international travel for those of us who don’t have all of these steps drilled into our brains yet, it isn’t something easy to print out and work off from as you prepare.

Because of this, I’ve put together a special checklist that includes all of the items above and more. Sign up for my weekly newsletter and you’ll receive a free printable International Travel Planning Checklist.


Did I miss something you always make sure to do before international travel? If so let me know and I’ll add it to the list. Leave a comment below. 

What you need to do before international travel. Checklist for what to do when going abroad. Must do before traveling. What to pack and what to do.Get a free printable checklist with everything you need to do before taking an international trip. What you need to do before international travel. Checklist for what to do when going abroad. Must do before traveling. What to pack and what to do.

About Megan

Megan MacNee is the founder of Traveling Nine to Fiver. From nine to five she works in the political world in California, but on evening and weekends spends time exploring the West Coast and more. All while encouraging others to join in on the adventures.
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  • Carol Perehudoff

    Wow, that’s more prepared than I’ll ever be. But great tip about checking your passport. I was heading off to Israel when someone pointed out that my passport was about to expire within months. Imagine how fast I whipped down to the passport office. I guess a little pre-planning really does go a long way.

  • Laura Lynch

    There’s a ton to do and plan for a longer trip abroad. I like to plan activities more than a month out though because some more popular things get booked up early.

  • Jenna

    Great tips! We usually start planning and booking things like flights and accomodations pretty far in advance–I have a hard time leaving that stuff once we know where we are planning on going. I always love to leave our place clean as well–makes getting home so much nicer!

  • Mindi

    What a great resource! I tried to be so organized before leaving the country for extended travel last week, and I still ended up calling the credit card companies from JFK to notify them of the countries we’d be visiting.

  • Elena Sonnino

    Great tips! Pinterest (and Instagram) are huge helps for planning and researching, and I also use a Google drive document or spreadsheet to keep track of resources across platforms.

  • Elaine J Masters

    Love the way you’ve organized this and how flexible it is no matter where you may be going. I’d add – turn off subscriptions – to the prepping your home section. It’s a big key to home security while you’re away.

  • Buddy The Traveling Monkey

    Lots of great reminders on this list. I would have never thought to put my mail on hold. I’m never gone for more than a few weeks at a time, but for longer trips this is definitely a good idea. Thanks!

  • Thank you, Megan! Even though I’ve been arranging my travel plans and have been traveling for years now, there are still so much important details that I tend to overlook and I really understand how tedious, confusing and exhausting it could get. Good luck to you and to all of us who want to travel!

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  • RP

    My last trip was 10 months backpacking in south america. A few more things you might want to think about esp. for a longer trip.

    Public free wi-fi is a lot more common in many coiuntries than the US, so you can get a lot of things done online. But if you are bringing your own laptop, many sites you are used to connecting to easily from home will throw up all those old security questions. If there is an essential site you need to get on make sure you remember the password and security questions you will need to answer to get on.

    If you have spotify or another online music service that allows you to offline songs do so before you leave so you can listen to music while offline.

    I found online storage (dropbox in my case) to be a great tool to upload photos from my hostel or hotel immediately or soon after I take them. Set it up before you go.

    set up skpye or tango or even use facebook messenger to call people and if there’s someone you need to call test that they can/will receive the call b4hand. Theyll need an account for the service you use. probably not worth it bringing a phone.

    cheers!!!!