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Creating an international travel checklist

As the busy spring tradeshow season comes to an end, hopefully all of you road warriors are able to take time over the summer to enjoy a bit of home, or dare I say it: Get on the road again for a vacation. For others, maybe this is the calm before the storm of fall travel, but whatever the case, summer is the ideal time to regroup and prepare for fall.


In this article, we’ll take a summer break from global locations study and focus on important things to do pre-trip: which documents to bring, what to pack, what to do if you have an emergency overseas, and, finally, how to handle coming home.
Pre-trip Checklist

The first question to think about is: Where am I going? This sounds pretty basic, but the fact is, where you are going determines a lot of what you need to do before you leave. Some countries may only require a passport while others require a visa or immunization shots, which need to be completed several months ahead of time.

The following link is a great tool in determining important country specific information for your travel: http://travel.state.gov/visa/americans/americans_1252.html

If traveling somewhere new and you are concerned with transportation from the airport to the hotel, I suggest calling your hotel ahead of time to arrange for a hotel pick up. In many countries, this is also the safest way to travel.

Important Documents
Don’t forget your ID (passport, driver’s license, visa, etc). If you travel often, make sure your passport has two blank pages next to each other; if not, it’s time to ask for more pages in your passport. Certain countries will not allow you in if you don’t have this. It will take a lot of smooth talking or a nice customs agent to get yourself admitted, or you’ll be on the next flight back to the U.S.

Also take copies of your passport. You’ll want to leave your passport in a safe place, usually the safety deposit box, in your hotel, and carry a copy with you. After the first time I lost my passport, I realized how easily it could happen. After my wallet was stolen in Barcelona this past February, I was thankful to have this most important document safe in my hotel room. It’s also smart to leave a copy at home with a spouse or family member for safe keeping in case anything does happen abroad.

Other important documents include:

  • Your travel immunization book
  • Major credit cards
  • Actual airline tickets – Many countries require the actual ticket to enter, not just your electronic ticket
  • Telephone number and address of where you will be staying – May be needed for landing cards
  • Green card or visa for non-U.S. citizens returning to the States after a trip
  • A note from your doctor on any prescriptions you are taking. Some countries do not allow you to bring drugs into the country without a written note from your physician.

What to Pack
Below is a list of extra items you may want to consider packing depending your location:

  • Prescriptions; not just your every day prescriptions, but things like Malaria pills or medicine to assist with the aftermath of eating something that you shouldn’t have.
  • Ladies, do you need to be completely covered where you are going? If so make sure to pack appropriately.
  • A few snacks from home in case you have a special diet and have trouble finding food while abroad.
  • An extra English book for the trip home in case you don’t have an electronic reading device.
  • Some electricity converters.
  • A small first aid kit.
  • Pocket dictionary if your data charges are too high to use your Google translate app overseas.

In Case of Emergency
If you find yourself in an emergency situation outside of the United States, it is best to know the local police number or emergency number, like 911, if there is one. Also, always know where the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate is. They will help you if you lose your passport, end up in trouble with the local law enforcement and if your trip is longer and you need a long-term place for residency, they can help with that as well. The list of services they provide to U.S. citizens abroad is long, so don’t hesitate to call if you need something.

On Your Way Home
Coming home seems simple, right? Well, depending on where you are leaving from it can be, however, many countries require extra steps as you prepare to leave. Many require you to fill out an exit form, so they know you have officially left the country. Sometimes, these are given to you in conjunction with the entry form and you should hold onto this for your return. Other countries will have them readily available at the airport for you to fill out and present to the customs agent.

If you have a connecting flight that is not on the same airline, you may need to recheck before boarding your flight back to the U.S. The process for this is not always clear. Sometimes you will need to exit security and go to the ticket counter, or other times, you can re-check at your gate; often an announcement is made if this is the case.

Upon entry into the United States, for frequent overseas travelers, multiple U.S. cities have now adopted Global Entry. Global Entry is a way for you to go through customs by using a machine instead of standing in line for a customs agent to stamp your passport. An interview and pre-screening is done ahead of time to allow you to use this expedited processes. See http://www.globalentry.gov/ for more information.

Now that you are safely back in the United States, take time to think through your trip. Did you forget to pack anything you want to remember for the next time?

Traveling allows so many opportunities to experience something new. Don’t take it for granted; embrace it. 

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