Going abroad is always fun! As we prepare for a long trip with lots more luggage and jet-lagged sleepovers, there are many things that we may forget to do unless we have a check list that we religiously adhere to, every time we plan an international trip. Here is one that I have prepared for you after about 30 or more international trips.
Get those papers!
Passports! They are the first document you need to check when you think of an international destination. All travelers are advised to carry up-to-date passports to enter any country. Even if you are allowed to leave a country without a passport, getting back into your own country may be a nightmare without the proper documentation.
Find out if you need Visas for every country you pass through or visit. If you are only staying in an airport for transit (changing planes, never getting out of the designated transit area) then you may not need a visa. If you are spending a day or even an hour outside the airport, you may need a visa. The visas are usually applicable to travelers in certain countries only. So it’s best to go to the website of the country itself to find out if they need us to get a visa. For example, if you are traveling to Singapore, go to the following site and then check if citizens from your country require visas:
Similarly, go to the site of any country you are traveling to and find out if you require visas. Its best to apply for visas as early as you can to get that paperwork out of the way. Sometimes, you may need to mail your passport to the country’s local embassy (or go there personally) to get your passport stamped with the visa.
Flying higher and higher
Airline tickets – International tickets cost a lot more than domestic tickets and they also have a lot of restrictions. It’s best to get international tickets from a reputed travel agent who can give us substantial savings through consolidator prices as well as advising us on what papers we need to carry. If we are going on work visa, we will need to carry papers from our place of business in addition to the visa and passport. Always make sure that you know the exact number of hours in transit at any airport. If you fall asleep during transit and miss the flight, you may lose hours or days trying to get on the next flight. It’s best to find out the gates and try to sleep close to the gate. (Also ask a fellow passenger to wake you up when the plane starts boarding for the next leg of the journey)
Better safe than sorry
Shots and medicines. Each country has its list of diseases and health warnings. Take most of the shots required ahead of time so that you will be in good health when you are ready to travel. You can find the list of shots to take at the CDC website: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/ and check out the countries you are traveling to determine the shots that you may have to take before leaving the country. It’s especially important to immunize children and senior citizens before traveling.
Weather – Find out from the following site the average weather conditions at the time of your trip: http://www.usatoday.com/weather/forecast/international/ . If you cannot find what you need at this site, Google the “city weather months” replacing “the city” with your intended destination and “months” with your month of travel. Most countries have weather information sites. It is best to Google for the “country and weather”
Light as a feather
Pack light. Use layering since the weather everywhere is more or less unpredictable. Cotton undergarments should be followed by one layer of upper garment, then a jacket or sweater. In winter, don’t forget to take overcoats. Also, find the neck pillow that allows you to sleep in an upright position on long flights. Take medicines such as pain relievers, cold medicines, antibacterial creams, band aids, your usual medicines as well as toiletries. Some additional items I take are sunscreens, hats and socks for the plane. Put your name and telephone number inside the bags in case they get lost. Also mark your bags with brightly colored ribbons or wool so that they are easy to spot. Never put your address on the labels – thieves can spot an empty house all the way across the globe!
Even if you check in your bigger bags, make sure you carry one set of clothes, basic toiletries and most importantly a set of your medicines and extra pair of contact lenses in your hand luggage. Take an extra pair of shoes if you can. You may need one pair for the evening and one for adventurous day tours. Don’t forget to take your camera with you! Also make sure that you get a coat or jacket with an inside pocket to keep your valuables such as passport, visa papers and money. Airports in Europe are known for their pickpockets who work as gangs with one or two distracting passengers while the other run away with our bags. Whether you are sleeping in the airport or on the plane, it’s a good idea to keep your valuables close to your body.
Before you go, it’s a good idea to convert some of your currency to that of the country you are traveling to. When I traveled to Luxembourg, I assumed that I would be able to use my ATM card to get the cash out at any time. When I reached Luxembourg, I realized that the airport did not have a cash machine and all the banks in the city of Luxembourg were closed for the weekend! Before you leave your home, go to the bank and get at least a small amount ($100) worth of foreign exchange that you can use in the event of an emergency.
Carry one major credit card, your ATM card and any other health information you may need others to know in case of an emergency. Remember to leave your foreign accommodation information with someone at home so that they can get in touch with you in case of an emergency. If necessary, call your credit card companies and inform them that you will be traveling on the specified dates. It’s also a good idea to call your home alarm company and tell them that you will not be home for a while. Also alert your neighbors to keep an eye on your home. Turn of all faucets, electrical appliances and adjust the heating and air conditioning. If you are taking your cell phone with you, make sure that you have international service.
That’s about it! Now you are ready to leave the country. Show your passport to get it stamped at the port of exit and your visa and passport along with customs and immigration forms at the port of entry at your destination. Keep all the papers they give you securely because you may have to hand them back when you are leaving that country to come home.
International travel really opens our eyes and our hearts. In the planes, in the airports and in transit, you will notice so many different cultures, languages, dresses, and styles. Travel really brings the world closer!