The Essential International Pre-Travel Checklist: 11 Things to Do Before You Leave
The Pre-Travel Checklist is one part of travel planning you should not miss. Organize everything ahead of time, so you have a stress-free trip. Below is the list of items you should go through before an international trip.
Passport Validity Rule
Your passport should have at least six months of validity when traveling internationally. Most countries will not allow a traveler to enter unless the passport is set to expire six months after the final day of travel. Adult passports are valid for ten years.
Standard U.S. Passport
28-page book – 17 pages for country stamps
Non-Standard U.S. Passport
52-page book – 43 pages for country stamps
Most foreign countries require a specific number of blank pages in a passport as an entry requirement. As a result, some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met. Make this the first item on your Pre-Travel Checklist.
Visa – Pre-Travel Checklist
Before you book your trip, it’s best to check if you need a visa for the country in question and the processing timeframe. You can do the paperwork yourself, or you can do it through an agency. I find the process easy and less expensive if I do it myself. Find U.S. citizens' entry and exit requirements by destination country on the State Department’s website.
When doing research for your trip, it’s always good to check with the U.S. State Dept’s Travel Advisory on the country you are interested in visiting. Remember that this advisory is continuously updated, so check back again just before your trip.
Their website has a color-coded map, which shows the parts of the world that are safe to travel to and which destinations to avoid.
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service for U.S. citizens traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
STEP benefits are that they will know where you are if there is a natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency. They also inform you of safety conditions in the country you visit.
Global Entry is a customs program that allows expedited Entry when traveling back to the U.S. On returning from Europe a few months ago, we walked through, there was no line, and I was amazed it was that quick. I’m sure it’s not like that all the time, but it’s a million times better than waiting in the customs line.
Once you apply for Global Entry, there is a long wait for the interview; however, they also have a drop-by service. In San Francisco, I waited 25 minutes; and the interview took 10 minutes. The whole process was easy and so worth it.
Most foreign countries require a specific number of blank pages in a passport as an entry requirement. As a result, some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met.
However, you must enter your Global Entry number in any airline reservation you make to receive TSA PreCheck. When you print your boarding pass, it will show the TSA PreCheck sign. If you forget to do it when making the reservation, you can also do it when you check in at the airport.
If you apply for the Chase Sapphire card, you can purchase one Global Entry card for free. You charge them a $100 fee to the Sapphire card, which will credit it back. This credit card will also not charge you foreign transaction fees. Other travel cards offer free Global Entry; review what they offer before applying.
Print All Paperwork
While seeming old-fashioned, it’s practical to have everything you booked printed, so it’s readily available. If for some reason, your phone or laptop can’t access the wi-fi, and you don’t have your documents saved locally, it can be a hassle. Consider getting a traveler’s journal to write about your trip and hold your documents.
Before your trip, you should call your bank and credit card company to let them know your travel dates and which countries you will visit. This way, they won’t put a hold on your card, thinking it’s a fraudulent charge. Also, ensure you have a credit card that will not charge foreign transaction fees.
International Driver’s Permit
Not all countries require this permit, so it’s best to research this when booking your trip. If you need one, you can purchase it at your local American Automobile Association. The cost is approximately $21, and you will need two passport-size photos.
Read that article here.
Copies of Passport & Visa
Take a copy of your passport, visa, and other essential documents and keep them in your suitcase. Also, scan a copy to your phone or laptop for easy access. If, for some reason, your passport was lost or stolen, having a copy will help speed up getting a new one.
It’s also a good idea to share your itinerary with a family member in an emergency. While your family may generally know where you are going, it’s better; they have flight numbers, hotels, etc. Take a few photos of any valuables you are packing so that you have a record if your luggage is lost. Even take a snapshot of the entire open bag.
This app expedites the customs process when re-entering the U.S. There are no interviews or enrollment involved; the app allows U.S. passport holders to submit their passport & customs declaration information via phone. If you are traveling with family members, you can submit the information for everyone through the one app.
Look for the express lanes at any airport involved in the program, and although this is only available at 29 airports and one cruise port, it’s worth checking out. The free version is all you need for non-business travel.
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