Ten Must Do's Before Traveling Internationally

As a travel specialist, it is my job to not only to plan the perfect itineraries for clients, but to test out the journeys myself.  As a result, I feel I have gained a wealth of knowledge on how to prepare for a trip in record time and, hopefully with little or no incidence.  Packing a suitcase just hours before leaving for a trip overseas is a common occurrence because I know what needs to be done and the order in which I must complete it.

Below is a list of the things I do to prepare for all of my out of the country trips.  I hope it helps you and hope you can add a few tips to my list.

1.  Check your passport and entry requirements - There are many things your travel advisor can fix but an expired passport at the airport isn't one of them.  So, check your passport and entry requirements once and twice and three times a charm.  Remember, not only does your passport need to be valid during the time you are traveling, but many countries require it is valid for 6 months past your return date.  Also, be sure to check that you have enough pages in your passport and verify if you need additional documentation, such as a travel visa.  If you need a passport issued or renewed or need a visa, make sure you have plenty of time to get it back or ask your travel specialist for a recommended passport or visa service, which can expedite the service.



2.  Enroll in Global Entry - This is the best thing since the Speed Pass was invented for those traveling on the toll road.  For Global Entry allows approved travelers who are re-entering the US from foreign countries to bypass the line at Immigration and Customs and use a kiosk instead.  And, if you've ever arrived into JFK on a Friday evening, you know this can mean hours saved.  The cost is minimal, just $100 for 5 years, and the application process is easy.  Just go onto www.GlobalEntry.org and fill out the online application.  Once approved, you will need to go to the airport for a quick 15 minute interview and your done.  You need your passport in hand when filling out the application and can do the interview on the day you are departing the US.  This is well worth the time and effort if you travel internationally more than once, additionally, your Global Entry membership includes the Pre-Check membership.

3.  Get Travel Insurance - I know many people think that travel insurance is a scam but years of experience have taught me this is money well spent.  Think of it this way, you spend a small fortune on a trip to Disney in Paris and are determined to go......no matter what.  Twenty-four hours before you are to leave, little Jimmy comes down with an ear infection and the doctor says, he can't fly.  Are you willing to loose your travel investment?  I know I'm not.  Next scenario, you are on a magical safari in Kenya.  You trip and fall and break your arm and require surgery.  Your insurance takes you to the nearest major hospital in Nairobi for surgery.  Is that where you want to be operated on?  Not me.......So, without going into too much detail, I recommend two types of insurance; Travelex Insurance and Medjet.  The first coverage, Travelex is a standard travel insurance which covers you if you or someone in your immediate family is sick and you can't travel, covers trip delay or interruption, baggage coverage and medical coverage while you are traveling.  This is important because you are making a big investment in your trip and if something happens, you want to be covered.  Additionally, your standard health insurance, may or may not cover you outside of the US.  The second insurance is called Medjet, which is an annual membership insurance, which covers you anytime you are more than 150 miles from your home.  This insurance provides you with transportation to the hospital of your choice in a medically equipped plane, should you become ill or injured.

4. Get an International Phone in Advance - Have you ever returned home from a trip and opened your cell phone bill to find an amount which includes a comma?  Well I have, and it was a painful reminder that my US cell phone is not meant to be used outside of the United States.  When traveling abroad, I use Wireless Traveler, which offers both international cell phones rentals or purchase.  The cost of the phone is minimal and the rates are extremely attractive.  Furthermore, for those who travel often, you can purchase the phone and replenish the minutes before traveling.  Most travel specialists have even lower prices with Wireless Traveler, so be sure to ask your specialist.

5.  Prepare Your Camera and Other Electronic Devices - This may sound silly but I put a reminder on my phone for the day before I travel, reminding me to plug in all my electronics for charging.  There is nothing more disappointing than taking off on a long flight, only to find your iPad or computer out of juice.  Even more annoying is when you go to take that first picture and find you memory card in your camera is full.  Clean off the memory card prior to your trip and let the charging begin a few days prior.  Also, don't forget to bring a converter and if possible, bring an extra battery or memory card.  They are crazy expensive at the airport and not every front desk has them to lend you.

6.  Your Health is Everything - Now I don't want to seem like a hypochondriac, but if anyone opened my luggage, they would probably suggest I see someone on a regular basis.  Why is that?  Because I bring not only my regular prescription drugs (of course in their original bottles so I don't have a problem at customs) but I also bring those everyday remedies that get me thru when I'm under the weather.  This includes, but is not limited too; Tums, Tylenol, NyQuil, Bandaids, Neosporin, Advil, Bonine and more.  Another favorite remedy for my son, who has issues with his ears is EarPlanes.  Call me crazy but I get nervous shopping for drugs in a store with labels in a language I can't identify.  I also know that by bringing my own medicine, I know I won't have a reaction to it.  Of course you should also consult your doctor before taking any medication and check the CDC website for any recommended inoculations that may be required for the region you are visiting.

7.  Advise Your Bank and Credit Card Companies You Will Be Away - I don't know about you but there is nothing more embarrassing than standing at the front desk at a hotel with a line of people behind you and being told your credit card was declined.  I'm sorry but there is no amount of explanation that you can make to the front desk clerk and line of onlookers that will make up for the fact that you look like a freeloader.  What is even worse is when the 800 number on the back of the card doesn't work from an international phone, so do yourself a favor and call before you travel.  Also, be sure to carry bills for tipping, as nobody likes a cheapskate.

8.  Get Your ZZZZZZ's Just Like Home - Most cases of travel fatigue and sickness when traveling are caused by a lack of sleep.  That is why I do everything in my power to make sure I get lots of sleep when I am away from home and this includes traveling with my pillow.  Sure, you've all seen us, the odd person walking thru the airport carrying our pillow like some sort of security blanket.  Well, I will admit it, I sleep better with my own pillow and I'm bringing it with me.  Secondly, and this may make me doubly weird, at home I sleep with a fan, so when I travel, I use an app on my iPhone that makes the fan noise.  The app is called iDream - Sleep Maker and it's free.

9.  Share Your Experience with Loved Ones and Friends - Some call it gloating, I call it bringing my friends along on my journey and creating memories that I can relive when I return home.  One of my favorite ways to do this is an iPhone app called Postcards, which allows you to take a photo and then send it via the US Mail as a postcard.  I mean really, how cool is it to send a picture of you standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, instead of just the tower itself.  The cost is minimal and since they print the card in the US and mail it, the cards will arrive quickly instead of weeks after you have returned home.

10.  And the Most Important Tip......REFER to TIP #1  - Because as a travel specialist, I can fix your flights, I can get your hotel room changed, I can find a different activity when it's raining and I can find your lost luggage, but the one thing I can't do is get you into a country without a passport.

Travel safe my friends and explore the world!


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