The Last-Minute Travel Checklist
12 things to know before you book a last-minute trip abroad.
Passport. Many countries require your passport to be valid 3-6 months after your arrival, so be sure to check the regulations. You’ll also likely need 1-2 blank pages for stamp + visa. I always bring a copy of my passport with me, take of photo of it on my phone, and leave one with a friend or family member in case of an emergency.
Visa. In most cases, it’s easy enough to get a visa upon arrival, but there are countries that have an application process. For example, Brazil allows you to apply online, and you must bring the proper documentation, including visa, upon landing. Russia, on the other hand, has a strict visa system and requires a Russian sponsor, among other rules. Another consideration if you’re traveling for a longer period of time is how long the visa will allow you to stay in the country. This varies from 30 days to 6 months, depending on the country. The best resource for checking entry requirements is the country’s embassy website, so be sure to do so before making any booking moves. Here, you’ll also be able to see if the country has any entrance or exit fees, which are required to enter or leave the country. These are not included in an airline ticket so it’s good to be aware and have cash on you to complete the transaction quickly.
Health + Safety
U.S. Embassy and STEP. If any problems should arise in the country, being registered with the appropriate agencies will make it easier for the government to contact you and get you to safety. I always include the address to the U.S. Embassy in my itinerary in case of emergencies, and register with STEP, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a government service that sends you travel alerts and up-to-date information about your destination country.
Travel warnings and/or advisories. If there are any active advisories or warnings, you’ll find them through the Department of State. Sometimes their website is a little wonky, so if the search tool on the website doesn’t work, just google, “travel warnings for us travelers to china,” and you’ll get what you need.
Vaccinations. This varies from country to country, but some require documentation that you’ve gotten certain vaccinations prior to traveling abroad. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has all of the information you need, and then you can plan a visit with your doctor to get vaccinated and refill any necessary prescriptions. Click this link and input your destination to find out what type of vaccinations you need.
Travel insurance. Q: Do you need it. A: Y E S. While some health insurance policies cover international accidents + illnesses, many do not, and a blanket travel insurance will not only cover medical expenses, but trip delays and more. I’ve used World Nomads for the past five years and I absolutely love them. They make it really easy with affordable prices, two straight-forward plans and cover literally everything: plane delays, baggage loss, broken camera, emergency medical expenses, travel accidents, and more. Click this link to get a quote.
Conversion Rate. Look it up before you book, seriously. You may have found a super cheap flight to Denmark, but are you really saving money if 1 Danish Krone is equal to just 15 cents? No, probably not.
Credit + Debit Cards. Call your bank and your credit card companies to let them know that you’re traveling. Credit cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred do not charge foreign transaction fees, while some American Express cards do, meaning they tack on 2.7% or more to every purchase. As far as banks go, if you don’t give them a heads up, they may shut off your card to prevent theft. We don’t want that.
Cash. I typically try to have a little bit of local currency before I travel. You can order it through your bank and depending on the currency, you’ll get it immediately or in a few days. If that’s not an option for you, at least bring some US Dollars for emergencies. Once you arrive in the country, do not get cash out at the airport or some conversion center. Rookie mistake. Get it out at an ATM or bank. The conversion is typically exact and there are no hidden fees. On the note of $$$, you may run into quite a few places that don’t take credit or debit cards, so do not miss this step.
Adapter. If you’re traveling abroad, chance are the country had different plugs and voltage. I have this one, which lets me charge my camera or bose headphones plus my iPhone at the same time. If you want to get crazy and use something like a curling iron, make sure the voltage is compatible before you go, and buy an adapter like this one with the traditional three-pronged plug-in rather than a USB.
Phone Plan. It’s very rare that I opt for a global phone plan. The first reason being that I’m traveling and trying to unplug, not be a prisoner of Instagram, and the second bring that WiFi is pretty accessible in most countries these days (sans for places like Cuba). If you do want to use a phone plan, contract your provider for options. I’ve seen plans for $1 a day, which is hella cheaper than potential roaming chargers.
Carry-on. I am the biggest advocate for only traveling with a carry-on, so I shall push my agenda here. If you’re traveling for less than a month, you really don’t need that much, and if you’re traveling for more, it’s really inconvenient to wait for your checked bag when you’re trying to bop around from place to place. If you must check, make sure you look into the luggage fees for different airlines, weight restrictions and always pack one set of clothes and your toiletries + essentials in your carry-on, just in case of delays or loss. Here’s my essential packing list to serve as your guiding light.