Checklist for Traveling Overseas

The list below is arranged in categories, with some description of the issues for each category. This is a generic list, that is, it tries to cover the required ground, and should give you ideas for what you want to add, but is not comprehensive.
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Planning: Is this your first trip overseas? Planning to travel around the world?

  1. Travel Agent: When to use a travel agent: Is this your first trip overseas?
  2. Passport: What countries do you need a passport for? For US citizens, the answer is almost everywhere. You can get away in Mexico and Canada and on some cruises with a Passport Card, but why do something that has limited usage.
  3. Budget: Estimate the basics: flights, other transportation, accommodations, food, visas, immunizations, insurance
  4. Where to Go: How to decide where to travel. If it is your first trip overseas, go somewhere easy: somewhere that speaks your language, someplace that has a culture similar to your own.

  5. Passports & Visas: What countries do you need a passport for? Now, the answer is almost always. Exceptions: Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands. Caribbean cruise travel, beginning and ending on same ship, does NOT require a passport. Travel by Land or Sea to Canada, Mexico, Caribbean islands – you still need at least a Passport Card. Regarding Visitors Visa questions: FIRST check the consular section for each country you are thinking about traveling to. Then decide if you need help with your visas. If you do, try a site like https://www.visahq.com NOTE: visas can be expensive, especially if you use a service like VisaHQ.
  6. Do you need immunizations?: check out the CDC at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list
  7. Review the best international travel sites: www.TripAdvisor.com is certainly one of my go to generic sites. I also use www.wikivoyage.com when I know the country I’m interested in, but want an overview of the places within the country I might be interested in.
  8. What will you do with your home, bills and other obligations while you are away?: Turn off newspaper delivery, put a hold on mail, make arrangements for your pets
  9. Insurance: Do you need medical insurance to travel abroad? Does a travelers insurance policy cover everything I need it to?

  10. Check you own medical insurance policy to see if you are covered overseas.
  11. Make your own determination of your likelihood (probability, usually expressed as a percentage chance) of needing trip protection.
  12. If you need medical insurance for travel abroad or a travelers insurance policy, use the internet to do a search for what you might need.
  13. Packing: Luggage packing tips abound on the internet, and on this site. My maxims are:

  14. To pack as light as possible to give me the most flexibility and the least hassle.
  15. To plan on doing laundry, so pack far fewer clothes.
  16. Try to get away with 2 pairs of shoes, the ones you wear to the plane and one more.
  17. If this isn’t your first rodeo, then keep a list of all the things you forgot on previous trips.
  18. If losing a particular piece of gear would leave you unable to do what you want, AND you think it would be difficult to replace on the road, consider a backup. Eg., I do not take a backup computer plug if I’m going to the capitals of Europe, but I do when going to the mountains in Sri Lanka.
  19. Flying: It’s a long way to Tipperary. I don’t use the miles I earn on various credit cards and airlines to get free trips. I use those miles to get upgrades from Economy to Business Class. It makes all the difference in the world on a 10 hour trip.

  20. If you travel once a year overseas, or multiple times inside your home country, you should try to maximize your loyalty miles on one airline and/or one credit card that gives you miles.
  21. Accommodations: This is likely to be the most expensive item for your trip; more than the flights. Spend your time here making sure you know what is important to you in the place you stay, and looking for deals.

  22. www.booking.com has become my go to site for checking prices and amenities for hotels. They offer decent prices, sometimes very good prices, but importantly they allow me to select by amenities, and location, and review score AND they have one of the widest selection of hotels in very small locations.
  23. But particularly when I expect to stay in one place for a week or more, I have gone with www.airbnb.com , a home sharing/renting site. I’m not much into sharing a bedroom in someone’s home, the least expensive, but renting an apartment outright is often much less expensive than a hotel.
  24. What to See & Do: Spend some time, just reading about the place you want to visit. Read from enough different sites, that you begin seeing the similarities and the special places that one site might mention. Keep in mind, that if 2 or 3 different sites mention a place to see, that you are likely to see many other tourists there.

  25. The aforementioned sites: www.TripAdvisor.com and www.WikiVoyage.com are excellent places to identify key sights that you don’t want to miss.
  26. BUT, don’t go to far down their lists. Instead map your own adventures to try to find out how the locals live. Transform yourself from Tourist to Traveler. One of the best ways to do that is to find “interesting” restaurants, but make it an adventure trip that takes you through neighborhoods and stores and places where locals do their daily business.
  27. What to Eat: If you enjoy eating and trying new foods, this can be the most important part of a trip abroad. If you are a picky eater, then try to read about local foods ahead of time, to find the menu items that do appeal to you and those that don’t. But enjoy the total restaurant experience of new foods and trying to communicate with waiters what you do and don’t want. It is part of the adventure.

  28. You have travelled thousands of miles to see and experience this new culture and place. McDonalds is not going to give you that feel for a new country that is probably the reason you went in the first place.
  29. Find out what the local specialties are: try a Google search with the country name and the word “foods”, eg, “Sri Lankan foods”
  30. Then in your search for restaurants, look to see what mentions they give to the foods you found in your search.
  31. Recording Memories: Maybe you are going to share them with the person you take the trip with. Maybe you will run it as a screen saver on your TV or computer. Or maybe you just want something to jog your memory of a memorable experience. Taking pictures or videos (and sometimes voice recordings) is easier than ever.

  32. In my early years traveling I had an SLR camera and multiple lenses, filters, etc. and the camera bag to tote it all with. But the issue became, the hassle of carrying it everywhere. So now I travel with my iPhone, that I carry anyway, and my pics are shown to friends on my 56” TV in my home suffering no problems from being blown up. My phone/camera is always available, and I’m able to take a pic on a moments notice. And video too.
  33. Sharing with Friends: I find that developing a sharing format, also makes it much more likely that I will review the trip for myself at a later date. Keeping a journal or writing just a simple comment about each picture, also provides a context that becomes more valuable the further away from the trip I get.

  34. Do you remember years ago, a friend would invite you over to see their slides from a recent trip, and you would sit through hundreds of slides showing Jimmy in 6 different poses? Unfortunately that left a bad taste in peoples mouths. But today, we do a Marco Polo Club and get about 30 friends together to share one or two people’s experiences. A more complete description of our Marco Polo Club will follow on another post.
  35. Another way I share larger slide shows with friends is to set up my TV with my computer and use AppleTV or a screen saver or other such mechanism to simply do a continuous slide show as a background with music to have a group or a few friends or a group over. When someone sees something that particularly catches their eye, they might ask about it, but otherwise it is just background.