Pre-Travel Checklist: Everything You Need to Do Before that Next International Trip

You’ve been preparing for that big trip abroad for months, and the day of departure is almost here at last. You’ve planned, you’ve packed. Now you’re finally ready to take to the open skies…right? Not so fast—there are a few key things to take care of before you go. 

Crossing these 18 items off your list can save you loads of hassle while you’re on the road, and ensure you have the most stress-free trip imaginable. 

Notify the “Need to Know”

It may not seem immediately apparent, but there are a few organizations that will benefit from a heads-up about your trip—and in the event that anything should go wrong while you’re traveling, you’ll be glad they’re in the know.

Set a Travel Alert with Your Bank

Depending on your particular bank and the fees they issue for international transactions, you may or may not be planning to use your bank card while abroad. Still, it’s a good idea to let your bank know you’ll be traveling, should you run into any issues and need to access your accounts.

Double Check Your Credit Cards

Before you head out on your trip, figure out which of your cards you plan to use while abroad. It’s wise to do a little online research to ensure your destination accepts your preferred card, whether Visa, MasterCard, American Express or another payment network. Once you determine which card or cards you’ll be using on your trip, notify the card carriers to avoid any declined transactions when you arrive—and be sure you have enough available credit to cover any unexpected expenses that might arise while you’re away.

Talk to Your Wireless Carrier

International service charges can add up quickly, so it’s best to check with your cell service provider to figure out the costs in advance. Depending on your carrier, there may be low-cost data and cellular plans available to lock in ahead of time for the duration of your trip. Even if not, knowing the rates and fees in advance will give you peace of mind and help you structure how often to rely on your phone while abroad.

Alert Your Building Management, Door Staff, or Home Security System

Before you hit the road, it’s important to notify the appropriate service team for your home. If you live in an apartment, this could mean sending a quick email to your building manager or front desk concierge to let them know you’ll be away, and to hold any packages or mail until you return. Or if you live in a home, this could mean calling your home security operator so they can keep an eye out for any suspicious activity around your house while you’re out of town.

Remind Your Maintenance and Other Service Providers

If you use a lawn care, pool or housekeeping service, you may wish to pause those visits while you’re away—or you may choose to have them continue as usual. Either way, it’s a good idea to notify these trusted providers in case you need to arrange payment another way while traveling.

Try these Pre-Travel Packing Hacks

To be sure, these aren’t your typical travel packing tips for maximizing space and saving cash, which we recently covered in our Budget-Friendly Travel series. Instead, this section of the pre-travel checklist includes tips specifically designed to keep you safe, secure and organized while you’re on the road.

Make Copies of Your Passport

While it’s unlikely to happen, there are few things that could derail an international trip like a lost or stolen passport. But in the unfortunate event that it does happen to you or someone in your party, having a physical photocopy of the passport (stored in a completely different bag or location than the passport itself) can expedite and simplify the process of getting you home. You also might consider having a digital copy readily available by sending it as a secure or encrypted email attachment to yourself. 

Make Copies of Your Credit/Debit Card

Similar to having a photocopy of your passport, having copies of your credit or debit card can help you in a pinch. Should you lose the card while traveling, you’ll have the exact account numbers handy for reporting the missing card to the issuer, along with the toll-free numbers to call for assistance. Be sure to pack this separately from the card itself.

Clean Out Your Wallet—But Keep One Backup Card

Before you head out on your trip, go through your wallet with the goal of streamlining what’s inside. Take out any cards you won’t absolutely need while abroad, including membership cards you’re unlikely to use, as well as credit or debit cards you don’t plan to use. Having one backup card to your preferred method of payment is smart, but bringing your full collection of cards could pose an unnecessary risk in the event your wallet is misplaced or stolen.

Pack Your Backup Card Elsewhere

Consider keeping your backup credit or debit card in another location, separate from your wallet and primary method of payment. For example, you could pack it in a different carry-on bag during travel (not in a checked bag, in case your luggage is lost in transit); and you could store it in your passport case along with the passport itself, keeping those items locked in an in-room safe. Or if you’re traveling with a spouse, partner or trusted friend, you could hold onto each other’s backup card. 

Don’t Forget the Converters and Adapters

Depending on where you’re traveling, you’re more than likely to need a charging solution throughout your trip. Adapters do just that—adapt your plugs to fit into the outlets—while converters do the extra work of changing the voltage to suit the electricity that’s available where you’re staying. Check with your destination in advance to determine what you’ll need. 

Prepare for Contingencies

Despite the best planning and preparation, things can still go awry on the road—and being outside of the country can truly complicate matters even more. Before you head out, it’s wise to put a few contingency plans in place. 

Get Travel Insurance

While this one is a personal choice, and is generally optional, it’s wise to take out a travel insurance policy for international trips whenever feasible. Flight cancellations and hotel overbookings can be frustrating on any continent, even when you’re in your home country—but being abroad adds a layer of complexity to an already stressful situation. Knowing that you’re covered will give you peace of mind through any travel hiccups. 

Share a Copy of Your Itinerary with Family or a Friend

You may have carefully mapped out all of your plans and reservations, but it’s always wise to leave a detailed copy of your plans with someone you trust back home. Whether you run into issues as simple as losing your phone, or something worse, your friends and family will know where you’re staying and how to contact you or find you another way.

Download Useful Apps

Before you take to the skies, consider what apps you might need or want while you’re abroad, and download them before you need them. Whether you use an Apple or Android device, check the app store for the top travel apps, looking specifically for ones that can help with translation and currency conversion (bonus if the app offers these features while in offline mode). 

Prepare to Navigate without Cell Service

Even with an international cellular plan, you may find yourself in areas of spotty coverage—or worse, you could lose your phone while abroad. In the event of poor service, you can actually download specific regions on Google Maps for offline use (do this before you leave home). And if you lose access to your phone altogether, consider printing out a few key routes you’re likely to need, such as how to navigate from the airport to your first hotel, until you can find an alternative city map for the rest of your trip.

Create an International Calling Account

If you won’t have service while you’re traveling internationally—or even if you just need a backup plan for your phone—you can set up a Google Voice or Skype account before you leave. These plans allow for low-cost (or in some cases, even free) international calling via WiFi, so you can potentially save yourself some serious cash when compared to your cellular plan when you’re abroad.

It’s the Final Countdown

With hours to go until your trip, there are still a few more things to think about. Checking these off can mean the difference between that nagging feeling you forgot to turn off the stove, versus taking off with total peace of mind. 

Toss Your Perishables and Take Out the Trash

Assuming you’re heading out of the country for a week or longer, consider cleaning out your fridge to remove anything that’s likely to spoil. Bag it up and take out all the trash in the house, replacing each bin with clean liners so you’ll come home to a tidy and stench-free home. 

Walk the Perimeter of Your Home

Take a quick stroll around the outside of your home, checking that all doors and windows are locked from the inside. Consider bringing in your patio furniture or cushions in the event of any storms while you’re away, and note anything else that may need attention before you go. If you’re in an apartment or condo building, you’ll save yourself the walk around the outside, but try to think through the same checklist for locked doors, windows, and patio furniture to be safe.

Double Check the Weather

Depending on where you’re headed, things can shift quickly in terms of the weather. Even if you’ve adhered to an exacting packing list, take a quick peek at the 10-day forecast on the morning of your trip, just to be sure you’ve factored the appropriate layers and shoes for the climate you’ll be landing in. 

Cleared for Takeoff

You’ve gone through the pre-trip checklist and have all your travel documents tucked safely in your carry-on bag. Now you’re finally ready to experience what truly stress-free international travel feels like. (Well, the rest is up to the airlines!) 

Stay tuned to our blog as we continue to share Budget-Friendly Travel Tips and other vacation packing and planning advice in the months ahead. And check out @theoriginalpanamajack on Instagram to tell us about your latest trip! Where are you headed next?