We all have our own ways to prepare for a big trip overseas. Of course, it’s different from one person to another. But over the years, I’ve learned the lessons – in a hard way. So I’d like to share what I think crucial to prepare before your international trip.
Passport and ID’s
Of course, this is a no brainer. We need our passport for international travel. In rare cases, government ID is enough if you cross the border between certain countries. In most cases, you need your passport. First thing, put your passport and your house key in the bag or purse you are going to carry. So if they are together, you won’t forget your passport because you have to lock the door.
Two Separate Wallets
I don’t like a bulky wallet in my pocket. I never carry cash either. So I only have a cardholder that carries a few credit cards, an ID, and travel cards (Priority Pass, Elite Status, etc). That said, I have a separate wallet for my passport. I also put a few back-up credit cards and some dollar bills in there just in case.
When I get to my hotel, I usually lock this up in the safety box. That way you don’t have to carry your passport and your back-up credit cards around.
Reconfirm Your Flights and Entry Requirements
This one is pretty easy to overlook. If you have multiple flights with separate PNRs/tickets, reconfirm each flight time as they may change. Sometimes airlines are bad about notifying you. Usually, this happens if you book your ticket far in advance. If it’s a few minutes here and there, no big deal. But sometimes they change the schedule enough to cause a misconnect or have an illegal connection time.
Please be sure that your flight reservation has a ticket number. The ticket number is a receipt confirming that your ticket has been issued by the airlines. Without a valid ticket number, I can guarantee you won’t be flying that day. When booking your flight, you will get the PNR immediately, but that doesn’t mean your ticket has been issued and valid for travel. Generally, your reservation goes into the ticketing queue. This department is in-charged validating the payment and the seat availability on that particular flight. If everything is confirmed, you’ll get a ticket number. In some cases, your reservation goes into the queue for a long time. This occurs if there are issues with the reservations. For example, you have mismatched names between your reservation and your travel document. Or there is a discrepancy with the inventory between the airlines and the online travel agent. So, if your ticket is not issued within a few days, give them a call and find out.
Some countries change their entry requirements for some nationalities. This is your responsibility to check the entry requirements before traveling. For instance, you didn’t need a visa to visit a country, but at some point before your departure date, the entry requirements changed. Now you either need a visa or a travel authorization. One recent example is New Zealand. U.S. citizens must apply for ETAs (Electronic Travel Authorization). Failure to do so, you will get denied boarding at the airport and this may cost you your dream vacation.
This is important. I know it’s 2019. But always print out your tickets, hotel reservations, travel documents, and a copy of your passport.
There have been many times where the immigration officer asked me to show proof of accommodation during my stay. They can deny entry on that basis. Even if they didn’t ask to show the reservation, the hotel information becomes handy if you have to fill out the arrival card. If you have it on your phone, that’s great. What if you can’t connect to the Wifi to download the documents.
In some airports, you will have to show your ticket before entering the terminal building. Some only accept a paper copy. So if you have it on your phone, you may be out of luck. The same situation applies when you do an airside transit (TWOV) without clearing the passport control.
If you decide to take a cab, a print out becomes handy when you tell the driver your destination. You don’t want a stranger to hold your unlocked phone. I certainly don’t.
You’ll thank me.
Call Your Banks
Many credit card issuers have Artificial Intelligence (AI) in place. Typically it recognizes your travel plan based on the transaction you made when purchasing the ticket. Though, I still go online or call my banks to put a travel notice. What could possibly be worse than having your credit cards declined and not having cash with you?
Download Offline Map
I have T-Mobile One plan, which I find useful when traveling abroad because I get unlimited data in most countries. The speed is throttled, but it’s good enough for Uber, Google Maps, WhatsApp Call, or even FaceTime. Though, I highly recommend you download the offline Google Map before traveling because it will make it more responsive.
Download and Update Apps
There are many apps specific to the region you are traveling to. For example, I downloaded GoJek and GoLife apps when visiting Indonesia last month. GoJek dominates the ride-sharing market there. Similarly, GoLife offers services such as massage, cleaning, or even an on-demand haircut wherever you are!
Another example is EcoBici in Buenos Aires, Argentina. You need this app to unlock a one-hour free bicycle rental. You need to create an account and enter your credit card information as a deposit. Locate the docking station through the app and unlock the bicycle.
I recommend you to do research before traveling so you are good to go. Please be mindful that the use of VPN in some countries is illegal. Make sure you follow the local laws.
Take a Picture of Your Stove Before Leaving
I have bad OCD. Sometimes, after flying for hours, I started questioning myself if I turned off the stove or not. At that point, I wanted to scream and tell the pilot to return! It would drive me crazy the entire trip thinking about it.
The solution is easy. Take a picture of your stove before leaving! So if you have a doubt, look at the picture. Problem solved.
The list can go on. But these are the things I must prepare before my international trip. If you have anything to add to the list, please feel free to leave a comment. I will create a follow-up post.