Holiday Checklist: International Travel Essentials

I can’t believe we are a week away from Thanksgiving and then Christmas and New Year shortly after. 2019 flew by so fast. It feels like yesterday when I celebrated New Year in London two years ago and New Year in New Delhi this year. The good news is that many of us are getting ready for vacation. It’s always exciting when you have something to look forward to!

There are a few things I want to remind you before you go on your trip, especially for international travel.

Passport, Visa, and Travel Documents

As a general rule of thumb, your passport should have at least two blank pages and is still valid for at least 6 months. The entry requirement of each country varies depending on many factors, but not limited to citizenship of the passport holders, type of passports, and residency status.

Some countries periodically update their entry requirements for some nationalities. It is your responsibility to check the entry requirements before entering the country. Even if you’ve been to that country in the past, it’s a good idea to re-confirm it before you show up at the airport. Not having a proper travel document will result in denied boarding at the airport – This is a costly avoidable mistake to make.

Ticket Number and Flight Confirmation

Nowadays, airlines are good at notifying the customers if there are any flight changes as long as you provide them with your contact information when booking. Although I still wouldn’t rely on them. There have been several times where airlines failed to notify me. Luckily I always proactively check my flights because airlines change their schedules all the time until about three months before departure.

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 first. 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 tickets. For example, you have mismatched names between your booking 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.

Print Outs

It may sound unimportant, but in fact, it will save you time and headache. Always print your tickets, hotel reservations, travel documents, and a copy of your passport. There have been a few instances 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 see the reservation, the hotel information becomes handy if you have to fill out the arrival card. The biggest problem having it stored in your email is that sometimes it needs internet connectivity to download them.

Sometimes, you have to show your ticket before entering the terminal building. Some airports 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 passport control.

Download the Necessary Apps and Maps Beforehand

With my T-Mobile plan, I have an unlimited data plan in most countries. But the download and upload speeds are slow unless I pay extra for faster internet. It’s sufficient enough for WiFi calling, Uber, and texting, but it’s too slow for browsing and downloading.

While you’re still at home, download Google Offline Maps and all necessary apps. If you go to certain countries, it may not be a bad idea also to download a VPN as it may become handy. Please be mindful that the use of a VPN in some countries is illegal. Make sure you follow the local laws.

Call Your Banks

I rarely carry cash anymore, even when I travel abroad. Although I still think it’s not a bad idea to have $50 – $100 money with you just in case. Break it up into smaller bills because it becomes handy when you need to tip. That said, the easiest way is to withdraw money at the local ATM when you reach your destination. In the U.S., there are a few banks that offer ATM fee reimbursement for their checking accounts, which can be a good option.

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 be worse than having your credit cards declined and not having cash with you?

Diet

This is totally personal, but I like to lose weight before my vacation because I know I will be pig out whenever I can. A few pounds weight loss here and there certainly helps. Think about it, if I lose 3 pounds, I can have 34 servings of Mai Tai and “change” (at 306 calories each) without exceeding my initial weight.

Happy Travel!

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