The Smart Traveler Checklist
The key to a good, and safe, trip is careful planning ahead of time. Being prepared, being aware of things you are likely to encounter in your destination country, and having backup plans are all important to getting the most out of your journey. Run through this checklist to make sure you have all your bases covered.
Are Your Travel Documents In Order?
Make sure your passport is valid and that it is good for at least 6 months from the date of your departure. A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies your identity and citizenship. Only the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassies and Consulates have the authority to issue or verify U.S. passports. Most U.S. citizens travelling abroad will need to present a valid passport in order to enter a foreign country. Additionally, all U.S. citizens will need a passport in order to reenter the United States. Keep an eye on passports that may be expiring in the near future. Many countries require that a traveler’s passport be valid for at least six months beyond the dates of the trip.
Depending on your destination country, you may also need a travel visa to be allowed entrance. Check our Passport and Visa page for a list of countries that require U.S. citizens to apply for a visa prior to travel. It is a passenger’s sole responsibility to obtain all proper visas needed to enter countries of intent.
If you are travelling with children, you may need additional documentation. To combat child abduction, many countries have requirements in place that travelers show proof of relationship with their children and evidence of consent from any non-accompanying parents.
If you are planning on driving overseas, you may need an International Driving Permit. These are not required in all countries, so be sure to check with the Embassy of your destination country. International Driving Permits can be obtained from either the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the National Auto Club. Visit their websites for more information and tips about driving abroad.
One last note on documentation, always make two copies of essential documents such as:
- Passport ID Page
- Foreign Visas (if applicable)
- Hotel Confirmations
- Airline Tickets
- Driver’s License
- Credit Cards used on the trip
Keep one set of these copies with you, but separate from the originals, on your trip. The other documents should be left with a relative or trusted friend in case of emergency.
Your Health Abroad
Staying healthy on your trip is important. Before you leave, be sure to check into any vaccinations that are either required or recommended for your destination. Some countries require proof of vaccination before allowing visitors to enter the country. Check with the embassy of your destination country for more information. Other countries have certain vaccines recommended as a precaution prior to visiting. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization can provide good information on which countries have vaccine recommendations.
Another step is to check your health insurance coverage status prior to travelling. Not all insurance companies provide full coverage when travelling abroad. If yours does not, consider purchasing a short-term policy that will cover you for the duration of your trip.
If you take any medications, make sure you have enough with you to last the duration of your trip. Include some extra if possible in case of any unexpected delays. Always carry your medication in its original labeled containers. Some countries have medication restrictions, so be sure to check with the Embassy prior to travelling in case you need an explanatory letter from your doctor.
Before You Go
Learn more about the country you are about to visit, including any travel advisories or warnings, on the Department of State website. Simply search for your destination country. You can also find great background information as well as learn about local laws and customs. Remember that while you are abroad you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting. Foreign laws and legal systems can be significantly different from U.S. law.
You should also make a note of the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to your destination. Consular personnel are available for emergency assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You should also make a note of how to contact emergency services and any nearby hospitals in your destination country.