Booking a flight and getting that trip down — in pen! — on the calendar is an exciting thing; so exciting that you may forget there are important logistics to take care of pre-trip.
I know, I know; the word logistics just makes you want to fall asleep with boredom.
The truth is, not making sure the following items get done can cost you money, put you at risk of being denied boarding on your plane (or jail time in destination!), hurt your health and more. Take the time to read and adhere to this list, and you’ll have a secure and enjoyable trip with less stress and more joy.
1. Call Your Bank
When you travel abroad — and sometimes even domestically — your credit card and debit cards will be flagged once used; at least if you don’t notify your banks of your travel plans. The good thing is many online banking websites have the option to quickly add a travel notification without needing to make a call (and deal with annoying automated systems!).
2. Switch Your Uber Payments
I’m American, and after a trip to Edmonton where I used Uber frequently I received my credit card statement. Every ride had a foreign transaction fee tacked on. Ugh! While I know to only use travel cards offering no foreign transaction fees abroad, I didn’t realize using Uber in other cities counts as a foreign charge. Lesson learned.
3. Check For Country Entry Requirements
Not every country allows you to enter simply based on the fact you’ve booked a flight; many have specific visa and vaccination requirements. Certain visas take a few weeks to get, so best to plan in advance. The same goes for the medication, as certain vaccines take time to kick in. Recently I needed a typhoid vaccine, which has an injectable option that lasts about two years and a much cheaper pill option that lasts about five years. Because I was visiting the travel doctor four days before my trip (oops) I wasn’t eligible for the better option of the pills.
4. Leave 2-4 Visa Pages Blank
Many countries require a certain amount of blank visa pages, and you may actually be denied boarding on your flight if you don’t have this correct.
5. Renew Your Passport Before 6 Months Expiration
You know that expiration date on your passport? It’s fake! Well, sort of. Many countries won’t accept a passport unless it’s valid for three to six months beyond your actual travel date. Make sure to renew that passport well in advance to be safe!
6. Research Local Laws
Sure, you know the language, food and traditions will be different, and maybe certain commonplace actions to you will be seen as offensive to locals; but I’m talking about breaking the law here. For example, did you know that smoking marijuana, a common activity for many Americans, you can get 20 years jail time in Indonesia? Or that it’s illegal to play reggaeton music in Cuba? Know the laws before you go. And please, don’t buy drugs — even weed — off random people in the streets anywhere you go. In many countries these people then turn you into the police for money.
7. Unplug Your Gadgets
It’s an easy way to save money on electricity while you’re gone. I unplug everything from my lamp to my Wi-Fi router. This tactic is good for your wallet and for the planet, as HowStuffWorks.com sourced Energy Star stat, noting “the average U.S. household spends more than $100 each year to power devices that are turned off. Nationally, phantom power accounts for more than 100 billion kWh and more than $10 billion in energy costs each year.”
8. Get An International Driver’s Permit
Unless you’re traveling domestic, if you plan on renting a car you’ll likely need an international driver’s permit. You can get this through AAA (I bought one before road tripping through France for $20 + price for passport photos). The permit is good for one year in 150 countries.
While you’re at it, check with your credit card(s) about what kind of car rental insurance they offer. For example, my Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers primary insurance on rental cars (one of many amazing perks!).
9. Copy Your Important Documents
While there was a time I used to make multiple copies of each document and hide them in different areas of my luggage, leaving one set of copies behind with my parents, nowadays I keep my copies in Google Drive to be easily accessed if needed.
10. Turn On Your Email Autoresponder
Nothing turns your vacation relaxation high into anxiety quicker than seeing a full inbox. While I can’t tell you how to keep the emails from arriving — if someone has the answer PLEASE share! — I will say having an autoresponder on makes me feel like I’m not leaving my contacts totally hanging. Sometimes I’ll even leave the autoresponder on for longer than I’m actually away, giving myself a few extra days to get back to people.
11. Write Down Where You Parked
You’ve just returned form a long flight and you’re exhausted and dehydrated. It takes forever to get through customs, and of course your luggage is the last to arrive to baggage claim. FINALLY you make it out the airport door and you’re almost on your way home, when you realize: you have absolutely no clue where you parked!
Make sure to write it down in detail so you don’t forget, preferably in a place like the Notes app on iPhone so you can “search” for the note easily.
12. Insure Your Trip
Hey, you never know what can happen on the road, whether it’s luggage getting lost for days or breaking a leg on a hiking trail where you need to be airlifted. Better safe than sorry, especially as travel insurance is inexpensive to begin with!
On top of insurance, Americans should sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free program offered by the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs that makes it easy for the government and loved ones to help you in an emergency and updates you with safety warnings.
13. Pay Your Bills
Depending how long you’re leaving for, you may come back to a number of unpaid bills. To avoid having to do bookkeeping on the road, pay all your upcoming bills in advance, or set yourself up with automatic payments so you don’t need to physically write any checks; instead the money is automatically debited from your account or paid off with your selected credit card. Budget Tip: Paying bills with credit cards (vs having the money debited) typically tacks on a processing fee.
14. Clean Out Your Fridge
There’s nothing quite like the stench of month-old rotting mozzarella or curdled milk — and not in a good way.
15. Plan How You’ll Get To Your Hotel On The First Day
While I’m a fan of planning trips without making plans, this is one detail I always sort out beforehand. When you first arrive to a new place you’re disoriented, and if you don’t know how to get where you’re going you could easily end up wandering the airport without a clue. In order to maximize time and budget, look into options for buses and trains, often the most budget-friendly way to travel, though some hotels offer free shuttle service. If you want to save money while avoiding crowded public transport, many airports offer inexpensive shared and private shuttle service into the tourist area of the city. Of course, taxis and Uber are always an option, albeit typically the more expensive one. Make sure to have the address of your hotel handy. And if it’s your first time using Uber, click here for your first ride free up to $20.
16. Sign Up For Programs That Make The Airport Experience Less Awful
I don’t know what took me so long, but I’ve finally gotten Global Entry, which means I get to breeze through airport customs in the USA on the quick lines. It also includes TSA PreCheck, so I also go on the short, often nonexistent, lines for airport security and don’t need to remove my shoes, laptop or liquids. These programs save some much time at the airport. And it only costs $100 for five years of membership.
Another program I’ve recently become a part of — and can’t believe I ever did without — is Priority Pass. Flight delays are no longer a concern as I can spend the extra time comfortably in the airport lounge drinking wine, eating good food and using strong Wi-Fi for free. The pass makes lounge access affordable, as the lowest tier is $99 for the year, and then you pay $27 per visit to the lounge; though I actually have the highest tier due to the amount I travel, $399 per year including unlimited free lounge access. If you think about how much it costs to just get a sandwich, drink and Wi-Fi code at the airport it’s a steal.
17. Get A Travel Credit Card
At the very least, you should have a credit card that doesn’t doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, which can really add up. I’m in love with the above-mentioned Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which is totally worth the $450 annual fee (actually $150 if you deduct the $300 per year given in travel credit). It comes with Priority Pass, will pay your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, provides primary rental car insurance and gives 3 points per dollar on all travel and dining purchases.
18. Check In For Your Flight BEFORE You Get To The Airport
Here’s a sad but true story. A few years ago I went to Colombia with friends. While three of us checked in for the flight on our phones, one friend, we’ll call her Amy, didn’t. We arrived to the airport at a reasonable time to make our flight; however, because we were literally TWO MINUTES past what JetBlue deemed the cut off for check in they charged Amy $500 to re-book her flight. The rest of us boarded without penalty. It was an expensive mistake, for sure.
Whether you print out your boarding pass or use the airline’s app for a mobile ticket, check in and have that before getting to the airport. The Secret To Airport Travel: Check in and print your boarding pass at home, get Global Entry (or just TSA PreCheck) and learn to travel with just a carry-on (to avoid airport check in and baggage drop off) and you’ll never complain again about the headache of going through security. I typically average about 20 minutes getting from the airport door to my gate.
19. Insure Your Gear
It’s 2017, and a lot of us — even the
backpackers flashpackers — are roaming around with travel tech gear. Hey, I’m not judging, I love my DSLR and MacBook Pro, too; which is why I insure them under a floater policy through State Farm. It’s low cost too, as I pay less than $250 per year for my renter’s insurance and insurance to cover all my gadgets. Check with your local insurance provider to see what they can offer you.
Have any things to do before a trip to add to this list?
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