Your International Travel Checklist for 2023

You've booked your flight, and your travel dates and itinerary are set; you'd be forgiven for assuming all the hard work of trip-planning was done. But embarking on a big trip abroad is a multistep process. There are crucial administrative and organizational steps you need to take in the weeks and months before you go to ensure you're ready for an international trip.

That's where our international travel checklist comes in handy. Even if your next trip is still months away, you'll want to consult it at least a few weeks before you leave—the sooner you cross everything off your list, the better prepared you'll be when you go. Read on for our comprehensive checklist for international travel.

1. Check your documents and destination requirements

First off, ensure your passport has sufficient validity to be granted entry into another country. Most countries require a passport to have at least six months left at the time of your planned departure from that country remaining before its expiration date. You'll want to make sure yours is up-to-date ASAP—even before you book your flight—in case you need to renew or apply for a new passport.

If you plan on driving abroad, check if your destination country requires you to have an International Driving Permit, which you'll need to carry alongside your license. It's often not possible to apply for this when you're already on your trip abroad, so it's important to get it done at home.

Finally, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, some countries still have some health requirements associated with international travel. These can include an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP), or “yellow card,” and completing a health declaration form prior to entry.

Stay up-to-date on the requirements for the country you're visiting so you're not surprised at the check-in desk at the airport. Consult the US State Department's and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's online guidance for the country you're traveling to, as well as the immigration authority for your destination.

Once you've done your research, gather all your travel documents together in one place so you don't forget to stash them in your carry-on bag on your day of departure.

2. Research visa requirements for your international trip

Many countries allow visa-free travel for Americans, so it can come as a surprise if you're traveling to a destination requiring one. To be sure, check for any visa requirements immediately after booking your flight. If you do need a visa, you'll want to leave ample time to complete any immigration forms and to gather important documents for your application.

3. Purchase travel insurance before your trip abroad

No overseas travel checklist would be complete without a reminder to purchase travel insurance. It's a crucial step of any trip preparation, and if anything goes wrong while you're traveling abroad, you'll be glad you have it. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your policy and know the right contact numbers to call if you need assistance while traveling internationally.

4. Check your banking and cell-phone plans

Some banks require you to notify them of any upcoming travel abroad to avoid your account being locked due to suspicious activity. It's also beneficial to check in with your credit-card companies and see what foreign transaction fees they charge, if any, as well as any perks they may provide for international travel, such as insurance.

These days it's usually not necessary to exchange money before you arrive at your destination. If you're traveling with debit cards and credit cards, your best bet is to withdraw cash from a local ATM upon arrival (you’ll often get a better rate than you would at a money exchange) and use your credit card as backup.

Before you leave, you should also check to see if your cell-phone provider has an international plan you can use while traveling abroad. Using the data or minutes from your cell-phone plan abroad can incur huge bills if you're not careful, so it's best to do the legwork of contacting your provider while you're still at home. In some cases, you may save money by buying prepaid local SIM cards for the countries you're visiting.

5. Make a packing list

Carry-on bag or bigger rolling suitcase? Traveling abroad with checked baggage may not seem like a big deal, but when you're hauling your overstuffed suitcase across cobbled streets in the city center with no escalator or taxi in sight, it can be a hassle.

Think about the logistics of your trip beyond the airport, and consider how much you can handle hauling from one place to the next. Whether you decide to check a bag or not, if you can pack light for international trips, your future self will thank you.

When you're packing, you should also prepare for the likelihood that your travel itinerary may not go to plan. With delays and cancellations increasingly becoming the norm in 2023, it's wise to pack your carry-on bag not only with the essentials you need for your long-haul flight, but also for an unplanned overnight stay due to a disruption. Don't forget travel documents, essential toiletries, devices, valuables, a change of clothes and medications you cannot live without.

6. Set a budget

It can be hard to settle on a precise budget for international travel, but it's worth giving it some serious thought as part of your international travel checklist. The global rise in inflation and the knock-on effects from the pandemic means that many international routes are more expensive than they were prior to early 2020, so it's likely your airfare may take up a larger part of your budget than you expected. Furthermore, food and daily incidentals may have also risen in price, particularly if you're traveling to Europe, where inflation has proved more stubborn than in the US.

If you're unsure about what you can afford to spend, set yourself a range for each day and then adjust according to the destination. Be sure to keep tabs on exchange rates and track how much you're actually spending in your home currency so you don't blow the bank all in one location.

Always travel well-informed with CIBTvisas

Traveling abroad doesn't come without its share of admin and prep work, but our checklist for international travel should help you get ready for your flight with minimal stress—and enjoy your trip abroad.

Before planning your overseas trip, it's crucial to stay informed about the current travel policies, COVID-19 measures, and visa requirements in your destination. An experienced visa agent can help you navigate the complexities of border-crossing requirements. Contact CIBTvisas for a quote today.  

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