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The days leading up to a big international trip can often be chaotic… Did I pack everything I’ll need? Should I turn off my AC? Is my house going to be alright while I’m away? We all know the feeling.

To help avoid the last minute scramble and calm any worries, we’ve broken down the pre-departure tasks that are often forgotten. Make leaving for your next getaway a breeze!


3 Months Before

Research your destination

Search the country you are visiting on travel.state.gov/destination for safety info such as travel advisories, alerts, entry, exit and visa requirements. You will also find local laws, customs and required vaccinations. You should note the address and phone number of the nearest U.S. embassy. 

Check your passport and apply for any necessary visas

Start early because passports and visas can take up to 12 weeks to process. Make sure your passport will be valid at least 6 more months after entering the foreign country. Check and see if the country you are visiting requires a tourist visa for entry. (Many don't with a US passport).

Decide if you want travel insurance

Check your health insurance policy to see if it includes international coverage. If not, consider a short-term policy that will cover you while overseas.

Purchasing travel insurance will protect you from the financial risk of incidents while traveling including missed flights, car accidents, illness, lost baggage, theft, terrorism, emergency evacuation and more. It all depends on what level of insurance you purchase for what incidents will be covered.

The best time to buy travel insurance is immediately after you’ve completed your travel arrangements or within 14 days of making your first trip payment. You can get it up to 24 hours before but it may cover less of the pre-trip risks.

1 Week Before

Leave an itinerary with family or friends

Designate an emergency contact that has all of your flight and accommodation information on hand. Also ask them to check on the house periodically while you are away.

Withdraw foreign currency

It’s a good idea to order local currency from your bank ahead of time rather than waiting to find a currency exchange at their airport where rates are always higher. You can visit a branch location or order by phone or online for pickup. Then when you touch down in your destination, you can pay for taxis and food quickly and painlessly.

48 hours before

Alert your bank

Banks make every effort to protect you from identity theft while at home. But If they see credit card transactions or ATM use in an unfamiliar location, the may assume it is fraud and put a hold on your card. Setting a travel notice before you depart lets your bank know you’re in control. Most banks allow you to arrange this online with your destination and length of trip.

It’s also a good idea to bring more than one credit or debit card and store one in a safe place in case your wallet is lost or stolen.

Place a hold on mail

Placing a hold on mail with the post office not only prevents an overflowing mailbox, it also helps keep sensitive info on bank statements more secure. Or ask a neighbor to collect the mail for you daily so it doesn’t build up.

24 hours before

Check the weather in the destination

It’s best to wait until the day before leaving to check the weather since it can change so quickly. Don’t be caught without waterproof gear in rainstorms or without warm clothing if a cold front comes through. It is possible to still pack the essentials and keep your bag light!

Confirm all bookings

Login or call to check your reservations for flights, hotels and car rentals. Confirm times, dates, and locations of each so you are not left stranded.

Make copies of important documents

Make copies of your passport, credit cards and other travel documents. To take your security one step further, email the scanned copies to yourself so you can access them if you happen to lose your copies as well.

Morning of departure

Unplug electronics

Conserve energy and save money by turning off and unplugging all electronics. This includes TVs, lamps, small kitchen appliances, computers and cell phone chargers which all drain energy when plugged in.

Clean out the fridge and empty garbage

Throw away fresh foods and beverages in fridge that will spoil while you are away. Also run the dishwasher and take out the trash so you are not left with pungent smells from rotten food when you return.

Set thermostat for an away temperature

During the summer months, set the thermostat to 4 degrees higher than you typically would. If you set the temperature too high or turn it off completely, then it will cost you just as much to cool it all the way back down again. High humidity levels in the home can also lead to mildew.

During the winter months, set the thermostat to 4 degrees lower. A word of caution, if you set it below 55°F you run the risk of frozen pipes and it will also cost more to re-heat your home when you return home.

Fully charge your electronics

Nothing is worse than being stuck without a charged Kindle to keep you entertained on the plane or a dead battery on your phone or camera when you touch down. Ideally, charge everything the night before leaving so you get full juice. And check out our tips for surviving an international flight.

Over to you! Share your own international travel tips on our Facebook community for travelers.