The problem, however, is that most international travel checklists cover the same sorts of considerations — visas, currency, and hotel reservations, for example — which are usually amongst the first things we consider when leaving the country. It’s the overlooked aspects that are more important to focus on.
We’re here to share an alternative international travel checklist, covering the essential yet often forgotten additions that could make a significant difference to the success of your trip abroad.
1. Check Travel Advice
The first and most important item to add to your international checklist is this: check that it’s safe for you to travel. National safety and security is something that changes regularly, but don’t worry — travel advice isn’t there to scare you; it’s simply there to ensure that you have all the information you need to stay safe on your travels.
Before hopping on the plane, it doesn’t hurt to check the latest guidelines for your destination, which can change due to many things, including the weather! In most cases, a change in travel advice won’t mean that you need to cancel or postpone your plans, but it’s always a good idea to be aware of what’s happening locally so that you can be well prepared for your upcoming getaway.
2. Plan Alternative Routes
Multi centre trips are becoming increasingly popular, with many travellers preferring to move around a country (or even travel from country to country) rather than staying in one place for the duration of their getaway. This is a great way to see more of the world, but it’s a good idea to not only plan your travel routes in advance but also plan alternative routes in case of closure. While it’s unlikely you’ll experience much trouble driving along the warm and sunny Mediterranean scenic roads, for example, there are roads in many thriving travel spots which can become inaccessible over the winter months due to snow and ice. Iceland’s iconic ring road (Route 1) is a prime example of this. It never hurts to have a Plan B!
3. Determine if You Need an ICVP
Most travellers that are planning to head off to countries where there’s cases of Yellow Fever, Typhoid, or Hepatitis A will know that it’s a good idea to pop in and see their Doctor around 8 weeks before travel. While travellers may not require travel vaccinations, it’s often recommended for anyone staying in rural areas or visiting heavily forested parts of the country, and it’s a great way to stay happy and healthy when abroad. However, what many don’t know is that there are actually some countries that require proof of vaccination (an ICVP, or International Certificate of Vaccination of Prophylaxis) as part of their entry requirements. Don’t risk getting turned away; it only takes a few minutes to check what’s needed.
4. Apply for a Driving Permit
Planning to hop in the driver's seat while you’re abroad? It may be worth applying for an International Driver’s Permit before setting off on your travels. The truth is that you don’t need an IDP for every country, although there are some that require one for car hire, and others that state visitors must have an IDP if they are staying in the country for longer than 30 days. Even in countries that don’t require an IDP, it can be a good idea to apply for one, especially if you’re travelling to a foreign-speaking country. That’s because IDPs are all standardised, which means that if you’re required to show your licence abroad, the information on an IDP can easily be understood, no matter where in the world you are.
5. Pack for Local Culture
When travelling to a hot country, most travellers will fill their cases with summery, lightweight clothing that helps them to stay cool under the high heats. Staying cool is essential when travelling to hot places, and it’s one of the best ways to avoid heat-related illnesses such as sunstroke. However, one item you should be adding to your international travel checklist is to pack not only for the weather, but for the local culture, too. In some countries, particularly across Asia, it is advised that shoulders and knees remain covered. Fortunately, many countries are not especially strict, although it’s important to dress respectfully if you plan to visit religious attractions. This includes The Vatican museums in Rome.
6. Study the Calendar
All countries around the world have their own unique calendar of events, celebrations, festivals, and national holidays. Travelling at particularly festive times of the year can be very exciting, but it’s also something that you’ll want to add to your international travel checklist before you head off on your trip.
For example, you may be planning to visit a specific attraction on a day when it’s closed for a local event, or you may be planning to spend the day at the beach when a major celebration means it will be more crowded than usual. Knowing what events are coming up at your destination means you’re able to better plan your trip, ensuring that you get to see and do everything you want, without any disappointment.
7. Unpack Restricted Items
Did you know that there are some items that we use in day-to-day life that can’t be taken abroad? If you’re travelling to Japan, for example, it’s actually illegal to take fake designer brands, so if you’ve been carrying around a knock off Gucci bag it’s best to leave it at home. Other items are heavily restricted in Japan, such as herbal medicines containing Ginseng, and travellers can only bring a maximum of 24 items of cosmetics into the country.
The good news is that most travellers will find themselves to be well within the rules when packing, especially if heading to Europe or the United States, so there’s nothing to be too concerned about. However, it’s always a good idea to check import regulations just to be safe.
8. Read up on Safety Information
One of the most exciting parts of international travel is experiencing a completely different environment that’s so unfamiliar. However, it’s important to remember that there are different safety and security risks in other countries, and regardless of how likely an event is, it’s essential to know what protocols are in place should something happen. You may be travelling to a country where shifting land masses increase the risk of minor quakes, such as the west coast of the United States, or to places such as Iceland or Hawaii which are dominated by active volcanoes. While the risk is often very low, it never hurts to read up on what to do in situations so that you can enjoy your trip knowing you’re prepared.
The Most Important Item to Pack
Of course, clothing, a passport, and entry documents are the most important items to pack when getting ready to travel abroad, but there is one very essential item that is regularly overlooked by travellers. It’s something that’s only small, but really should be included on every single international travel checklist…
… A pen.
Writing implements are so easy to forget, yet many travellers find that they need them throughout so many different parts of their trip. Pens are needed on the plane to fill out immigration forms in advance to avoid rushing in the queue at the airport, they’re needed to complete car rental agreements when you pick up your vehicle, and they’re needed to fill out exit documents if you plan to claim your tax back. There are no restrictions on taking pens in your carry on luggage, so be sure to pack one in your bag.
Create it, Store it, Use it
One of the biggest mistakes that many travellers make is that they create new international travel checklists before each trip. The problem with this method is that many important considerations will be forgotten or overlooked, which could result in a few obstacles standing in the way of a perfect getaway. Instead, an international travel checklist should be created, stored, and used year after year. It’s a good idea to create a digital version, which can be saved automatically and added to as needed in the future.
While preparation may not be the most exciting part of travelling abroad, it is one of the most valuable prerequisites to a successful, safe, and enjoyable trip. Ticking off each and every item provides complete peace of mind that you’re ready for your next adventure, and gives you the knowledge you need to really make the most of your trip, exploring new places, seeing new things, and enjoying a much needed break.
Andrea Boffo is CEO of Ansa Discount Codes, a website that provides UK discount codes to save money on online purchases.