Prepare your finances
Before you travel overseas, call your bank and credit card providers to let them know where you’ll be; if the companies see foreign charges with no notice that you’re abroad, they might freeze your cards, which can be quite annoying if you’re in a shop or trying to pay for dinner. Before you travel internationally, be aware of the exchange rate and know how much things generally cost wherever you’re going so that you get some sense of how much you’re going to spend.
Make copies of travel documents
Most importantly, have at least one colour copy of your passport’s ID page stored somewhere safe and separate from your passport. You should also make copies of any visas that pertain to your current travels. Hotel reservations, train ticket confirmations, and all other travel documents should be copied as well. In this digital age, it is very convenient (and eco-friendly) to only have digital copies of these documents handy.
Obtain an international driving permit
The international road trip of your dreams isn’t going to happen unless you plan correctly. That’s because it’s illegal to drive without a valid driver’s license and insurance in most countries, and many do not recognise U.S. driver’s licenses. Car rental companies usually offer insurance, but for the license, you’ll need to obtain an International Driving Permit, either from AAA or the National Auto Club. It’s also smart to familiarise yourself with local driving laws wherever you plan to drive. Contact foreign embassies for official rules and regulations regarding driving.
Get all the necessary gear for your electronics
Electrical outlets are different all over the world, so you’ll need to have adapters that allow your devices to plug into foreign sockets. Your best bet is to buy an adapter with different settings that adjust to most outlets, so you only have to worry about one adapter instead of one per country. You also need to check the strength of the electrical current wherever you’re going and make sure your devices are compatible—cell phones and computers often are.
Learn key phrases in the local language
Of course, it’s best practice to learn basics like “Hello,” “Thank you,” and “Where is the bathroom?”, but the more you can say in the local tongue, the better. Then there are times when being able to effectively communicate are a matter of health and safety. If you don’t feel comfortable with your language abilities, then cheat and print out a document with relevant phrases or make flashcards that you can carry with you.
Buy health and travel insurance
Before you travel, check your health insurance policy to see if it includes international coverage. If not, consider buying a short-term policy that will cover you while you’re abroad, in case something should happen. Similarly, a smart way to protect your trip and your money are to purchase travel insurance.
Prep your Smartphone
Just a few years ago, the most affordable way to use your cellphone abroad was to buy a prepaid SIM card and insert it into your phone. But since smartphones now allow for Wi-Fi communication, you can virtually check in with your friends and family for free. Check with your carrier and plan to see if it allows free Wi-Fi calling because that means you can do it anywhere in the world.
Plan for the worst-case scenario
Planning for the worst-case scenario will ultimately give you the most peace of mind. Before you embark on your trip, take pictures of your passport, photo I.D., medical cards, travel itinerary and contacts, and email them to yourself, along with a couple of family members or friends back home. If any of items are stolen or misplaced, you can use any computer from anywhere to retrieve what you need. Also, your friends and family at home can alert authorities on your behalf with your information.