Are you gearing up to jet-set across the world? I’ve got the ultimate international travel checklist that will have you shaking off the pre-trip jitters and focusing on the good stuff – the adventure that awaits! 

Being prepared is always necessary to ensure a safe and stress-free trip abroad. Luckily, I am a planner and have mastered the art of organising and checking things off my list prior to going on my next big adventure.

From making sure your passport isn’t gathering dust to remembering those teeny-tiny travel-size shampoos, I’ve got you covered. 

Keep reading to get the chance to download your own International Travel Checklist PDF emailed directly to you when you use the sign-up form below! You can print it out for your next trip and never forget any of the must do’s before travelling abroad.

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1. Check Your Essential Documents & Finances

Passport 

For the most part, your passport should be valid for at least 6 months beyond your planned return date. This is a common requirement for entry into many countries, as it ensures you have a valid document for your entire stay and any unforeseen extensions. 

That being said, it’s usually fine to return to your home country with less than 6 months’ validity left on your passport. 

You also need to make sure you that your passport is in good condition before you travel abroad. If there’s so much as a tiny tear in one of the pages, some countries may not allow you entry. 

Visas

Make sure you check out your visa requirements a couple of months before your international trip, as different countries have different visa requirements based on your nationality. Be sure to apply for any necessary visas as early as possible as some visa processes can be lengthy and may require detailed documentation or interviews. 

For many travellers, it’s simple to arrange your visa and most countries now have an e-visa service where you can apply online and get approval back within days.

Be wary of third parties charging excessive amounts for visas! I either do my own visas through the official government or I use iVisa to arrange, as they’re legit and they take the stress out of all the research involved in applying for complicated  travel visas.

Travel Insurance

Travelling internationally can come with certain risks as you never know when you may get ill or, if you’re the adventurous traveller, when you might end up breaking something! For this reason, it’s imperative you have the right travel insurance.

There are different types of travel insurance, but make sure you opt for a comprehensive travel insurance policy that, at least, includes medical insurance for health emergencies and covers trip cancellations, and lost luggage.  

World Nomads offer add-ons for those looking for high adrenaline, extreme sport kind of activities. Of course, you can always just opt for the basic travel insurance option, which will suit most international travellers. 

You’ll need to understand the specifics of your policy, including coverage limits, deductibles, and the process for making a claim.

International Driving Licence

If you’re planning to drive in a foreign country, which is often a great way to get around, check whether an international driving licence (or international driving permit) is required alongside your national driving license. International driving licences are recognised internationally.

In order to get an international driving licence, you’ll need to go to the licence association in your home country with your valid driving licence and likely pay a fee.

Emergency Contacts

I recommend keeping a list of emergency contacts, including family members or friends back home, as well as local emergency numbers for your destination.

Include the contact details of your country’s embassy or consulate in the destination country. They can be invaluable in case of legal troubles, lost passports, or emergencies.

Credit Cards & Cash

Let your bank and credit card companies know that you plan to travel, your travel dates and destinations to prevent any transactions from being flagged as fraudulent and your card being blocked. I learned this the hard way when I was stuck in Paris and unable to take any cash out with my debit card. 

Check with your bank about any international transaction fees or currency conversion charges so you can manage your finances accordingly. I tend to use as a payment card when I travel as it avoids conversion fees. 

Always exchange a small amount of money into the local currency before you travel for immediate expenses upon arrival, such as your transportation from the airport. It’s also handy for tips. 

2. Health & Safety 

Vaccinations

The last thing you want is to get ill in a foreign country (another reason to have travel insurance). 

Before you travel, make an appointment at a travel clinic or your doctor to check which vaccinations you need before you go. Some countries have entry requirements that include proof of vaccination against certain diseases, such as yellow fever, COVID-19, or polio.

Other vaccines, such as those for Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid and Malaria prophylaxis, might be recommended based on the risk levels in specific regions.  

Bear in mind that some vaccinations, such as Hep A & B, have a number of shots you need to get before you’re fully vaccinated, be sure to leave enough time to get these before you travel.  

You might also have to provide proof of vaccination in certain international destinations and for certain vaccines (e.g. Yellow Fever), so make sure you have the correct documentation ready.

Medications

If you have a medical condition and are on prescription medications, ensure you have enough to last the entire trip, plus some extra in case of delays. Keeping medications in their original packaging can help avoid customs issues and makes it easier to refill abroad if necessary.

Always carry a copy of your prescriptions, including the generic names of drugs, as brand names can vary internationally. 

You also need to do your research and make sure that nothing you are taking is illegal in the country you’re visiting. For example, codeine is illegal in the United Arab Emirates, unless you have a prescription for same. You can get into trouble carrying medication that doesn’t have a matching prescription. 

Also, don’t forget to check the expiration date of your medication before leaving the country.

Read also: How to Manage a Chronic Illness Flare Up When Travelling

First-Aid Kit

A travel first aid kit should contain items to handle minor injuries and ailments. This includes plasters for cuts and scrapes, antiseptic wipes for cleaning wounds, and pain relievers for headaches or minor pains. 

I always make sure I have rehydration salts for dehydration and antidiarrheal medication with me when I travel. Don’t forget to pack other personal items that you find necessary based on your health needs and the nature of your trip. 

Think about the activities you’ll be doing. If you’re going hiking, include blister pads; for international travel, maybe add a thermometer and electrolyte packets. The key is to tailor the kit to your needs and the trip’s specifics. 

3. Packing Essentials

Be sure to pack your airplane travel essentials in your carry-on bag so you can start your holiday fresh as a daisy off the plane, having had the most comfortable flight.

Clothing

Before packing, research the weather at your destination. This helps in choosing the right clothing, whether you need warm layers for cold climates or lightweight, breathable fabrics for tropical locations.

You should also be aware of and respect the local culture and dress codes. Some destinations may require modest attire, especially when visiting religious sites or conservative areas. Usually, temples and places of worship require women to cover their shoulders and knees, and sometimes hair. I always pack a scarf and/or sarong for this reason.

Packing cubes are always on my pre-travel packing list – great for organising your clothes and if you’re short on space. 

Electronics

Make sure you pack all necessary chargers and cables for your electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, cameras, and tablets. The last thing you want to do is have to shell out to buy a new charger. 

Different countries have different plug types and voltage standards. I recommend a universal travel adapter and a voltage converter if your devices aren’t compatible with the country’s electricity supply.

A portable power bank is a lifesaver for long travel days or when you don’t have access to power outlets. Considering the amount of photos I take when I travel, my phone is usually ready for a recharge by lunchtime! 

Travel-Sized Toiletries

Airlines have strict regulations on the amount of liquids, aerosols, and gels you can carry in your hand luggage, typically limited to containers of no more than 100ml (3.4 ounces) each, all fitting in a clear, resealable bag. Rather than using a single use bag every time you get on a plane, opt to invest in a reusable clear toiletry bag like this one.

Pack only the toiletries you know you will use, such as toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, and conditioner. You can also opt for solid versions of toiletries (like solid shampoo bars) to save space and comply with liquid restrictions.

Always carry any necessary medications in your hand luggage, along with a copy of the prescription.

Snacks and Water Bottle

Carrying a reusable water bottle means you can stay hydrated on your travels. Most airports have water fountains where you can refill your bottle after passing through security.

Whether it’s for long travel days or heading out on activities during your trip, a reusable water bottle is something I rarely leave my home without. 

Pack a selection of healthy snacks such as nuts, dried fruits, granola bars, or trail mix to keep your energy levels up during long flights or layovers.

Copies of Important Documents

Make photocopies and digital scans of your passport, visa, travel insurance, and itineraries. Keep a set separate from the originals in case they are lost or stolen.

I also recommend using cloud storage services or email yourself copies of important documents so you can access them from anywhere if needed.

4. Before You Go

Research Local Laws and Customs

Understanding the local customs, dress codes, and laws of the place you are visiting is crucial. This can help you avoid unintentional disrespect to local culture or religious practices.

For instance, some countries have strict dress codes for visiting religious sites. Also, some behaviours considered acceptable in one country might be illegal or frowned upon in another. 

Resources like travel guides, government websites, and cultural forums can be helpful.

Plan Your Itinerary

Having a rough plan of what you want to see and do during your trip can enhance your travel experience. This doesn’t mean you need a minute-by-minute schedule, but knowing the major attractions, local events happening during your stay, and how to allocate your time can make your trip more enjoyable and less stressful. 

Consider factors like the distance between locations, opening hours of attractions, and days when special events are happening. Planning ahead can also help with making reservations where necessary.

Share a copy of your itinerary and travel plans with family or friends, just in case of emergency. Chances are they won’t ever need it, but it’s good to be sure. 

Suss Out The Area

If you’re travelling alone, or even not, it’s always good to be aware of your surroundings. If you’re staying somewhere that might be ideal during the day but not quite safe to walk around at night, you can plan ahead and make sure there will be taxis available or perhaps a driver from the hotel.

Download Offline Maps

Offline maps can be a lifesaver when you’re in areas with limited or no internet access. Before you depart, download maps of the areas you plan to visit and your accommodation using apps like Google Maps. 

These offline maps allow you to navigate, find points of interest, and even search for directions without needing a data connection. This is particularly useful in foreign countries where roaming charges are high or in remote locations where mobile service is sparse.

Set Up International Roaming or a Local SIM Card

If you need to be online while you’re away, make sure in advance that you have a reliable way to communicate and access the internet while abroad. International roaming can be convenient but often comes with high fees. 

An alternative is to buy a local SIM card when you arrive at your destination, which can sometimes offer you lower rates for calls, texts, and data. But check your phone’s compatibility with the network of the country you’re visiting in advance and make sure it’s unlocked to accept a foreign SIM card. 

5. Home Preparation

Before leaving for your trip, take some steps to make sure that your home is safe and everything’s in order. 

This might include arranging for someone to watch your house or pets, pausing mail and newspaper delivery to avoid showing that you’re not home, and securing all windows and doors. If you have plants, you might also arrange for someone to water them. 

I also recommend setting your bills to autopay. You don’t want to come back home to find your electricity has been turned off because you forgot to pay your bill before you went abroad! 

6. On the day of the departure

Double-Check Flight Status and Documents

Check the airline’s website or app for real-time updates on your flight – departure times, gate information, and any last-minute changes or cancellations. 

Make sure you’ve got all the necessary travel documents, including your passport, visa (if required), flight tickets, and any health-related documents such as vaccination certificates or COVID-19 test results. It’s also wise to have digital copies of these documents saved on your phone or in your email as backups.

Arrive at the Airport Early

​International flights often require passengers to check in 2-3 hours before the scheduled departure. This gives enough time for baggage check-in, security screenings, and navigating through the airport to your gate. If it’s your first time flying, I recommend getting to the airport at least 3 hours before your flight. 

Stay Hydrated and Rested

Flying, especially long flights, can lead to dehydration due to the low humidity levels in airplane cabins. Drinking plenty of water before and during your flight can help mitigate the effects of dehydration and give you the best chance for being ready to explore once you reach your destination. 

If you’re traveling across several time zones, start adjusting your sleep schedule a few days before your departure. Try to align your sleep pattern closer to the time zone of your destination. This might mean going to bed earlier or later than usual for a few nights. Staying rested and beginning the adjustment process before you leave can really help reduce the effects of jet lag, making it easier for you to adapt to the new time zone when you arrive. 

7. Cultural Preparation

Learn Basic Phrases

Learning basic phrases in the local language of the country you are visiting is always a good idea, and it even demonstrates respect for the locals. Even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect, the effort is usually appreciated and can lead to more friendly and helpful interactions.

Start with greetings (“hello,” “goodbye”), expressions of gratitude (“thank you”), politeness (“please”), and essentials (“yes,” “no,” “excuse me,” “I’m sorry”). Also, learn how to ask if someone speaks English (“Do you speak English?”) and phrases for help (“Can you help me?”).

I use Duolingo to learn languages, and I use Google Translate when I’m at the destination. 

Familiarise Yourself with Local Etiquette

Greetings can vary widely from one country to another, including handshakes, bows, kisses on the cheek, or even nose rubs. Knowing the appropriate form of greeting can prevent uncomfortable situations and show respect for locals. 

Example: In France, it’s common to greet people with a light kiss on both cheeks, known as “la bise.”

Attitudes towards tipping can also differ significantly. In some countries, tipping is seen as an essential part of the service industry, while in others, it may be considered unnecessary or even insulting.

Example: In the United States, tipping is expected in many service contexts, including restaurants and taxis, often at a rate of 15-20%. In contrast, in Japan, tipping is not a common practice and can be seen as rude.

There you have my ultimate international travel checklist – everything I tend to do before I travel abroad. Whether you’re a first-timer or an experienced traveler, I hope it helps you the next time you’re planning and adventure abroad.

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