Knowing that you have a vacation planned is exciting.  However, there are so many moving parts in making that trip happen, that it’s so easy to overlook some of the tasks that can save you so much time and aggravation if they are done before you leave home.  Forget an important detail, and your trip may never get off the ground, so to speak.  So, I would like to share with you 10 of the top necessary tasks you must do before your vacation begins.

Make sure your passport has not expired and meets the entry requirements of your destination country

Many countries require passports to be valid for at least 6 months after your date of return.  Some even require you to have a certain number of empty pages.  Don’t get caught unaware and unprepared or you may be denied boarding at the airport.  It can take up to 8 weeks for passports to be processed, so give yourself enough time.

Along those same lines – are you familiar with “Proof of Onward Travel”?  Many countries have implemented laws that try to prevent people from visiting their country on a tourist visa and never leaving.  That means you have to show proof at the airport before traveling to a country that you plan on exiting that country at the end of your stay.  That means if you are flying into a country on a one-way ticket, you need to be prepared to show your confirmation of your flight out of the country, or even train tickets, bus or ferry tickets (rental cars usually will not suffice).  Have that documentation handy.

Figure out if you need a visa

Passports prove your citizenship.  Visas permit you to enter a country.  Not all countries require U.S. or Canadian citizens to get them, so you need to check your destination’s requirements.  If you are working with a travel advisor like One World Family Travel, they can assist you with this.  Never leave this to the last minute because paperwork delays are always a possibility.

Purchase travel protection

Your vacation is a big investment and while we all think we are invincible, things happen.  Flights get delayed, hurricanes happen, we get sick – all things that will incur fees if your trip is canceled or delayed.  Or, unfortunately, we get sick or injured while away.  An example – I fell down the stairs and broke my leg in Jamaica.  A good travel protection policy will cover you and reimburse you for your expenses.  Over $1,300 in x-rays and other related expenses were completely covered in my case.  At One World Family Travel, we are experienced in finding you the right travel protection for your needs.

Enroll in TSA Pre-Check and/or Global Entry

Let’s face it, going through security at the airport is probably one of the biggest hassles of air travel.  For $85 for a five-year membership in TSA PreCheck, you can take advantage of shorter security lines, not having to remove your shoes, and not having to take out your laptop and liquids.  Frequent international travelers will enjoy speeding through international immigration and security with Global Entry. A five-year membership is $100 and includes PreCheck.

Don’t want to bother with a government program?  Then try CLEAR, a private service that offers passengers the change to skip security lines.  It is more limited as it is only in 18 US airports, but if you travel one of those airports frequently, the $179 yearly fee (which extends to a child under 18 traveling with you), may be worth it.

Register your trip with the State Department’s STEP program

If you are a US citizen traveling abroad, you should not forget to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  This is a free service that allows you to register your trip with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.  By enrolling, you will receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions where you are visiting, help the US Embassy contact you in an emergency, and help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency as well.  Visit HERE for more information and to enroll.

Make copies of all your documents

Make copies of your passports, health insurance cards, travel protection, and all travel documents and confirmations.  Keep a copy in a secure place in your luggage, email yourself a copy and then send a copy to a trusted individual.  Consider storing the documents in a secure folder in Google Docs or Dropbox.

Confirm all your reservations

Yes, you have confirmation numbers.  But always confirm your reservations with the airlines, hotels, and excursions a few days before you depart.  Chances are everything will be just fine, but you don’t want to show up at your hotel to find out that your reservation was inexplicably changed or canceled.  A travel advisor can do this for you and help fix any issues.

Sort out your money 

Let your bank and credit card companies know you are traveling.  Go online and set a travel notice for your dates of travel and destinations, even if you are staying within the United States.

If you are traveling to Europe, make sure your credit card has a chip in it (most of them do these days) since most European shops do not accept non-chipped cards.   Also, check to see if your card charges any international transaction fees, and consider getting one that doesn’t.

Finally, think about how you are going to get money upon arrival.  If you want, you can always purchase a small amount of foreign currency before leaving home just for small incidentals until you can get money.  However, most airports have ATMs inside the terminals where you can easily withdraw cash.  You will also find currency exchange centers, but keep in mind that they usually have higher exchange rates and fees.

Download appropriate travel apps

Most destinations have useful apps that will help you as you travel around.  Transit and subway maps, city guides, communication apps – there is no shortage of information out there.  CityMapper is available for 39 cities around the world, and a great tool for figuring out the best way to navigate a new city.  It’s available for download or can be accessed on the web HERE.

Make sure family and friends know how to communicate with you

Give your family and friends the numbers of your hotel or cruise ship in case they need to get a hold of you.  Check with your mobile phone company about their international rates and service.  Consider downloading WhatsApp as an easy, inexpensive way to connect with family while overseas.  It allows you to message and make phone calls over wi-fi rather than using your mobile network, thus avoiding fees.  Just note that both parties need WhatsApp downloaded to communicate.

Once you get these tasks out of the way, all you have to do is sit back, enjoy your trip and make some memories!

Happy Travels!