Whether for business, school or leisure, more than 73 million Americans traveled internationally in 2015. If you plan on joining their ranks and spending an extended period of time away from home, these international travel tips will turn you from a novice tourist into a seasoned globetrotter.
- Don’t let your passport’s expiration date fool you. Even the most amateur traveler knows a passport is vital to travel. After all, it’s government-documented proof of your citizenship. But did you know that many countries will not accept a passport that is within six months of expiring? This is to ensure that in the event you are overseas longer than anticipated, your passport will still be valid when you return home. To be on the safe side, renew your passport if it will expire within nine months of your departure. And be aware of processing time, as it can take 4-6 weeks to renew your passport, or 2-3 weeks (plus additional fees) for an expedited renewal.
- Better safe than sorry. Before traveling, you should have a medical checkup, verify your vaccinations and prescriptions are up to date and determine if you need international travel health insurance. Also, bring photocopies of your passport with you and leave a copy at home with someone you trust. Once you arrive at your destination, you should register with the local embassy.
- Anticipate how you will pay. Most banks will charge you a fee for using out-of-network overseas ATMs, so you may be tempted to take a large amount of cash out each time to limit these fees. It’s unwise to travel with too much cash in an unknown place, so instead seek out financial institutions that will reimburse you for overseas ATM fees, like Charles Schwab and Fidelity. While you may be tempted to revert to traveler’s checks, the exchange rate is not as favorable, and many merchants will not accept them. Credit cards are your best option for large purchases and in between ATM visits, as they exchange at the interbank exchange rate. Whatever you choose, be sure to alert your bank of your travel plans, including dates and locations, to avoid the hassle of a fraud alert hold.
- Start a hotel business card collection. Whenever you check into a new hotel, take a business card from the front desk, photograph it and keep the physical card with you at all times. If you get lost, you’ll be able to show locals or a taxi driver the name and address of your hotel, even if your phone battery has died.
- Be mindful of roaming. Ideally, you should have a phone that operates on the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network, so you can then buy and install a local SIM (subscriber identification module) memory chip that will work in the country you’re visiting. Many phones have GMS network capabilities built in, but a call to your wireless provider might be needed to have them unlocked. If your carrier tells you they can’t unlock your phone, consult the Consumer Code for Wireless Service, which was implemented in 2015 to provide more freedom and flexibility to consumers when it comes to cell phones.
If you need a place to store your belongings while you’re traveling internationally, consider renting a storage unit from Secure Self Storage. With 24/7 security and climate-controlled units, your possessions will be safe and secure while you explore the world.