Minus packing lists (which I will cover in a separate post), these are essential tips to ensure your trip abroad is worry-free whether you are going for a year or a couple of weeks.
Tips to Prepare for a Round the World Trip or Traveling Abroad:
- TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry
- Travelers Insurance
- Register Your Trip with the Government (STEP)
- Cell Phone/Wireless Internet
- International Driver’s License
- Credit Cards
- Download TripIt and Google Trips app
This may seem like a no-brainer, but make sure you allow enough time to obtain a passport if you don’t already have one or renew your passport if it has expired or will be expiring (many countries require at least six months validity after your arrival date).
Since I had recently changed my last name after getting married, I had to apply for a new passport and wanted to make sure I received it prior to booking any flights. You can have passport photos taken at your local post office, a drugstore like CVS or Walgreens or use this app which is what I did.
After uploading your picture to the IDphoto app, you are emailed a 4″ x 6″ print of 6 photos which you can print on photo paper at home or have printed at a local drugstore. The cost of this print is way cheaper than having your passport photo taken plus you can order extras for visas and international driving permits (more on these later).
Global Entry (TSA Pre-Check)
If you are traveling anywhere, I recommend applying for TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry. The cost of TSA Pre-Check is $80 and provides you with faster security lines and less baggage screening in the USA. Global Entry is only $20 more (or $100) and includes all the benefits of TSA Pre-Check plus expedited clearance back into the USA for pre-approved, low risk travelers.
Even though we will only be traveling back in to the USA one time on this trip, your Global Entry pass is good for five years so we thought the extra $20 was worth it. Plus, some international airports have started to honor Global Entry.
Michael and I both completed separate applications online for Global Entry. Make sure to have all past addresses and past employer information at the ready during the application process.
After a few days, we were notified that we were both approved. I received my notification first and went to schedule my appointment only to find there were no appointments for months and months in multiple cities that I was willing to travel to.
Since the appointment dates were after our scheduled departure, I furiously refreshed the page for cancellations. After a day or two, I was able to secure one at O’Hare. So make sure to plan this portion early!
Michael was not able to get an appointment so we took a risk and showed up at the appointment together. We showed up very early thinking it would expedite the process, but we were called at our original appointment time and thankfully, they let us go together since we were married.
There were a lot of people that “stopped in” without an appointment but the office was so busy that day and I did not see any of these people get called in.
The interview took about ten minutes. We were both asked about our background, travel history and travel plans. You are fingerprinted (to aid in the criminal background check and for entry back into the USA). If you have no criminal record, the interview should be quite easy. You are either approved on the spot or sent an email if your application requires further investigation.
We were both approved and received our Global Entry cards about 10 business days later.
To determine which immunizations you will need for your trip abroad, visit the CDC destinations page. From there, you can choose each country you will be visiting from a dropdown list and receive recommended vaccines. If you received regular vaccines as a child, then you are off to a good start and will not require as many.
After determining which vaccines you will need, make an appointment at your doctor’s office, a specialized travel clinic or health clinic 6 weeks in advance of your trip as some vaccines require additional doses or have a lead time for effectiveness.
We first made an appointment at a specialized travel clinic but later cancelled after realizing they charged a $70 appointment fee per person not including the cost of shots. We made an appointment at a local health clinic and were not charged for the visit.
Both Michael and I had updated vaccines and only required two shots each – a tetanus booster and typhoid fever. Michael’s health insurance covered both shots, but mine did not so I spent $105 total.
Check which countries require a visa to enter before traveling abroad. Each country has a specific way to obtain visas for your trip so make sure to check each destination.
For example, you do not need a visa if you are visiting Europe for less than 90 days; however, you do need a visa to visit India if you are traveling for less than 30 days. The visa for India can be obtained in advance of your trip at a local embassy or you can apply online electronically at least four days in advance of your trip.
Other destinations like Tanzania and Nepal provide the option to obtain a tourist visa upon arrival into the country. If you are only traveling to one or two spots, then I suggest applying for your visa in advance but if you are traveling for a longer range of time and will not be near the embassy within the required application times then apply online or in person (dependent on the countries regulations).
Costs will vary between each country and how long you will be staying in the country. Make sure to check how payment (cash, check or which credit cards) can be made for these, how may passport photos you will need for each and if you need to bring your application with you (which will require finding a printer!)
Travelers Insurance is an important part of the planning process since most insurance plans will not cover you while abroad.
World Nomads is the easiest and best option for travel insurance when going abroad. You simply enter the countries you are going to and dates you are traveling and boom, they provide you with a few insurance plans based on the activities you will be doing while traveling.
Since we will be hiking and participating in a few adventurous activities (mainly Michael, not me), we chose the Adventure Package. Not only do they cover lost luggage and trip cancellation, they’ll cover a helicopter ride should you need to be air-lifted off a mountain. Heaven forbid that does happen to us but better to be safe than sorry.
We will also be keeping our health insurance in the USA as a precaution.
Register your Trip with the Government (STEP)
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering your trip, you will receive information from the Embassy about safety conditions in each country, help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency and help friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.
All in all, a very smart thing to do.
Cell Phone/Wireless Internet
Most international cell phone packages are outrageously expensive, so we will be turning off our Cellular Data on our phones while we are abroad.
We are relying on WiFi to FaceTime our family and friends and to text back and forth via iMessage or What’s App (those who do not have an iPhone or international numbers).
We have only chosen Airbnb’s and hotels that offer WiFi and will only be unavailable in a few spots — riding in the back of a jeep on safari or climbing in Nepal. But, hey, I should be unavailable then right?!
Through my American Express Platinum Card, I also received a free subscription to Boingo wireless which is available in airports and internationally and ten free GoGo in-flight sessions to be connected while traveling. Since we will both be working during our trip, we need to stay connected.
You should definitely check with your carrier to ensure that you are able to still use your phone internationally. I have an iPhone so I am only well-versed on that device and know there is no problem.
International Driver’s License
If you are planning to rent a car while traveling overseas, visit a local AAA office or DMV to get an international driver’s permit. You will need to fill out an application, visit an AAA office, bring two passport photos, your valid driver’s license and a $20 application fee. You can, also, complete the process online but will need to wait to receive your permit in the mail.
In addition to the international drivers permit, we will be relying on our American Express card for rental car insurance.
Since we are traveling for a long amount of time, we needed a credit card that did not charge foreign transaction fees, i.e., an American Express card.
We also wanted an additional card if the business or hotel did not accept American Express and also an ATM card that did not charge ATM fees at banks other than our own.
Lastly, many foreign transactions require “chip and pin” technology whereas the US only just started “chip” technology. “Chip and pin” is only offered through certain financial institutions so make sure to check with your bank before leaving on your trip.
Download TripIt and Google Trips app
The TripIt app keeps all of your train, planes and automobiles in order…plus your hotels, Airbnb’s and any activities in one place. You plan the trip with someone else or just share your details (hi, mom!).
The Google Trips app just launched so I’ve yet to try it, but it is getting rave reviews so far. Based on your location, the app will suggest sightseeing spots, local restaurants, and accommodations based on where you are going.
Did these tips teach you how to prepare for a round the world trip or traveling abroad? Did I miss any travel preparations that help you prepare for a round the world trip? Please share them below in the comments!