You’re on the plane, finally. Your vacation has started. What a relief. You turn to your wife, husband, partner,
“Did you turn the alarm on?”
“Yes. Got it, relax.”
“How about the garage door? Did you close it?”
“Yes, darling. Done and done.”
“And the timer for the lights? So people will think we’re home at night?”
“uhh…I thought you were going to do that.” (This is a trick called shifting the blame.)
Silence. A fight ensues. You get kicked off the plane. Or worse, you worry about it for the next nine hours because you can’t do anything about it.
This is no way to start your vacation, right? You want to shut the door and KNOW that you did everything.
But there’s a lot to remember, especially when there’s two or more people involved, and you’re working, and the kids are crying for your attention, and yada, yada, yada.
To that end, let me offer my tried and true checklist for traveling overseas, which you can post right on your fridge. As you get things done, check them off. As you are about to walk out the door to catch your flight, you can check it again (#25). You can even add your own specifics about your kids and your pets and your home.
Your 26-Point Checklist for Overseas Travel
1. Passport. Don’t leave home without it. You can’t get on the plane or into whatever country you’re visiting. And don’t forget to look at the expiration date on your passport way in advance of leaving on your trip. Is it getting close to expiring? Some countries won’t let you in if the dates are too close. Make sure this is the first thing you look at when you begin to plan your trip.Two more things: Make a photocopy and keep it separate from your passport AND make sure to fill out the emergency information on page two (which nobody seems to do).
2. Credit Cards. There are a few things to think about here. First, do you have credit cards that do not charge international fees? Check on that. It adds up. You want to get a card that has no fees, AND that will be accepted in the places you are going.
Second, remember to call your credit card companies before you leave. Tell them you where you will be and what dates you will be there. You don’t want to get to Europe and have your card rejected because the company is trying to protect you from fraud. They need to know that this is you using the card. (BTW, I do this twice before leaving, just to make sure.)
Third, write down your card numbers and the phone numbers to call in case you lose them (heaven forbid). Keep these in separate place from your wallet.
3. Your debit card. Same thing. Most countries allow you to withdraw money from ATM machines in the local currency, so you needn’t buy any currency before leaving home. But, your bank needs to know if you will be using your debit card overseas. Call them (twice) before leaving, and have them make a note about your travel, about which countries you’ll be in and when, so they won’t deny payment thinking they are protecting you.
And as with your credit cards, write the card number down in a separate place from your wallet, as well as the phone number and email for the bank, in case you have trouble using your card.
4. Put your newspaper on hold so the copies don’t pile up on your doorstep when you’re gone. A sure sign that no one is home.
5. Put your mail on hold as well. Or have a neighbor pick it up every day, unless you have one of those handy slots in the door.
6. Insurance. Your insurance plan may cover you while you’re out of the country, but don’t leave this to chance. Check with your carrier to see what is covered and how to access the coverage abroad. If you’re not covered, there are short-term policies you can get that will cover most emergencies and that will not cost you an arm and a leg (dark humor).
7. Put all your bills on auto-pay, if they aren’t already on it. You shouldn’t be thinking about paying bills while you’re on vacation.
8. Prescriptions. Don’t forget to refill these in advance so you have enough pills to cover you until you get home. If you have serious medication, then be sure to take a copy of the medications you need so a pharmacist in another country can help you if you somehow lose them (i.e. your bags get delayed in transit).
9. Buy a few auto-switches that will turn your lights on and off at night. It makes it look like someone is home.
10. Reconfirm your reservations with your hotels, your flight, and whatever else is reserved a few weeks before traveling. You may have made these way in advance, so it will ease your mind to make sure that everything is set and ready to go for you.
11. Pet sitters. Make sure they know how to get in touch with you, i.e. exactly how to dial the number to reach you – prefixes, country codes, etc.
12. Children. If you’re not taking them, make sure they know how to call you, or assure them that you will call them, and when.
13. Phone – International Travel Plan & Apps. Most phone carriers offer an international plan so won’t end up going to debtors prison after calling from other countries. So make sure to switch up your plan AND make sure you know how to use your phone abroad. Speaking from experience again, if you don’t adjust your settings for cellular data and data roaming, you may be charged for things in your sleep. Also, there are so many apps for traveling these days. Download these before you leave. It may be more expensive to do so abroad. Maps, languages apps, driving directions, play around with that before you leave.
14. Packing. Do you really need all those clothes? Traveling light is best. Lugging heavy suitcases up and down stairs in the train stations or on and off the trains can be back breaking and ruin your day. My cases get lighter and lighter every time I go abroad, and I still bring too much. Whatever you think you need, cut it in half.
15. Shoes. Be sure to break in your walking shoes well before you leave. There’s nothing worse that sore feet and blisters on the first day of your trip.
16. Electrical Adaptors. You don’t need one for every device you have, but you need a few if you’re bringing your phone and your IPad. Different countries have different adaptors, so make sure you have one for each country you’ll be in. Sometimes, they’re hard to find on your trip, so just take them with you.
17. International Driver’s License. I don’t usually want to drive in other countries, but if you plan to drive, or maybe drive, then check on whether you need to have a license or not.
18. Backpack or shoulder bag that zips tight. Again, nothing ruins a trip faster than a stolen wallet. You don’t need to have a secret belt hidden in your pants (how uncomfortable is that?), but you should have bags that you can carry over your shoulder or with pockets that zip and lock if you’re going to be on crowded trains. Trust me, I speak from experience on this.
19. Rail pass AND seat reservations. If you’re planning on buying and using a rail pass, then you may also need to reserve seats on the days you want to travel, which is a separate purchase.
20. Fear of flying pills. For a period of my life, when I was the mother of a small child, I became terrified of flying. I didn’t want to stop traveling, but flying was a nightmare for me. Every bump meant sure disaster. I finally thought to ask my doctor for something that would help me sleep on the flight. A couple of pills and a few glasses of wine, and I didn’t care about the turbulence. My fear of flying has passed, thankfully, but I still take the pills just in case of a rough flight.
21. Business cards. It’s kind of nice to have a card you can give someone if you meet them en route, so they can email you later and keep in touch. Your business cards are perfect for this, so bring some along.
22. Cameras. Do you have the charger and an extra battery. If Brad Pitt comes along and joins you for a drink at your café in Cannes, and your camera battery is out or your card is full, you’ll never forgive yourself, and no one will believe you.
23. Recharging paraphernalia (adaptors and wires) for phone, iPad, and camera. Having to find and buy those abroad is a huge hassle and expense. Put these in a baggie in your carry on.
24. Plants. Who’s going to take care of those? Maybe the high school student next door, who can come in once a week and earn a few bucks?
25. As you’re walking out the door, check for: passport, tickets of all kinds, phone, stove turned off, windows closed, garage door shut and locked, auto timers for lights turned on, cat out (just kidding cat lovers), and heat down.
26. Keys. What will you do with your keys while you’re on your trip. My suggestion is to put them in the outside pocket of your suitcase. They will stay there until you get home instead of getting transferred around as you pack and unpack. When you get home, you want to know you can reach in and get the keys to the house, which you have hopefully completely forgotten about on the trip.
Et voila! You’re ready. You’ve got this. Everything is checked off.
You have been as responsible as you possibly can be, so now you can simply relax and enjoy your well-deserved vacation.
And you didn’t have to make your own to-do list.
If this is your first time to travel abroad, then I hope this list helps you remember a few things you may not have thought of. In time, it will be in your head.
Still, a to-do list on the fridge can help ease the anxiety of forgetting something important and keep you from blaming your partner for their forgetfulness.
And if your destination happens to be the French Riviera, please check out my guide for your trip. It has these and other tips to make your vacation there the best ever.
Mary Kay Seales is a travel writer, copywriter and the author of The Beginner’s Guide to the French Riviera: Stop Dreaming & Start Packing, available on Amazon. Visit her website at www.marykayseales.com.