You’re finally ready to take your first trip outside of the U.S.! Make it a great experience by covering all of your bases. Here, travel expert Wadiyah Ali shares her tips for traveling abroad.
1. Notify your banking institution at least one week before your departure.
To ensure a stress-free holiday, call your bank to make sure that they know the dates and destinations of your trip. This will avoid suspension of your credit/debit cards for suspicion of fraud. In addition, be sure to review your credit report and bank and statements when you return from your trip to make sure there are no signs of fraud or identity theft. Finally, make sure to bring at least some US cash with you just in case your ATM card stops working or is lost or stolen.
2. Consult with your cell phone service provider in advance of your trip.
Remember to also inform your cell phone provider at least two weeks prior to your departure. Get the facts about international rates, dialing instructions, data packets, setting changes, password protection and insurance for your smart phone. Avoid using public Wi-Fi hotspots overseas which make it easy for thieves to hack into your cell phone device. Ask your service provider for additional suggestions for cell phone safety during your trip.
You may also want to download a guidebook app on your smart phone such as Triposo guides. These are free wiki-travel apps that serve as a guidebook but with GPS functionality.
3. Consider purchasing travel insurance
Travel insurance is a good policy particularly if you’re planning to visit more than one country. It’s relatively inexpensive and can cover anything from accidental medical and dental expenses, trip delays, baggage delays, passport replacement and many other possible unexpected events. If you’re traveling as a volunteer or work for a non-profit, check out the International Volunteer Card (www.volunteercard.com) for one of the least expensive ways to get coverage.
4. Consider registering with the US State Department
It can’t hurt to let the State Department know about your plans to visit a foreign country approximately two weeks prior to your departure. Visit their website at https://travelregistration.state.gov to provide details about your destination(s) and to gather further information about your destination. It’s free and gives you an added layer of safety while abroad. Our embassies all over the world are there to assist US citizens in the case of an emergency. You probably won’t need them, but it’s good to know that they can offer help and assistance if necessary.
5. Make copies of your itinerary and travel documents
Having copies of important information such as your travel itinerary, passport, credit/debit cards, etc. will give you peace of mind in the event they are lost or stolen. Leave one set of copies back home and keep another set in a safe place separate from your original documents. Be sure to either lock up important papers in the hotel safe or keep them on your person when you head out for a day of sightseeing. Having the unique information found on these documents will make things much easier in the event they must be reported while you’re on vacation.
6. Relax and enjoy!
With these and other safeguards in place, be prepared to be welcomed in your host destinations! Take a little time beforehand to get to know more about the people and culture of the country. If it’s a non-English-speaking country, try to learn a few key phrases in the language if you can. Not only will it enhance your trip, but it will go a long way during the many cultural exchanges that will take place when you meet the locals in their native country. Be adventurous by trying the many new and different foods you’ll encounter! Remember that you’re more than a tourist when you travel abroad – you’re one of the best cultural ambassadors for the USA!