The Essential Traveling Abroad Checklist: What to Do Before You Go

Making a traveling abroad checklist

From choosing your destination and settling on an itinerary, to booking your travel arrangements and packing your suitcase, preparing to travel outside of the country is no small task. Leaving the comforts of home and familiar cultural norms, navigating new landscapes or facing language barriers introduces new challenges to daily life that travelers might not immediately consider while planning sight-seeing tours or local activities.

To help travelers in need of a traveling abroad checklist as they prepare to head overseas, we’ve compiled an essential checklist for international travel, including a travel packing list that you can download and print to use at your convenience. 

Checklist for International Travel

You can download our Checklist for International Travel by clicking the button below. The accessible interactive PDF can be digitally checked off using any device or easily printed for your use.

Know your destination

1.    Weather and other events

Research your destination’s climate to not only pack accordingly, but also to prepare for potential travel warnings or alerts. To stay informed, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) for destination-related travel and security updates.

2.    Exchange rates, money management and ATM fees

Before you depart, notify your bank and credit card companies so they don’t deny your purchases abroad, and when you contact them, ask about any applicable international ATM fees. Some banks might charge fees while others will not.

3.    Local laws and requirements

Be sure to familiarize yourself with any local requirements or regulations you should be aware of, including strange or unusual laws you might not expect.

4.    Local customs

Brush up on customary etiquette related to tipping, greetings, appropriate dress and other social norms. Keep in mind some destinations may pose additional challenges for some travelers, such as those with disabilities, women and LGBTQ persons.

Health issues

5.    Vaccinations

Depending on your destination and your travel history, some vaccinations may be recommended while others may be required items for your traveling abroad checklist. Vaccine availability and mode of administration varies, so it’s best to talk to your doctor and schedule your vaccinations ahead of time.

6.    Medications

In addition to refilling your prescriptions before you leave, you’ll also want to acquire a letter from your doctor for prescriptions you’re traveling with as some countries have strict regulations. Some local laws even oppose over-the-counter medications.

Also read: 10 Tips for Traveling With Medication

7.    Travel Protection Plans with Medical coverage

Medical coverage may be necessary to add to your checklist for international travel if your destination country requires coverage in order to issue your visa or if your travel supplier requires coverage in order to allow you to board.

Also, Medicare and Medicaid typically do not provide coverage outside of the U.S., and while some primary health care plans provide out-of-network emergency care, others might not. Be sure to check with your primary health insurance provider to see if you might need medical coverage for your trip and consider adding a travel protection plan to your checklist.

Compare plans and prices to insure your trip

Organize documents

Gather these required documents well beforehand so you can get copies if you need them and keep them easily accessible en route to and from your destination:

8.    Passport/ID

U.S. passports should be valid for at least six months after you plan to return home and should contain two or more blank pages. If you need to apply for or renew a passport, apply early as the routine turnaround time is six to eight weeks. Note the type of valid identification/proof of citizenship needed for your trip varies; travelers may only need to add the U.S. passport card to their checklist rather than the traditional passport book, depending upon their mode of transportation and where they’re heading.

Also read: How to Replace a Lost or Stolen Passport on a Trip

9.    Visa, if required

Contact the embassy of the country you’re visiting to find out if you need to acquire a visa and add it to your traveling abroad checklist.

See where you need a visa to travel

10.  Vaccination certificate

Customs may require you to present a vaccination certificate to re-enter the U.S.

11.  Custody documents if you’re traveling alone with children

See what documents you should have when traveling with kids. Foreign border officials may require them.

12.  Travel protection plan documents

If you have a travel protection plan for your trip, be sure to bring information about your plan and contact numbers in case you need to contact the insurance company or assistance services provider. If you purchase a Generali Global Assistance travel protection plan, add the Plan Documents to your traveling abroad checklist as it includes a 24/7 Travel Assistance number to call if you need help while traveling.

13.  Don’t forget money, debit and credit cards

Bring along the following, recommended documents as well:

14.  Destination’s nearest U.S. embassy or consulate contact info

15.  Medical documents

Include prescriptions and your doctor’s letter for them along with your insurance cards.

16.  Copies of your documents

You can efficiently capture important information as you pack, such as your passport number, by photographing essential documents listed on your travel checklist.

17.  Downloads of digital files

You never know when you might be without Wi-Fi or low on international data so we recommended downloading important files such as your essential travel documents, maps, guidebooks and anything else you might need from music files to in-flight movies.

Also read: Wi-Fi Travel Security Tips

woman holding papers

Cover your home base while you’re away

Return to a well-maintained home base by adding these to-do’s to your traveling abroad checklist.

18.  Hold your mail

19.  Get a house sitter or pet sitter if needed

Also read: 14 Tips for Traveling with Dogs and Cats—By Plane, Train and Car

20.  Tell your family/friends how to get in touch with you

Pack your stuff

A successful international travel packing list will benefit from destination-specific research you might have already performed for other items on your checklist. Packing list items can range from evening wear to insect repellent, but keep in mind clothes will likely take up most of your packing space. You will want to consider your destination’s climate and local culture along with your scheduled itinerary to ensure you’re packing pieces that are appropriate and easy to layer.

Here are some suggestions for potential items you might want to add to your international travel packing list:

21.  Clothes

Shirts; blouses; sweaters; pants; shorts; skirts; socks and underwear; swimsuits; sleepwear; eveningwear; scarves; jackets and coats; gloves; hats; shoes.

22.  Toiletries

Soap; shampoo; conditioner; deodorant; sunscreen; insect repellent; wet wipes; small microfiber towel/washcloth; toothbrush and toothpaste; razors; feminine hygiene products; first-aid kit; beauty and styling products.

23.  Vitamins, medications and glasses/contact lenses

Prescriptions; over-the-counter medications, especially if they won’t be available where you’re traveling.

24.  Gear

Daypack; refillable water bottle; sunglasses; travel alarm/wristwatch.

25.  Digital devices and accessories

Laptop; tablet; cellphone; digital camera; headphones/headset; batteries and chargers; converters/adaptors as voltage and plug size can vary internationally.

26.  Misc. items

Pen for completing customs forms; anti-bacterial wipes; ear plugs; travel sewing kit; plastic bags for dirty laundry; space-saving bags; small TSA-approved luggage locks; book; journal.

Also read: How Travel Insurance Helps When You’re Sick and Stuck Abroad

Try out this checklist for international travel for your next trip abroad and depart for your preferred destination knowing you’re prepared. Did you know purchasing a Generali Global Assistance travel protection plan can help complete some of the items listed on this traveling abroad checklist? Learn more about our plans to find out how. Safe travels!


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