As any seasoned traveler can attest, the 48 hours before any international trip tends to be chaotic. From wrapping up loose ends at home and work to ensuring your credit card will work in the country you're visiting and prepping your carry-on, the days before a long international getaway can be a hectic yet exciting time, whether you're planning a leisure or business trip. To help make travel smoother and stress-free, cross these seven steps off your to-do list before traveling abroad.
Visit the U.S. State Department's Site for Real-Time Alerts and Warnings
Enrolling in the U.S. State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a smart move before any trip abroad. This free service alerts the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate that you'll be in the area. After you've registered and provided need-to-know information, such as an emergency contact and your passport number, you'll be emailed travel alerts and warnings specific to your destination, so you can stay up to speed on the latest security or safety hazards and avoid putting yourself in harm's way. In addition to receiving notifications in the event of a crisis, STEP can also help the nearest embassy find you in an emergency situation.
Contact Your Credit Card Provider
Dealing with easily preventable hiccups does not rank high on things to take care of when away from home. A simple phone call with your bank or credit card provider to notify them of the dates of your trip and the countries you'll be visiting takes just a few minutes and offers peace of mind that your card won't be denied as a security precaution. Also, keep in mind that many international banks across Europe use chip-and-PIN technology as an added security measure, so cards with a magnetic strip may not be accepted at some establishments.
Set Your Out-of-Office Message
Aside from packing strategically and ensuring you have copies of essential documents, it's critical to switch your email auto-response on to alert colleagues and clients that you'll be away. Sometimes, even if you're planning to stay connected on the road, a spotty internet connection will prohibit you from completing tasks while abroad. Plan ahead by letting key contacts know you will have limited access to email and ensure your message includes the date you'll return to the office and how frequently you'll check your inbox.
Unplug Extraneous Cords and Get Your Home in Order
Make sure to get rid or perishable products in your fridge, clean your home and unplug any laptop chargers, shredders, coffee makers and other small appliances that are not necessary to keep plugged in while you're away. It's also a smart idea to switch your sheets and tidy up your home, so you can arrive home feeling fresh and relaxed.
Check In for Your Flight Ahead of Time
There are plenty of reasons why you should check in for your flight before you get to the airport. From bypassing the check-in counter (especially if you aren't checking luggage) to securing a better seat and lowering your odds of getting bumped due to an overbooked flight, checking in early can help mitigate unnecessary hassle. And perhaps most importantly, checking in for your flights ahead of time offers the chance to double-check your flight details in case your airline made a last-minute change to your itinerary. And, if you're in an area with multiple airports, such as New York City, Chicago or Paris, checking in early allows you to confirm important details such as your terminal and the nearest airport lounge.
Share Your Itinerary with Loved Ones
It's always a good idea to send your trip details to an emergency contact at home. Even if you're planning a spontaneous trip, sharing the destinations you'll be visiting and the tentative places you'll be staying can help family members and friends ensure you're safe in the event of an emergency. If nothing else, make sure to circulate your outbound and return flight details to help loved ones know if your plans are delayed, disrupted or your schedule changes on the fly.
[See: 9 Ways to Travel Better.]
Scan and Email Copies of Important Travel Documents to Yourself
Beyond ensuring you have many copies of your passport with you to easily pinpoint need-to-know information if you're in a bind, it's also critical that you carry copies of any visas, vaccination records (if they're a mandatory entry and exit requirement) and your driver's license. If you need to replace your passport on the fly, you'll have the information to expedite the process. Also, make sure you carry multiple copies of any visas, vaccination records and your driver's license as an additional form of identification since lacking these materials can impact your ability to prove citizenship and meet entry and exit requirements when returning back to the U.S.
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