What you need to do before traveling abroad

Aug 2 2019

(BPT) - Planning a trip abroad? That's exciting! But you have lots to do and less time than you think to get it done. What do you need to accomplish before leaving?

Here's a handy checklist to help you get your ducks in a row.

Passport

If you have a current passport, check the expiration date. Many countries require that you have at least two to four blank visa pages, and that your passport be valid for 6 months past the last day of your trip.

If you don't have a passport or it needs renewal, get that done first. The U.S. State Department announced an increase in processing time for passports to 6-8 weeks. Even a higher-cost expedited passport can take three weeks.

Fortunately, FedEx Office is teaming up with RushMyPassport to offer further expedited U.S. passport services. Stop by one of 2,000 FedEx Office locations or visit FedEx.com/passport to complete your application. You can even purchase government-compliant passport photos at their locations. There are six options:

  • Same-day service — 1 business day
  • Next-day service — 2 business days
  • Priority service — 3-5 business days
  • Rush service — 6-7 business days
  • Standard service — 8-10 business days
  • Smart service (adult renewals only) — 11-14 business days

This doesn't include shipping, so add one day or more for shipping, or arrange pick-up at their location in select cities.

Visas

Some countries don't require visas for brief visits, but you should check well before leaving. Find the country at travel.state.gov/destination to determine necessary paperwork and allow several weeks for the process. You will typically need to visit the website of that country's embassy for current visa requirements and instructions. FedEx Office does not currently offer visa services, but plans to in the future.

If your destination country doesn't require a visa, they may require proof of sufficient funds for your trip, proof of onward or return flights and a passport with one blank visa page valid for 6 months beyond the date you arrive.

Contact information

Bring along information for the U.S. embassy and consulate, in case of emergency. You should also carry contact information for family members in case anything happens to you. Leave a copy of your travel documents (such as passport) and itinerary with someone back home and carry copies with you (separate from originals, in case of loss or theft).

Money

Savvy travelers carry a combination of cash, traveler's checks and credit cards in separate locations. Learn overall currency exchange rates and make a cheat sheet with that country's equivalents of $5, $10 and $20. Remember, exchange rates change daily and vary depending on where you exchange money.

Exchange some at the airport when you arrive. Then exchange more in a touristy area posting competitive exchange rates to find better deals.

Health

Consult your doctor to catch up on vaccinations. Find out if the country where you're traveling requires vaccinations for entry, or which are recommended, on the CDC website: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/travel-vaccines. Vaccines should be administered a month ahead for maximum effectiveness.

If you take prescription medications, bring them in their original containers, plus a copy of the prescription(s).

Insurance

Some health insurance policies cover you overseas, but many don't. You can purchase travel insurance to ensure you're covered for both doctor or hospital visits and for transporting you to a hospital if necessary. Some renters or homeowners insurance policies cover loss or theft abroad, but you can purchase additional coverage if they don't.

Planning ahead will not only ensure a hassle-free trip, but will give you peace of mind in case the unexpected happens. Knowing what you need before you go will make your trip memorable — for all the right reasons.

These general guidelines are not exhaustive. Be aware that laws change and vary from country to country. Check relevant resources including travel.state.gov/destination for information about your destination.

Read the entry under “Entry/Exit Requirements.” This will give you information on what is required for a U.S. citizen to visit the country under basic circumstances, such as for tourism. For Costa Rica, for example, the State Department says: “For entry into Costa Rica, you must present both a valid passport and a roundtrip/outbound ticket. Your passport must be valid for at least 90 days after your arrival.” You are also instructed to visit the official website for the Embassy of Costa Rica, costarica-embassy.org, to view the most current visa information. If the country listing includes this recommendation, follow the link to obtain more specific information.

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