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5 Things To Do Before Traveling Abroad For The First Time

By Leah Freeman-Haskin

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Traveling abroad for the first time is an exciting adventure that you will remember for the rest of your life. Nerves, hiccups, and some struggles are always expected, but the benefits and memories will long outweigh the challenges. Nothing can ever fully prepare you for seeing the world, but here are some tips to make sure everything is in order before you hop on that international flight.

RELATED: Why All Young Families Should Consider Moving Abroad

Get Your Passport Way In Advance

If you already have a passport, great. Just make sure that the expiration date is at least six months after your departure date. If you need to get a new passport, don’t procrastinate. Avoid unnecessary stress by applying for your passport way in advance. As of 2019, the application fee for U.S. passports is $145 for adults and $115 if you’re under 16. If you’ve already booked your flights, you can request an expedited passport that should arrive in 2 weeks, but you will have to pay an additional fee.

You will use your passport more often than just boarding planes. More than likely, you will also need to present your passport when you check-in to your hotel, and don’t be alarmed if the front desk requests to hold your passport as collateral.

Levi Ventura | Unsplash

Check On Visas

As you are booking your trip, check to see if you need a visa. A visa is a document issued by the country or countries you’re visiting which grants you permission to travel there for a certain number of days. U.S. passport holders can travel to most countries in Europe, the U.K., Asia, and Latin American without a visa. However, if you are traveling to a country that requires one, you won’t be able to board your plane without it.

Check In With Your Bank

Alert your bank that you will be traveling. Notify them of your dates and destinations to avoid any holds on your card. If banks suddenly see you spending money in another country, they often think it’s fraud, and not being able to access your money abroad because the bank put a hold on your card, is stressful and frustrating. You should also confirm the fees your bank charges for international withdrawals and charges. Sometimes these fees can be steep and add up quickly depending on how long you plan on traveling. It’s also good to have a backup plan in case you have issues with your card or bank abroad.


Eva Katalin | Getty Images

Make Copies Of Your Travel Docs

If your passport or IDs are stolen or lost, you will need to get to a U.S. Embassy. Having copies of your documents will be hugely helpful. Make color copies of your passport and leave one with someone back home and take one with you – make sure not to store it in the same place as your passport. Same with Visas. It’s also a good idea to have printed copies of your flight, train, or hotel reservations. Depending on where you are traveling, connectivity could be an issue and you may not be able to access these documents on your phone when you need them.

RELATED: Expat Life: 5 Things To Consider When Choosing Where To Live Abroad

Learn A Few Key Phrases

Now’s a good time to brush up on the local language. Download an app, buy a translation dictionary, whatever works best for you. Learning a few key phrases will make getting around and talking to locals much easier. It will also make you a more confident traveler. Even if English is widely spoken at your destination, the locals always appreciate your effort.

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Leah Freeman-Haskin

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