International travel can be challenging on a number of levels. Visas, passports, currency and other moving parts can make the preparation slightly daunting. Here’s a checklist you should go through to cover all your bases when traveling abroad…
First, is passports. Of course, make sure your passport is valid for the time of travel. You’d be surprised how many people just look at their passport the day they are about to leave and realize it’s expired. Also, look into the country you are visiting’s requirements for validity beyond your stay. Some require 3 month and some 6. Also, some countries are picky about where they will stamp and require a blank page in your passport. For example, to travel to Australia you will need an electronic travel authority (ETA) which is electronically linked to your passport. Be sure to do your research or ask your travel agent about this.
Next, is visas. There are many countries that require Canadians to have a visa in order to enter, this can be anything between a quick online application to a full blown process that requires you to send in your actual passport and wait for it to come back. Often they will take time to process, so make sure you start a couple of months before your trip. A great resource to check what you’ll need per country is our government’s travel website.
And, be aware of the local currency and bring several ways to pay. I like to download the app XE before I go so that I can do a quick calculation of what things will cost when I’m there. I also like to bring a mix of payment methods. I generally bring some cash, my debit card to withdraw more and a credit card for larger payments. Also keep in mind that your debit may not work everywhere, so have enough local cash on hand or a visa to get you through the day. You can use the XE app, as well as many others, offline so that you can check things on the go if you don’t have a data plan on your trip.
Speaking of phone plans, avoid data issues. We have all heard those horror stories about thousands of dollars in roaming charges. Call your cellphone provider and switch to a temporary international data plan or look into buying a prepaid SIM card in destination. If you plan on only using your phone on wifi, keep it on airplane mode to avoid those nasty charges. Alternatively, go into your settings and turn “data roaming” off when you aren’t using it (or the entire time), this way you can still receive texts and calls but won’t have your data running up your bill in the background.
And don’t forget about insurance. Medical is an absolute must for a trip abroad. But it’s also good to get cancellation and trip interruption as well to deal with any unforeseen circumstances. Shop around and find what the best coverage is for you. Keep in mind that if you booked the trip on a visa, you may have certain coverage through your card already- so look into that before purchase anything additional.
Finally, snap photos of your passport, travel documents and luggage to store in your phone. This will make things much easier if the documents are lost or damaged, or to show airline employees what your bag looks like in the case that it gets misplaced.