Weekly Top Five: Travel Abroad Checklist
In exactly 6 days, 2 hours and 16 minutes, I’ll be lifting off from Nashville International Airport, heading south for Peru. Why, pray tell? It’s our (belated) honeymoon! Finally! For two weeks my husband and I will be hiking, canoeing, eating, drinking, and exploring beautiful Peru — a trip we’ve been planning for the better half of a year now — and we can barely keep our pants on, we’re so excited. (It is our honeymoon, after all!) Although our emotions have recently reached a fever pitch in anticipation of our big trip, it wasn’t until we got all of our ducks in a row that we were able to really feel excited. Of course there’s all of the necessities we had to book — flights, hotels, tours, excursions, reservations, etc. — which took plenty of planning and coordinating in and of itself, but making those arrangements is only part of the picture; there are tons of other travel preparations to consider before going abroad.
In anticipation of our tour of Peru, I’m sharing the Top 5 items from my Travel Abroad Checklist:
1. Check your passport
Whether you’ve changed your name since the last time you traveled abroad (#marriage) or it’s simply been a stone age since your last adventure outside the country (#bouttime), the first thing you need to do before you book a damn thing is verify your passport. Because, if you didn’t know, you can’t get into another country without it. More specifically, you should make sure the info on your passport will be valid for the dates on which you plan to travel. It can take up to two months to process a new passport, so make this your first To-Do when creating your own Travel Checklist.
*Pro Tip: in certain instances you may find that you need to send a copy of your passport to book tours, excursions, or accommodations beforehand (I had to do so in order to book our entry to Machu Picchu), so take care that the info on the passport you use for booking will match the one you’ll have in hand when you get there.
2. Get your vaccines and medications in order — and do it soon!
My then-fiancé, now-husband just so happened to schedule himself a routine check-up with his primary care physician about two weeks prior to our wedding. With an appointment in such close proximity to the big day, he and his doctor of course got to talking about it and subsequently discussed our honeymoon. “Have you scheduled your vaccines?” the doctor asked. As it turns out, he hadn’t. (Neither had I.) And as it turns out...we needed a shit ton of them for our trip to Peru: tetanus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, and heck you might as well get a flu shot while you’re at it. Plus: malaria pills to take each day while we’re abroad (which will supposedly give us nightmares), and altitude pills to keep us from getting nauseous during major changes in elevation (read: Cusco and Machu Picchu). Also, you could get the rabies vaccination if you want, but only if you’ll be traveling to a super remote area. Anyway, if you aren’t counting, that totals up to nine. While we were able to get most of the shots and prescriptions from our doctors, the yellow fever vaccine is currently in limited supply in the U.S. and is only administered at travel clinics. But it turns out the Vanderbilt Travel Clinic books up quickly: we couldn’t get an appointment. Turns out it’s the only travel clinic in Nashville that carries the vaccination. Turns out we really don’t want to get yellow fever, so we drove to Chattanooga the day after Christmas to get the damn vaccine. Turns out we should have planned further ahead! Check out the CDC website to figure out what vaccinations you need (if any) before your next trip abroad and make sure to schedule them well in advance.
3. Research and assemble: attire, gear, and gadgets
When it comes to being prepared for your next adventure, there’s a lot to consider in regards to packing your suitcase: from clothes, to gear, to the electronics you may or may not need, strategic packing is paramount! As a living and breathing mosquito feast myself, I’ll be bringing powerful bug repellents (two kinds, actually: one for my clothes and one for my body) as well as long sleeves and long pants to protect myself from pests — despite the fact that it’ll be summer in South America. Extra deodorant will go into my bag as well :). In order to take one bazillion photos on both my phone and my camera (and to make sure I’ll be able to count all my steps with my Apple Watch), I’ve purchased a power converter so that all of my electronics have the ability to juice up. And I’m also bringing a small bottle of laundry detergent so that I don’t actually have to pack 2 weeks worth of socks and underwear — I’ll wash ‘em in the sink and let them hang to dry. Plus, I’ll have a rain jacket for our time in the Amazon, a Brita Water Bottle to make sure the water we drink is safe, and waterproof hiking boots for all of our outdoor adventures. Whew!
4. Make copies of all your travel documents
Our two weeks in Peru is going to look something like this: three days in the Amazon, two days in the Sacred Valley, two days exploring Machu Picchu, five days in Cusco and three days in Lima. At least...I think that’s right. But I couldn’t even begin to describe the flights we’ll be taking from one place to another, much less the activities we’ve signed up for on this day or that. So, I wrote out a nice little bulleted outline of what each day looks like to make sure we don’t end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whether it’s your itinerary for the week, your hotel reservations, or a copy of your passport, it’s always smart to make copies of all documents you might need while abroad. Print them out and keep them in a folder inside your backpack or suitcase, and save an electronic version in your email for just-in-case. Particularly when language barriers are at play, having physical proof of what you’ve booked might could prove to be a real life-saver. (Also, it might be worth it to give your momma or your bestie a copy of all that good stuff, just in case.)
5. Get everything squared away at home
From credit card alerts, to international phone plans, to caring for your loved ones staying behind...there’s lots of loose ends to tie up before you pack your bags. Call your bank and your credit card companies to let them know when and where you’ll be traveling so that your card doesn’t get flagged for fraud while you’re just trying to buy dinner and drinks. You may also want to consider getting some currency for the country you’ll be visiting while you’re still in the U.S., so you have local cash when you arrive. Your bank should be able to help you with that as well. Get on the phone with your cell phone carrier to figure out what kind of international plans are available while you’re traveling abroad; you’ll still want to be able to use your Maps App to get around, to send texts to your travel buddy, and to upload as many Instagram stories as possible while you’re seeing the sites! And don’t forget the stuff at home. Find a neighbor who is willing to pick up your mail every day, or just visit the U.S. Postal Service website and stop your mail altogether. Make arrangements for your fur babies, your plant babies, and obviously your human babies too. (Hopefully you wouldn’t forget about those.) And don’t forget to clear out the fridge, run the dishwasher, and take out the trash before you leave for an extended period of time -- that way you’ll be welcomed home by an odorless abode.