Traveling abroad can be exciting and fun! It can also be nerve-wracking and overwhelming. Here are a few quick tips to make traveling from the United States to an international destination safer and less stressful.
First things first, even before you book anything, make sure you know what the passport and Visa requirements are for your destination. Oh, and if you need vaccinations before going there. And, look into the safety of the area. And don’t forget… OMG so much to know! How can you find all this information? Make it simple and use this one-stop shop: Americans Traveling Abroad from the U.S. Department of State.
Click on the purple “Country Specific Information”, enter the country you want to visit and find everything you need to know! Check your passport to make sure it’s not expiring. Find out if you need a visa or vaccinations. See if there are any travel advisories for your destination. Get the contact information for the US Embassy.
After you’ve booked your trip, be sure to register it with U.S. Department of State at STEP: Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Look, no one wants to deliberately walk into an unsafe situation and we do everything we can to keep ourselves smart and safe in our travels. But, things happen in this world. Consider this the ‘information insurance’.
If you’re interested in visiting Africa, check out the Safest African Countries to Visit by Esther Namugerwa!
As stated right on the website, the benefits of registering your trip include:
*Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
*Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
*Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
Go to the main page (here), click on either “Enroll a Trip” or, if you’re like me and a more frequent traveler, you can “Create Account” so you don’t have to re-enter your personal information every time you travel. Then, just follow the prompts. It will ask for your name, date of birth, passport info, an emergency contact, etc., and your trip itinerary.
3) CREDIT CARDS
Decide which credit cards you’re going to take on the trip. Make sure to pick ones that do NOT have Foreign Transaction Fees, otherwise, you’ll add on costs to every charge you make. Then, be sure to call their customer service (phone numbers are usually located on the back of your card) to let them know where you’ll be and when you’ll be there, so they don’t inconveniently freeze your card while you’re traveling. I always carry 2 different cards with me at all times, in case there’s an issue with one. (Some people also recommend carrying a 3rd, that they keep in a separate place in case they get pick-pocketed while traveling.)
Print Hotel, Car Rental, and Flight information. It’s especially handy while going thru customs, as they’ll inevitably ask where you’re staying and to show proof of when you’re leaving. Plus, it’s nice to have your confirmation numbers in hand if you get to a hotel desk or car rental counter and don’t have cell service to pull up the emails on your phone.
Email a copy of your passport to a trusted family member or friend. Just in case something should happen to your passport while you’re traveling, you can then easily access it from your sent emails and/or by having them email it back to you. It will make replacing a lost or stolen passport MUCH easier.
At a minimum, you should prepare a cheat-sheet of a few basic pleasantries to have handy while visiting a country that speaks another language than your own. While many people in many other countries do speak English, I consider it polite to learn a few words in the language of where I’m visiting. My recommendations are: Hello, Please, Thank You, Good Bye, and Do You Speak English?
In addition, I have the Google Translate App available on my phone in case I’m in a situation that requires more conversation.
Taking these steps will help ensure you have a safe and fun trip wherever your travels may take you!!
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What other tips do you recommend taking before you go on an international trip? Share them in the comments below!
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I wasn’t aware of the Smart traveler enrollment program. What a great idea. Thanks for sharing.
Absolutely! Glad I could share new information for you!
Great travel tips to keep in mind before you leave home!
It never occurred to me to register for safety warnings when traveling! Although here in Australia we have apps that warn you of the local fired
Those are some helpful tips! Definitely important to consider those travel notifications on the cards.
Very good list! I would also add, “check the road rules” if you plan to rent a car. Because, as Europeans, we got fined in California for parking near a red painted side-walk, although there was also a road sign saying that you could park there:)
Oh, a very good point! (And, sorry to hear about your parking ticket! That’s so frustrating when you’re on vacation!)
Having traveled internationally several times, I honestly wasn’t expecting this to be very helpful. But I’d never heard of registering with the STEP program! And I just spent 30 minutes playing around with the State Department’s world map (I’m a sucker for colorful maps haha). So thanks for the little-known, useful info!
Very cool, glad you found some new information here! And, really, who can resist a colorful map! 😉
Research is definitely an important first step ! Check travel alerts etc.
These are some really sensible and practical tips for Americans travelling abroad. I like the system of ‘registering a trip’, this is such a nice way to ensure that you are equipped with necessary and sometimes vital information and are also easily contactable in times of emergency. Liked your chart with the common phrases in various languages too, looks really handy.
Since I travel solo so often, I found it to be a small comfort to know I’d get emergency information if I needed it and ‘someone’ (ie, within my government) would know to look for me if anything tragic happened while I was abroad.
Great tips for Americans when traveling abroad as many countries have very different rules. Checking out for road and driving rules and credit card details is the most important tip.
Absolutely agree! I should update this to add the road/driving rules.
The best thing I did, for the first time, was register and let the governmetn know i was in Ethiopia. And while there I received messages stating that there were protests in certain places and to stay out of those places.
Those messages must have been invaluable to be made aware of both the protesting and areas!