Before You Go on your trip Checklist

Well before you leave, make sure your money belt has all the essentials it’ll need — most importantly a passport valid for at least six months after your return date.

Quite a few things are worth arranging while you’re still at home — lining up these details well ahead of time is a big part of having a smooth trip.

Figure out your main form of transportation: Get a rail pass, rent a car, and/or book flights. You can generally buy rail tickets as you travel, but it can be smart to reserve seats on certain trains before you leave.

If you’ll be renting a car, check the expiration date on your driver’s license and renew it if needed. Consider getting an International Driving Permit, which is required in most countries.

Make reservations well in advance, especially during peak season, for accommodations, popular restaurants, major sights, and local guides.

Do your homework if you want to buy travel insurance. Compare the cost of the insurance to the cost of your potential loss. Check whether your existing insurance (health, homeowners, or renters) covers you and your possessions overseas.

Call your bank. Alert them that you’ll be using your debit and credit cards abroad. Ask about transaction fees, and get the PIN for your credit card. In most cases you don’t need to bring local currency for your trip; you can withdraw local cash at ATMs. Note your bank’s emergency phone number to call if you have a problem.

If you’re bringing the kids, make sure you have the right paperwork, including passports, and, if applicable, letter of consent to travel without both parents and documentation for adopted children.

Make backup copies of important travel documents, including your itinerary.

Students should carry a valid school-issued ID (or consider an International Student Identity Card) to take advantage of discounts throughout the world.

Get smart about your smartphone. Sign up for an international plan to reduce your costs, and plan to rely on Wi-Fi. Follow common-sense safety precautions to protect your phone and its data.

Download any apps you’ll use on the road (maps, translators, transit schedules. If you like to watch videos (TV shows or movies) during downtime, download these in advance, as you probably won’t be able to use streaming services overseas.

Read the official government website to get safety updates about your destination and to help loved ones get in touch with you in case of emergency.

Take care of any medical needs. Visit your doctor for a checkup, and see your dentist if you have any work that needs to be done. If you use prescription drugs, stock up before your trip, and pack along the prescription, plus one for contact lenses or glasses if you wear them.

Attend to your household needs. Prepay your bills.

Make a list of valuables that you’re bringing (such as electronics). Include serial numbers, makes, and models, and take photos of your items to serve as a record for the police and your insurance company should anything be stolen.

Check airline carry-on restrictions. The Transportation Security Administration’s website has an up-to-date list of what you can bring on the plane with you…and what you must check.

The world is always changing, and it’s essential to plan and travel with the most up-to-date information. Study before you go. Guidebooks, maps, travel apps, and websites are all key resources in getting started.

Tourist Information Websites

Just about every city has a centrally located tourist information office loaded with maps and advice.  Many of these sites are packed with practical information, suggested itineraries, city guides, interactive maps, colorful photos, and free downloadable brochures describing walking tours and more

Any major city has a host of online resources dedicated to arts, culture, food, and drink.

Traveler Reviews

To plan a trip, do not rely on travel agents, other travel writers, and the word-of-mouth advice of friends. With the advent of websites and apps such as Yelp, the opinions of everyday travelers are changing the travel industry.

Consumer-generated reviews can be useful throughout your planning process, allowing you to browse destinations and get a consensus of opinion about everything from hotels and restaurants to sights and nightlife. But the reviews also have some limitations and drawbacks. The most helpful ideas usually come from the categories for tours, sightseeing experiences, and entertainment.