Learn a little of the language spoken at your destination.
Learn a little of the language spoken at your destination. Not only is it polite—you’ll find locals much more receptive of you when you give their language a go. With a little bit of the language under your belt, you’re less likely to stand out as a tourist and more likely looked at as an expat. In some places this will help to keep you from being taken by scammers.
Confirm your passport expiration date.
Confirm your passport (if USA resident) is valid 6 months after your return date.
Safety is the most important issue for us.
Safety is the most importnat issue for us. We are a lesbian couple, so we need to know the laws around being LGBTQ+ where ever we travel. We need to know both the legal status as well as the cultural attitudes toward LGBTQ+. This helps us to decide on the hotel, location, transportation, and any nighttime activities that we will do.
Sign up with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at the US State Department.
The one thing I always do before traveling abroad is sign up with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at the US State Department. This was not always the case. Current events, while not keeping me from getting on a plane, are enough motivation for insuring someone will always be able to contact me in the event of an emergency. My trips do take me to some out of the way places and it is somewhat reassuring to feel the US Embassy might be able to track me down. With elderly parents, this is important. I also like the fact that once you sign up, alerts are sent out about security and safety.
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance.
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance that will cover medical, dental, repatriation, lost personal items, and changes in plans.
I make a point to learn the basic greeting in the local language.
If traveling to a non-English speaking country, I make a point to learn the basic greeting in the local language as well as how to say “thank you.” Showing the locals that you’ve made even a minor effort to learn about their culture and language will greatly improve the quality of your interactions with the locals, leading to a more fulfilling travel experience.
It's absolutely essential to familiarize yourself with the local customs.
Whether you travel far or near, it’s absolutely essential to familiarize yourself with the local customs and habits of your destination. Otherwise you may put your foot in your mouth or even get into trouble. For instance, shaking your head in Turkey doesn’t mean no; it means “please say again”—exactly what you DON’T want. When your destination is Spain, remember the siesta: Between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. the country basically grinds to a halt! Banks and offices only open in the morning and bank holidays abound. Make sure you know what is what.
We must understand that we are a guest in this new country.
As a global traveler, we must understand that we are a guest in this new country. We should not carry our personal traditions to a new city and expect the local people to adjust to us. The best way to approach our new surroundings is to jump in with both feet and enjoy the adventure! Embrace all that is new to you and learn as you go. Visit a local market, smile and ask questions, try the local authentic food, and explore this beautiful new place. It is so important to learn about other cultures and enjoy this process. The gift of travel is so valuable and enlightening—we are fortunate if we get to do so!
Check your insurance.
Check your insurance is up to date or purchase insurance.
Make sure you have the right currency for your transportation upon arrival.
Make sure you have the right currency for your transportation upon arrival. It’s important to research how you plan to get to your hotel when you first arrive at your destination. If by taxi, many do not take Visa, so you’ll need to have the local currency available. Or maybe the country has Uber, in which case you won’t need local currency. Keep in mind that while most airports have ATMs or currency exchange booths, train stations or ship ports may not, or may have limited hours.
Notify your bank where you will be traveling.
Let your bank know you will be traveling and the dates so they can put a notice on your card, whether debit or credit. Otherwise if you try to use the card it might be declined for suspected fraud. If you need cash and use an ATM, always use one at a bank, not on the street or shopping areas.