Travel Tip: Preparing for your adventure abroad

An excerpt from our upcoming book, 300 Healthy Travel Tips.

Planning a business trip or vacation abroad? Below are some tips you’ll want to be sure to do in advance.

At least a 4–8 weeks before your trip: If you are traveling abroad, check for and get the following:

  • Passport. Is your passport up to date? We recommend that your passport have at least six months’ validity remaining prior to expiration. Many countries, including South Africa, also require at least two blank (e.g., unstamped) pages on your passport to be admitted.* Setting a reminder 6–8 weeks before your passport’s expiration date should allow you enough time to order a replacement. Find out what’s needed to get a new or updated passport at the U.S. State Department website.
  • Pro Tip: Beginning in 2016, the U.S. State Department won’t allow you to request additional pages for your passport or visa. Instead, you will have to apply for a new or replacement passport. It’s a smart idea to order a passport 52, rather than 24, pages here. For information on the specific passport requirements of the countries you plan to visit, first visit the U.S. Passports & International Travel website’s Learn About Your Destination section.
  • If you need a passport in a hurry, there are a number of agencies that will do this for a hefty fee in a few days. Our advice: Get an early start. You will save a lot of money and headaches. 
  • Visas. Do you need a visa for any countries you plan to visit, or any countries you may be traveling through on your way to your destination? Now is the time to find out and obtain one. You never want to hear a Customs agent say, “Your papers are not in order!
  • Immunizations. What required immunizations might you need for countries you plan to visit? The CDC Travelers Health website has the answer. Look up the countries you will visit on their site to find required or recommended immunizations, along with specific health advisories for different parts of the world. Get any required vaccinations at least six weeks before departure to build up your immunity. Be sure to contact your doctor in advance about specific requirements and timing for the vaccinations you will need. One more thing: For any countries you plan to visit where specific immunizations are required for entry, bring proof that you have received the proper vaccinations when you travel.

    Important: If you’re visiting a country that requires a yellow fever vaccination, note that the certificate becomes valid only 10 days afterward. Be sure to visit your doctor to receive your shot at least 10 days before your trip to avoid encountering problems when trying to enter your destination country.

Essential things to know. Before departing for your foreign sojourn:

  • Check the U.S. State Department’s Alerts and Warnings Web page for potential threats in the countries you plan to visit.
  • Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Traveler’s Health website for potential diseases or other health risks. (See “Immunizations” above for more information.)·      When traveling abroad, be sure to store the contact address, website URL and phone numbers for the nearest U.S. embassy and/or consulate for the countries you plan to visit on your phone. In case of an emergency, having this information with you can make all the difference. You can find this information at the U.S. embassy website. For information about individual countries you will visit, be sure to visit the U.S. State Department’s Learn About Your Destination website. Both sites can give you embassy and consulate addresses and contacts, details on passport and visa requirements, local laws, travel safety and warnings, healthcare information, and more.
  • Bring contact information for and directions to your hotel. We can’t stress this on enough. Your hotel or rental property is your home away from home. Before you depart on your trip, make sure you have the name, address, phone number, website URL, email address and a contact name for where you’re staying stored on your phone or notebook. Learn your hotel location from the airport or train station on a map in advance of your trip.

  • Learn useful foreign language phrases. We’re big fans of translation apps like Google Translate. Yet, it’s smart to practice and know essential foreign language phrases, especially for transportation, navigation and accommodations. It’s faster and can break the chill of being a visitor to a foreign country. You will be amazed at how locals can warm up to you just by showing them you appreciate their language.
  • When you arrive at your destination country, know where you will get foreign cash for a taxi ride to your hotel and the current exchange rates. Not all airports or train stations have bank ATMs, and currency exchanges, while convenient, can financially rape you. Bringing a small amount of foreign currency with you on your flight, while expensive, is often a smart idea.

Your homework assignment: Be sure to visit the U.S. State Department’s Before You Go and Learn About Your Destination website sections. They can answer a wealth of questions that you may have, and help you stay safe and healthy on your international adventure.

From my upcoming book, 300 Healthy Travel Tips.
Download my free .pdf ebook, 25 Healthy Travel Tips.