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How to Prepare For Your First International Trip

So, you are getting ready for your first international trip?

Congratulations! There is an amazing world waiting for you—filled with incredible sights, fascinating people and life-changing experiences.

As you prepare, here are a few tips to help keep your first international trip stress-free.

• Check your passport’s expiration date. Whether it’s new or you have had it for many years, make sure your passport will be valid for at least six months after the return date of your trip.

• When booking flights, ensure the name on your airline ticket matches your passport. In today’s environment of heightened security, they must match exactly to prevent any issues with the airlines or immigration check points.

• Verify if visas are required for the countries you plan to visit. The State Department website has full details.

• When packing medications, label all prescriptions carefully. Know if any over-the-counter-drugs might cause concern by checking the TSA website before you go.

• Check with your primary care doctor to see if you need any immunizations for the countries you will travel in or through. And remember to get a flu shot—planes are filled with people from all over the world—and any help you can get to protect yourself is a good thing.

• Look into travel insurance, as your domestic health insurance will not work overseas. Travel insurance can also cover trip interruption, cancellation and lost luggage, plus much more.

• Do your homework on the places you will visit to learn local customs and culture. If visiting a conservative or religious area, ensure you pack appropriate clothing and leave items at home that might offend your hosts.

• Read all pre-departure documents you receive from your tour company, hotels, airlines etc. If traveling with a group tour, ask the provider any questions well in advance of departure, and make any special request well ahead as well, to ensure they can be accommodated.

• If you plan to use your cell phone abroad, set up an international plan with your local provider, it’s much cheaper (and more reliable) to initiate the plan before your trip begins than setting it up when you arrive.

• Plan ahead—schedule rides to/from the airport, book pet care, set mail handling and finalize any other household concerns well in advance. It will cut down on stress, prevent oversights and give you a more relaxed departure day.

• Make sure you notify important people of your plans. Let family members know your schedule and if/when they will be able to reach you.

- Notify your credit card company that you will traveling outside the U.S. so overseas charges will be approved and not flagged as fraud. Your ATM card may participate in a network that will let you withdraw funds in the local currency.

- Do not post your plans on social media, it might alert the wrong people that you will be away from home.

Most importantly: Keep your expectations realistic and your patience handy. Remember you are a guest in someone else’s country and a smile can help in almost any situation.