Your Essential International Travel Checklist

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November 29, 2023
8 min read

Are you planning an international trip? Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, planning for a trip can be overwhelming. It is important to remember that you need different items when you are going abroad. In this article, I will provide you with an ultimate international travel list of what you need in order to make your experience as smooth and stress-free as possible. From passports to toiletries and beyond, I will cover everything that you need to bring with you on your big trip abroad.

Check your Passport Validity

One of the most important documents a traveler needs when leaving their home country is a valid passport. Passport validation can be confusing and it’s essential to check the expiration date before planning your next trip. Knowing when your passport is set to expire can save you from facing any trouble at customs upon entering another country. 

Before going on an international journey, travelers should make sure to check their passports well in advance of their planned departure date. This includes verifying that all information on the passport is accurate and up-to-date, such as name spelling, photo identification, etc., as some countries will deny entry if the document has expired or been tampered with in any way. Additionally, many countries require travelers have at least six months remaining validity on their passports before they are allowed entry and travelers should be aware of this rule before traveling abroad.

Streamline Your Arrival

It's best for when you're traveling to know how you will be getting to your destination, i.e. from the airport to your lodging. However, I can be guilty of just planning this on the fly. 

I usually find it best practice to use the taxi service at the airport. Sure you may be charged more (really depends on time of day though) but it will make for a stress free transfer. I have come across situations where Uber (or alternative) cannot pick you up at the airport and you need to meet either in a parking garage or even worse, down the road from the airport itself. It’s also important to note that ride-share programs are generally not welcomed by local taxi services abroad.

Modes of Transportation

Traveling to a new, international destination is exciting. There are so many details to keep in check that it can become overwhelming. But, there's one key piece of the puzzle: know your travel arrangements at your international destination before you leave home! 

International travel typically requires planning and foresight to ensure a successful journey. One of the most important considerations is how you plan on getting around once you arrive at your destination. Modes of transportation vary greatly with regional characteristics, however there are some common options available when traveling internationally.

Taxi cabs are an efficient and convenient way to get around quickly in most major cities, but be sure to clarify the payment method before getting into the cab as different countries operate under different payment systems. 

Buses and metro systems are a great way to see any city. Make sure you take the time to research and understand the local transportation systems. This includes everything from public buses or metro lines to subways. Familiarize yourself with their routes, stops, and fares so you don’t get lost when it comes time for exploring.

If you plan on driving, it is often necessary to obtain an international driving permit if you will be renting a car for long distances or traveling through multiple countries. This permit allows travelers to drive legally in many countries without having to go through lengthy registration processes each time they enter a new country. Also this will help avoid any legal penalties for not having a valid driver's license in foreign countries. You can get these at just about any AAA location for about $20.

It's also useful to check if your credit card will cover the rental, certain Amex cards do let you use them as primary coverage while others only act as secondary. You can also use your travel insurance as coverage as well, but you will need to make sure you select that option before purchasing. It does cost a little extra but the peace-of-mind is worth it.

Copies of Accommodation and Travel Details

If you're planning an international trip, it's important to make sure that all of your accommodation arrangements are in place before you leave. Not only will this help ensure that your trip is stress-free, but it is also important for immigration purposes. In many countries, tourists are required to provide proof of their accommodations upon arrival. 

It's a good idea to book hotels or hostels ahead of time via the internet or over the phone. In case you don’t have access to wifi or the internet it is crucial to have copies of your stay and travel details in case you are stopped at immigration. This can be done via hard copies or screenshots. 

Some countries require that you have a return ticket or onward journey. It is very important to make sure that you can produce this documentation. I was almost denied boarding when I was flying Qatar Airways to Kuala Lumpur due to the fact that I didn’t have a return ticket with them. I had to show them my on-ward flight (booked with another carrier) before I could get on the plane.

I cannot stress the importance of this to make sure you enter your country of destination stress-free. There have been a couple of times that I didn't have a connection to the internet and I had to show screenshots or printed reservations.

Make Copies of All your Travel Documents

It is highly important to make copies of your travel documents before embarking on any trip. This will help you stay organized and save time in case of an emergency. Copies can include but are not limited to things like passports, identification cards, visas, driver's license, itinerary, tickets, insurance information and hotel reservations.

Making copies (or taking pictures) and keeping them in a safe place will ensure that you have backup documentation if anything goes wrong or if something gets lost or stolen during your travels. You will also want to make sure to keep a digital version of these files saved somewhere online such as an email or cloud storage system so they can be easily accessed from anywhere in the world. Doing this will give you peace of mind while traveling knowing that you have all the necessary documents at your fingertips should anything unfortunate occur.


I am a foodie and I’ll be covering two topics on this subject. 

Firstly, don't forget to pack snacks! I love bringing bars with me. If you have access to a lounge it's highly recommended to stop by there and grab a couple of extras like fruits to take with you as well. Just be sure to eat or dispose of these before entering customs at your destination. It is illegal in most places to bring in undeclared produce.

Secondly, traveling with food allergies doesn’t have to be a difficult and stressful experience. Knowing a few key phrases in the language of your destination can make things much easier. It is important to know how best to communicate your dietary needs, even if you are not fluent in the language of the country you are visiting. Being able to say “no milk” or “no peanuts” in your destination’s language will make your life easier.

When traveling with food allergies, it is extremely important to inform those around you of your special dietary requirements. If there is any confusion over what ingredients are used - don't hesitate to ask questions! It's always better to double check than risk ending up with something unsafe.

Some airlines, like Qatar Airways, will allow you to select your meal plan pre-departure to accommodate your dietary needs. Be sure to check which carriers allow this before you embark on your journey. It will make traveling much easier.

Travel Insurance

As an avid traveler, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have travel insurance. Without it, you put yourself at risk for a number of situations that could turn your vacation into a nightmare. Many people forget about getting travel insurance and only think about the cost; however, opting for this type of coverage can save you so much more in the end. 

Travel insurance is actually quite inexpensive depending on where and what you’re doing. In most cases, all you need to do is pay a one-time fee before leaving on your trip and you’ll be covered for any unexpected events. This includes medical emergencies or having to cancel or delay your flight due to certain circumstances outside of your control. You can also get additional coverage such as lost luggage protection or even extra money if something goes wrong during your travels. Having this extra comfort will make your trip more enjoyable.

Check Vaccinations and Immunizations

It’s important to always be aware of health and safety when traveling. Vaccinations can help protect us from illnesses we may encounter while in another country. Before you book your next trip, be sure to research the vaccination requirements for where you're going.

Vaccines are recommended depending on the country and sometimes even region that you plan to visit. It’s best to consult your doctor or a travel clinic at least 6-8 weeks before leaving for your destination as some vaccinations require multiple doses over time before they take effect. Common vaccinations required include those against hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid fever and yellow fever, although other immunizations may also be necessary depending on where you’re headed. Be sure to bring proof of immunization with you either in paper or digital form in case it is requested during your travels.

Money and Banking

While traveling abroad it’s important to know the currency conversion and to have some cash on you. Typically I carry about $100 dollars just in case I need to exchange it at my destination. In addition to bringing cash, I also have the added convenience of using a Charles Schwab banking debit card for my overseas travels. 

The great thing about the Schwab debit card is that there are no foreign transaction fees when you use it, which means you don’t have to worry about getting charged extra every time you make a purchase. Plus, this type of debit card makes it easy to access your funds while traveling without having to carry around large amounts of cash. It’s super useful and all ATM fees are reimbursed (that’s right, all). So whenever I needed money during my trip, all I had to do was stop at a local bank or ATM and take out what I needed.

There is also Revolut banking which offers something similar to Schwab. I look to try them out in the future, but with either of these banks you can save lots of money by having access to your cash and not paying high ATM fees.

Travel Alerts for Bank and Credit Cards

When it comes to international travel, access to cash with a bank or credit card is a way of life. Whether you are taking a domestic trip or crossing the border, it is essential to be aware of the potential risks and safety measures that may apply to your cards. 

Before embarking on your journey, make sure to contact your financial institution and provide them with details about your travel plans. With this information, they will be able to set up travel alerts for your account, so that any suspicious activity will be flagged and monitored during your travels. Alerts such as these can help protect both you and the bank from possible fraud or theft while overseas. They can typically be done easily online or in-app once you are logged into your account.

Furthermore, understanding both local currency exchange rates as well as any restrictions that may apply to using foreign ATMs can also help minimize potential losses when using cards abroad. 

Identification Documents

One thing that is essential, but often overlooked,  is making sure you have your identification documents in order. This is especially important when traveling outside of your own country. Outside of your passport, I like to make copies of my driver’s license and credit cards. Taking the time to double check and make sure you have everything you need can save you a lot of hassle later on down the line. 

In addition to identification documents, it’s also really helpful to take photos of them as well, just in case of an emergency while away from home. A digital copy can easily be accessed and printed if needed, so it’s best not to leave this step out either.

Visa Requirements

As a traveler, I know how exciting it can be to plan a trip abroad. Before you get too far ahead of yourself, though, make sure to check the visa requirements for your destination country. You may need to have additional travel documents to enter. Every nation has its own set of rules regarding visas and you don’t want to get stuck at the airport when you arrive.

Depending on where you are traveling from - like if you are coming from the U.S.A - some countries offer visa-free entry or a visa on arrival. This means that if you meet certain criteria (like having a valid passport), then no advance arrangements need to be made and can pick up your visa upon arriving in the country. It’s always best to double-check before deciding not to apply for a visa prior to traveling just in case there is any new information or changes have been made since your research!

Pack a Power Converter

Before you leave, make sure you're packing a power converter so that you can charge all of your devices. I almost forgot this on my latest trip to Doha. A power converter is a must-have tool to ensure that your gadgets stay properly charged during your travels. 

Power converters allow you to safely convert the voltage of electricity used in different countries into the voltage used in your home country. With increased globalization, most travelers will need to use one when traveling abroad as most countries use different types of outlets or plugs from those found at home. If a device does not have the correct plug type or input voltage, it won’t work properly and might even get damaged by too much electricity when plugged into foreign outlets.

Be Aware of Local Customs and Laws

When planning a trip, it is essential to researching and understanding the local laws and customs of the country you are traveling to. Laws are in place to ensure the safety of travelers, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with regulations before arriving at your destination. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, understanding the local laws can help you avoid any misunderstandings or embarrassing situations. 

Be aware that certain countries have dress codes that must be followed if you don’t want to draw attention from locals. Researching what type of clothing is appropriate for specific locations can also help you avoid any potential issues while abroad. Additionally, local customs may relate to different aspects of daily life such as dining etiquette or communication habits. Learning about these customs will make sure that you show respect towards the culture and people in the region during your stay.

You may also need to check for travel restrictions and other laws governing the entry and traveling within the country. This can be usually done at the US Department of State website or the website of the country you'll be visiting.

Check the Weather Conditions Before Leaving Home

I’m always so excited to travel internationally, and the main thing I do before packing my bags is check the weather conditions. It’s an important step that shouldn’t be overlooked, because you don’t want to find yourself in a new country without the right clothes and accessories. Whether it’s a sunny beach destination or a snowy mountain town, it pays to know what to pack ahead of time.  Although, I will confess I keep a bag half packed with my essentials.

The best way to stay on top of current weather conditions is by checking online forecasts regularly in the country you'll be traveling to. This will give you an accurate idea of what temperatures to expect when you reach the country you're visiting. You can also use this information to decide which pieces of clothing and outerwear are necessary for your trip; layers are usually advised so that you can adjust as needed throughout the day.

Bring some Travel Entertainment

One of the more important fun things to do before traveling is gathering your entertainment for the trip. From books to music to video games, there are a variety of different types of entertainment that international travelers can take with them on their trips. This can be especially helpful with children and something I'm sure you will want to pack.

Books are the classic travel companion for those journeying overseas. Pack your Kindle or download some of your favorites in Audible. Whether it’s a new novel or a guide book about the destination itself, having something to read while en route is a great way to stay engaged and pass time quickly. Music is another form of entertainment that is easy to bring along when traveling internationally; simply load up a playlist onto your device before leaving home!

Plan to Stay Connected While Traveling

Whether it’s for work or leisure, having internet access is essential when navigating a new place. To do this, many travelers turn to SIM cards, which are small cards that fit into phones and tablets that connect them to the internet using local carriers. But do you need one? 

The answer is: it depends. It may be more cost-effective if you plan on staying in the same country for an extended period of time. In some cases, buying a SIM card is cheaper than relying on international roaming plans from your current carrier. Additionally, using a local SIM card can give you access to better coverage and often faster data speeds than those offered by international roaming services.

If you are planning to visit Mexico or Canada, your American sim-card will work just fine and you can take advantage of local calling (to/from the USA) without the need of an international plan. In most cases you will likely need a sim-card to access the internet, having the right sim-card can make all the difference. Here's an overview of some common options: 

Day Sim-Cards are designed for those who need short term access to mobile data while traveling abroad. They are typically sold as a tourist sim-card and provide unlimited data and calling plans for a certain number of days (generally 2 to 7). These sim cards can be purchased at convenience stores or online and offer good value if you only need short-term access. 

Pay as You Go Sim Cards allow users to top up their account with credits that can be used towards phone calls, texts, and data usage. This type of card is ideal for those who want flexibility in terms of how much they spend each month since you only pay for what you use.

I have used both and each has their practical use. On a stop over in Doha for 4 days, I just purchased a 5 day sim-card which would get me through my trip. On the other side, while living in Chiang Mai, I bought a sim card and topped it off as I went over the course of a couple of months.

Pack Comfortable Shoes

As a frequent traveler, I know how important it is to have comfortable shoes when you’re on the road. Between long security lines, crowded airports and hours of sightseeing, your feet can really take a beating! This is why I recommend packing the right pair of shoes to make your travels more enjoyable.

Other Personal Items to Include in Your Travel Packing List

Here is a quick list of things to add to your packing checklist. Phone chargers, DC charger (for car), Type C and Mini USB cords, laptop or tablet case, power bank, toiletry bag (shampoo and soap), sunscreen, lip balm, earplugs, headphones (for entertainment), medications/list of allergies. You'll also want to pack for the weather especially if snow or rain will be in the forecast.

Get my personal international checklist for traveling here. In this list I guide you through everything you will need for your international travel packing checklist and give you personal recommendations with a glimpse into everything that I pack and travel with. You won’t find this anywhere else and I’ll be sharing my personal favorites that I have found to make my travels easier along with packing tips.

Conclusion: A Checklist Is Essential

As a traveler, I know that there are so many things to remember before you take off! A vacation checklist is essential for anyone who wants to stay organized and prepared while on the road. When I plan a trip, I always keep in mind the items I need to make sure my travels go as smoothly as possible.  I wanted to make this ultimate guide to make sure others are helped with the best tips.

My checklist includes important travel essentials like driver's license, passport or visas. It also includes practical items like an extra set of keys, medications and a list of allergies. Additionally, I like to pack some creature comforts like a comfortable pair of shoes for long walks around town or earplugs for noisy nights at hostels. 

I hope my international travel checklist will help you in your next trip abroad and make sure you don't forget anything!

Pro Travel Tip:

When you return to the country (USA) from your trip abroad, the CBP official will ask you about your travel dates and the list of countries you have visited. It's best to have this memorized and available for when they ask these "trip-wire" questions which can lead to a semi-interrogation if you fumble trying to answer them. I just want to make your trip as smooth as possible and help you avoid this pitfall.


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Written by:

I consider myself a world-travelling nomad and a foodie at heart. Born in Germany and raised in East Tennessee, my passion for exploration has taken me all over the planet - exploring unfamiliar lands and cultures is what truly inspires my soul!
I live outside of Doha and consider myself an inside expert on all things Qatar. I love exploring all the country has to offer and look forward to giving you valuable insights of where I call home!
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