International Travel Checklist: The Non-Essential Essentials

If you’re like most travelers, you’ve experienced that dreaded sensation we all strive to avoid while sitting, back straight-as-a-board with a tray table folded out and nearly touching your sternum onboard a long international flight somewhere.

Did I forget to pack that one thing?

It’s no use now, of course. Your bag is already deep in the belly of the airplane and you’re never going to recall for certain if you remembered to pack that one thing sitting on your desk next to the computer.

With that feeling of panic in mind, I decided to put together a top list of essential items that me or my friends have too often forgotten over the years. The following International Travel checklist contains the items you either leave behind accidentally or never think of in the first place that also happen to be the most advantageous to have while traveling abroad.

The core necessities of what you should bring on a trip overseas are pretty obvious, so I won’t waste your time stating the obvious (except right now) about packing the right clothes for the climate or an entry visa so that you won’t get sent right back where you came from. But please don’t forget either of those two items, either.

I’ve tested this list on countless long and short-term trips abroad to find items that are the most invaluable to have in environments both challenging and pampered in whatever foreign land you find yourself.

So, if you’re getting ready to head abroad for an extended period of time (Basically, longer than would be tolerable to be a tad uncomfortable and disconnected), the following International Travel Checklist is yours to consult for optimal preparation.

Introducing… the International Travel Checklist

1. A No-Fee ATM Card (with a travel alert)

If you’ve ever spent any time changing currency at a money-changer in a foreign country, you might understand why Jesus flipped their tables over at King Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem a few years back. Nothing says exotic vacation quite like hanging around shabby-looking, quasi-legal money-changer stalls.

Any situation that involves you being in an area where lots of money is known to be, standing around as the solitary foreigner looking confused and a little lost… is a situation you shouldn’t be in. Assuming you don’t get pick-pocketed by a passing thief, you’re likely to be equally taken by the changer from not understanding the exchange rate.

I’ve been there. Better to change cold hard cash at our destination that pay outrageous ATM fees designed to gouge foreigners, right?

Not anymore. Now there’s a solution, and a free one at that. The Charles Schwab High-Yield Investor Checking Account debit card will reimburse you for any ATM fees you incur while traveling abroad worldwide (or at home in the U.S., I might add). And no, you don’t have to “invest” any money with Charles Schwab to get an account. There may be others out there, but I’ve found this one hard to beat. As an added bonus, it comes embedded with an internationally-recognized chip. For obvious reasons, this is one of the most versatile items on our International Travel Checklist.

2. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

If you haven’t noticed by now, the world out there isn’t quite as free as we’re lucky enough to be in the West. In the U.S., we enjoy largely unfettered access to the internet, but in many foreign countries there are significant barriers to what you can access on the web. The Great Firewall of China is the most well-known effort to curtail your activities online, (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and numerous apps are unavailable in China), but plenty of other governments block websites that don’t meet their approval in one way or another.

Additionally, many of the live-streaming websites you might enjoy at home like Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, and others are also inaccessible overseas.

Your best solution is to get a reliable Virtual Private Network (VPN) that allows you to pretend you’re still in the free world. They usually cost under $10 a month, but if you want a decent free version, the browser extension known as Hola Better Internet works pretty well.

3. Universal Outlet Adaptor

You arrive at your hotel, hostel, or Air BnB in some faraway land, exhausted and with your phone or laptop battery at a critical low. You grab your charger and attempt to plug it in the wall when you realize the outlets aren’t designed to accommodate your plug.

We like to be connected (most of the time), especially to let everyone know we arrived alive and well at our destination. This is a simple, easy, and cheap fix. Before you go, find a universal travel adaptor with multiple variations depending on whichever country you are in. You might still find one in your destination country, but the quality will likely be inferior and you likely won’t find any bargains.

Of all the items on our International Travel Checklist, I’ve found this one to be the most overlooked yet essential item to have given all the electronics we lug around everywhere these days.

4. International Driver’s License

Despite having some of the lowest standards for handing out driver’s licenses, the U.S. driver’s license is viewed around the world as a positive affirmation of your driving ability. Strange, but I’m going to complain.

Because of that, it’s a relatively simple process for Americans with driver’s licenses to get international permits for driving in most countries. Triple A has somehow become the internationally-recognized dealer of these licenses. Fortunately, there is no requirement whatsoever that I’ve found apart from paying 15USD and providing two passport-sized photos.

Pro tip: If you plan to ride motorcycles or motorbikes at your destination, the police in that country may want to see additional motorcycle certification on your actual American driver’s license.

5. Electronic book reader/tablet device

I’m biased in favor of paper books, but as travelers it’s important to have more convenient (read: lightweight) options. Since you only have so many pounds or kilograms you can haul for free without paying extra baggage fees, cutting deadweight from your hardback copies of Harry Potter is a wise move.

Having good books to read is a huge asset when traveling abroad. You’re likely going to have plenty of downtime and books are a perfect way to plug back into your native environment when culture shock or pure boredom set in.

For under $100, you can get a decent e-reader and a few books to get started. Pack it.

6. A multi-night sized backpack

Bad news for untrained travelers from the West, not every country in the world is wheelchair-accessible and equipped with functioning escalators, elevators, or even level sidewalks. If you’re traveling in a less-than-developed country, you’re going to learn quickly to keep an eye out for a few new things while walking about. Whether it’s mysterious dripping fluids from apartments, shops, or factories overhead, sidewalks with potholes the size of bowling balls, and broken everything.

In summary, your fancy pants suitcases with 360 degree rotating wheels that are so convenient in the West are an unwieldy physical burden in a lot of foreign countries. If you try to wheel them around everywhere, you’re liable to break the wheels clean off or break an arm trying to maneuver it. A backpack might not be stylish or the most business-like, but you’ll be happy you have it when you get off the subway to see a giant six story escalator that isn’t moving.

7. Power of Attorney

Whether you’re a business person or you just like to be prepared should inconvenience or disaster strike at while you’re traveling, a verified power of attorney might be a great asset. With a trusted agent at home, you might save yourself an expensive trip back home or a complicated (and sometimes equally expensive) trip to your nearest embassy.

There isn’t much these days that requires a wet signature but some of the most important legal or business documents still do. Having a trusted member of your family or a close friend with the ability to sign documents on your behalf can save you all kinds of time and trouble. If nothing else, it’s a convenient way to get things done that you’d otherwise put off until getting back.

8. A cheap burner phone

Not because you’re an international spy (Or maybe you are..), but a cheap and reliable SIM-based phone can make your transition to a foreign country a lot easier. In case you weren’t aware, just about every country has a number of different SIM-based wireless carriers, and many of them are subsidized to make than cheaper than what you’re probably accustomed to.

Calling cards are relics of the past and it’s a great advantage to you to be able to give new business or personal contacts a local number where they can reach you. SIM cards are incredibly cheap in most countries (I’ve found them for as little as $5) and you’ll feel a little more adapted with local digits.

Pro tip: Don’t forget your passport when you go to the wireless store as most countries require valid identification for purchasing SIM cards.

9. The fancy supplements we all love

You know the ones. Essential oils, 10,000% daily-value vitamin capsules and mixes, protein powders or any other great product you use to stay healthy or look good are mostly a phenomenon of the West. Even a lot of high-quality toiletries like facial scrubs, lotions, and hair products are difficult to find in many countries. We sometimes take for granted the fact that we have access to the absolute latest and greatest health supplements known to man, and for pretty cheap.

As a basic rule of thumb, assume that any health supplement or beauty product you’ve seen released in the past five years probably isn’t available where you’re headed. While you can find many things in speciality expat shops, you’re going to pay through the nose and may get an inferior export version. Our advice: Pack a few of your favorite supplements and beauty essentials and wait to buy the basic stuff (deodorant, toothpaste) when you arrive. Unless you have particular preferences for those, too, in which case you may want to bring it along. Staying healthy and looking your best is a must for your International Travel Checklist.

10. A Credit Card With a Great Rewards Program

Another card? Yes. Last but most definitely not least, consider getting a no-annual-fee credit card with a great rewards program. If you’re traveling abroad, you’re likely going to be shelling out a few dollars for lodging, plane tickets, and more. Get some of your investment back in the form of cash or travel-based rewards like airline miles.

It’s important to use these responsibly, though. And if you have any trouble paying off bills in full as soon as they come due, this non-essential essential on our International Travel Checklist probably isn’t for you. If you do decide to get one, try to find one that waives foreign transaction fees.

Buying International Travel Medical Insurance – What You Need To Know

Today international travel for business or pleasure keeps growing at a fast pace and is unlikely to change in the near future. The most serious problem any international traveler faces when on the move is the possibility of having a medical problem in a foreign country. International travel medical insurance goes a long way in taking care of surprise medical problems. It offers temporary medical or health insurance for US citizens and foreign nationals when traveling anywhere outside of their home country.

Some domestic health insurance plans will cover you for some procedures and expenses away from home but many don’t, especially for major medical expenses. There are many types of international travel medical insurance on the market today including student travel medical insurance, travel accident insurance and even backpackers travel insurance.

It’s important to know that evaluating someone who has met with an accident or become ill in an isolated place can be terribly expensive. Many international insurance companies have a bi-lingual or multi-lingual staff and on-site medical staff available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for their policyholders for consultation and medical emergencies.

One way to lower your insurance costs is to agree to pay a small upfront medical cost for any future treatment needed and make a claim from the insurance company only when the amount exceeds that amount. For example, you could agree to pay the first $200 of any medical expenses and make a claim only when the cost of the treatment goes above it.

If you find a quality insurance company, it’ll take the financial worry of terrific medical expenses out of your travel experience. You can exclude a medical condition that is pre-existing which can lower your insurance costs, but you must be sure that the condition will not worsen on your trip and it could cost you a lot more. Any international traveler, expatriate or business traveler needs to be careful about the medical costs they could incur while traveling out of their home country.

Whatever compromise you choose to make in your plan between risks and costs, shop around not only for cheap international travel medical insurance plans, but also for the insurance company that gives you complete information, has open not hidden view functioning and doesn’t evade any of your questions.

The time frame on your insurance policy needs to be restricted to the actual time you’re out of the country; the shorter the duration will obviously reduce the cost. Some travel insurance plans don’t accept hazardous vocations such as mountain climbing. After you get your insurance, in case any minor emergency medical treatment is needed, have all the expenses listed in itemized bills to make a claim when you get back home.

Getting low cost or cheap international travel medical insurance quotes online from several insurance companies is easy enough to do. The watchword in your travel insurance should be attention to the smallest of details.

Some of the insurance policies don’t cover any pre-existing illnesses, and will ask for a history of any medical problems. All around the world medical costs are skyrocketing, due mostly to the advances in specialized equipment and the cost of advanced medicines and training specialists in a number of medical fields.

Finally international travel medical insurance is a must for all travelers going out of their home country. You want to make sure that evacuation coverage is included in your plan, because that can be a major expense; getting you out of a isolated or difficult location such as a cruise ship, mountain top or safari can be very costly.

Getting low cost or cheap health insurance is certainly a good possibility without giving up any quality care you might need away from home. International travel medical insurance quotes are easy to get online and an important travel necessity for individuals and families when they live or travel outside their home country. Just make sure you know exactly what is covered in your travel insurance policy.

How To Know When You Should Buy International Travel Medical Insurance

Many international travelers today don’t think they need international travel medical insurance because they don’t realize their company insurance, travel insurance or personal medical insurance may not be valid outside of the United States. And this goes for government-funded health insurance too. Check to see what your health insurance or travel medical insurance policies cover. Make sure to read the fine print and the exclusion clauses.

Most comprehensive insurance policies offer three types of coverage – financial reimbursement for trip cancellation or lost baggage, medical coverage and emergency medical transportation and they differ from standard travel insurance policies. The cost of international travel health insurance policies depends on the type of coverage you need, your destination, your age and gender and the cost of the trip.

International trips or trips abroad are generally more expensive so you should consider getting additional insurance for any trip outside of the mainland USA, especially one with nonrefundable deposits.

There are a number of unforeseen circumstances that can interrupt your vacation or even cancel it, such as an unexpected illness, bad weather, a sudden death in your family or even a job change or jury duty that you can’t leave.

Any time that you have nonrefundable deposits or purchases you should have travel insurance. You should consider buying international travel medical insurance if you have invested a lot of money in your vacation or if you can’t cover any unexpected medical costs or emergency costs at you arrival destination.

If you’re traveling by yourself or with your family at an additional cost to you or if you’re traveling to areas that have known catastrophic events such as natural disasters, extreme political turmoil or health advisories, you should have international travel medical insurance. Or if you have an existing medical condition that is cause for concern, then by all means get insured properly.

You don’t want to be sitting in a hospital emergency room in another country and find out that you’re not covered by any of your other insurance policies. And Medicare doesn’t cover any eligible U.S. citizen traveling in Canada or Mexico either.

One of the most important reasons to buy international travel medial insurance is for getting emergency transportation out of an undeveloped country and into a country with proper medical facilities. It can easily cost $20,000 to get airlifted out of a foreign country. International travel medical insurance may seem cheap after an experience like this.

Oftentimes people think when they have travel insurance that they are fully covered for international travel or they think they are covered on their health insurance policy for medical expenses. This is usually not true.

Make sure to read your existing policies thoroughly especially the fine print and the EXCLUSION clauses to fully understand what you have and don’t have. There is a big difference between travel insurance policies and international travel insurance policies. And make sure to get several quotes to get the best low cost international travel insurance. It’s important to think ahead and it can be a tough decision for some but you can’t buy international travel medical insurance when you NEED it!

International Travel Insurance is a Must For Every Traveller

Few things are as exciting as launching off on an international travel excursion. Whether for business or pleasure, traveling overseas gives you the chance to broaden your horizons and see sights that you have only imagined. With this excitement also comes risk because when you leave your home country there are a variety of things that can not only interrupt your trip but make it dangerous too. The good news is that international travel insurance can greatly reduce the risks that come with traveling abroad.

A key element of international travel insurance, and one you should investigate thoroughly, is medical coverage. You want to be sure that you have adequate coverage for in-hospital or acute care but you also want to make sure that if you should have to be medically evacuated you can get home without breaking the bank. A medical evacuation can very easily exceed 100 thousand dollars, depending on where you are coming from and what country you are returning to. It is not uncommon for international travel insurance to cover the cost of a loved one to be transported home with you.

Keep in mind that we said “most” international travel health insurance policies will cover the cost of having a companion bring you home. That means that not all international travel insurances plans offer similar coverage. You need to be sure to examine all the exclusions and considerations for the medical insurance that you are looking at to make sure that the plan you choose really fits with the type of travel that you do.

Because we have access to computer technology it is very possible to find a good cheap travel insurance. You will need to be sure to look for the type of international travel insurance that best matches your needs though. Will you be taking just one trip or do you think that you will have multi trips throughout the year? Will you be engaging in adventure sports? Are you traveling for business or for pleasure? These are all factors that will go into the actual prices you are quoted for travellers insurance.

Fortunately most of the troubles that can upset an international trip are not pricey medical problems. Smaller problems can cost you money too though. International travel insurance can ensure that you are not left holding the bad should your trip be cancelled or delayed due to circumstances beyond your control. This is of particular concern to holiday travelers who have invested a great deal to take their annual vacation only to have lost baggage, a stolen wallet, or some other incident cause difficulties. Having international travelers insurance can eliminate the worry over these types of occurrences.

The real message here is that whatever type of overseas travel you intend to do, there is an international travel insurance policy that can help you avoid the kind of situations that can disrupt your trip and end up costing you a great deal of money. It will be up to you to do the research necessary to find cheap international travel insurance but it can be done. In the end, you will be very glad that you took care of this one very important detail. It will take the worry about of your plans and help to make your travel stress and worry free.