International Traveller Checklist For Your First Time Overseas
So you’re going on holiday or vacation for the first time? Well, that’s simply awesome! We love encouraging people to dust off the passport and explore the world but we also want to make sure your super prepared! It goes without saying that there’s a lot of preparation involved when it comes to taking any kind of a trip overseas, and nothing makes the challenge of planning easier than an easy-to-use printable traveller checklist.
Naturally, if you’re planning to travel around the world for a year then you’ll need to prepare a lot more than for a short weekend getaway. But either way, you normally have to go through the same travel checklist each time. To help you we’ve made a list of all of the things that must be taken into account before you head off, so keep reading and tick off that travel checklist!
International Traveller Checklist For First Timers
Renew your passport or identity card
When travelling overseas, your passport is probably the most important document you’ll need to prepare. Before you head off on a trip you have to make sure you have either a passport or identity card at the ready depending on your destination. This may very well involve rummaging through all the drawers and cupboards in the house to find it! Another important tip is to make sure either one isn’t expired. Many countries don’t let you enter unless your passport has at least six months validity and 6 spare pages. If you’re based in the US, you can easily apply to renew your passport online, and if in Ireland you can apply online or go into the local passport offices in Cork or Dublin.
I also found out recently (as I had very few passport pages left due to so many stamps and visas!) that some countries wouldn’t let me enter unless I had a minimum number of free pages left…with the golden number usually being 6. Be careful as you definitely don’t want to have any problems with this. If you have less than 6 pages and plan to do a big backpacking trip involving lots of visas and visa stamps, we recommend renewing your passport before you leave.
Look up visa information
Again, it’s extremely important to be aware of the visa requirements for the country you’re planning to go to. You can read my Southeast Asia visa guide if you’re travelling in that direction, but note that every country has different rules and they change ALL THE TIME. I know people that have actually arrived at their country of destination and have had to turn back because they didn’t have a visa or the correct visa…my best friend even got deported from Vietnam!
Sometimes it may be a simple case of visa on arrival or you might be heading to a visa-free destination meaning it will be hassle-free. However, some countries are more difficult than others to enter and it’s necessary to apply well in advance and sometimes even pay a good bit of money. So be prepared!
Where would you be without money for your trip?! You may very well want to set a budget on how much you plan on spending before you go and you will also have to take into account the issue of access to cash.
If you’re planning to take an ATM card with you it may be necessary to call and inform your bank that you’re planning to travel in case they need to validate your card so that it works abroad. It’s good to have a plan B when it comes to money in case some gets stolen, you lose something or your ATM card doesn’t work.
For example, you may even want to take a second ATM card to be safe if this is a possibility for you. Deciding what to do moneywise on your trip also comes down to personal preference. Although most people use ATM cards today, you may prefer to travel with cash that you change before your journey or once you arrive. Whatever you decide, just be well prepared!
Make sure to get any necessary travel vaccinations before you head abroad to some of the more ‘exotic’ travel destinations. You can look up the necessary vaccinations online or ask your doctor what they recommend. Although most are recommended some countries require a yellow fever vaccination certificate and entry can be denied if you don’t have one. Some countries won’t let you in unless you have certain travel vaccinations certificates, such as for Yellow Fever.
You might also need to stock up on anti-malaria tablets if travelling around Africaor other Malaria-prone areas.
Photocopies of important documents
It’s super important to make photocopies of all your important documents before you leave home. I like to scan my passport, tickets, drivers licenses and email them to both myself and my traveling partner. You should also send you travel insurance details to your parents or travel friend in case something happens to you and they can easily access your policy details.
I also take physical copies of plane tickets and itineraries in case my phone decides to die or break, so I won’t get stranded at the airport with no boarding card!
Spare glasses/contact lenses
If you wear glasses or contact lenses, it’s a good idea to take a spare pair with you. It can be both hassle and a lot of added expense if you lose or break your glasses while overseas. In some countries, it might be cheap to get a new pair, but it’s often not worth the time and hassle.
International drivers license
If you plan to drive while overseas, you’ll need to bring your international drivers license with you. Often you will need to be over 25 AND have a credit card to rent a car, so keep that in mind when planning your trip and transport options.
Travel and gadget insurance
I always emphasize the importance of travel insurance to anyone I know going on a trip. You should leave expecting the best but it’s so important to be prepared just in case anything happens. I know people who have gotten into serious accidents while away on holiday without travel insurance and it has unfortunately ended up costing them a lot of money. I’m sure your holiday will be absolutely amazing but trust me – you will feel that little bit safer knowing you have travel insurance.
It’s so important to have the right luggage for your trip. Have you ever found yourself dragging around a suitcase that has lost one of its wheels? It’s not pleasant at all! Decide what you need whether it be a high quality small or large suitcase or a backpack and then treat yourself. It’s worth investing in good quality gear because whatever you buy you can use over and over again for future trips.
My own backpack has lasted me over 12 years – so investing in quality luggage is well worth the expense.
Research your destination
I’ve always found that researching my destination is one of the most fun aspects of preparing for a trip! I like to read travel books (such as Lonely Planet) but also blogs from people who have been somewhere I’m going before as well as travel itineraries online. If I have a friend who has been somewhere before I often end up asking them a list of endless questions before I head away too!
It’s nice to go somewhere and be open to new tips and learn about new places when you arrive but it’s important to be prepared to some extent too. You can always make minor changes to your plan once you arrive.
Check the weather forecast
It’s important to know what the weather will be like in your destination so you can pack adequately for the sun or the rain. When I arrived in Bali last year I had NO IDEA it was rainy season and was in for a very unpleasant 3-month-long surprise! If I had known before, I definitely would have added an umbrella to my Bali packing list!
Ensure your house will be looked after
Make sure that once you’re gone everything will be looked after so that when you return to the house it will be just as you left it. Think about everything from having a friend come over to water the plants or feeding your pets to making sure all the doors are locked and electricity turned off when you leave. We know some of this advice is simple but I’ve heard of people having to pay more than a thousand dollars in bills because they left their air conditioning on during their holiday! Now we don’t want that do we!
Make sure to book your accommodation in advance. If your trip involves multiple stops and you’re not a huge planner, at least make sure to book something for the first night or first few nights when you arrive.
Check in online
If it’s an option you may want to check in online which will save you time once you get to the airport.
Plan for the day you leave
Know how you’re getting to the airport, what time your flight is at, are there any events that could cause delays and traffic. If you have an early morning flight, make sure to set your alarm and consider booking into an airport hotel or pre-booking a taxi just in case!
A packing list should include all of the necessary essentials. Again this will vary widely depending on where you’re going and for how long you’re staying. The weather will, of course, affect your choice of clothes but you’ll always generally need t-shirts, cardigans or sweaters, pants or shorts, a jacket or raincoat as well as pajamas, underwear and socks! Choice of footwear depends on what kind of activities you might be taking part in on your trip.
It’s also important to bring some good sun protection if you’re going to a sunnier destination. Pack some good quality sunscreen as well a decent pair of sunglasses and a cap.
Depending on the length of your trip you may want to bring full sized bottles or mini sized ones. I often buy refillable mini plastic bottles and fill them up from my larger bottles at home to save money on mini versions that I usually find to be quite overpriced. The toiletries list should generally include a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash and floss as well as deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, a hair brush, face wash, moisturizer and razors. You may want to add more to that list if your at home routine includes using more items.
I also always ask myself what medication I’ll need for my trip when I go anywhere. If you’re going to somewhere with malaria for example then bringing malaria tablets is absolutely essential – that’s not something you want to catch! If you’re on any regular medication or you take vitamins of any kind you should also bring enough to last the duration of your trip. Medication such as painkillers and anti-diarrhea tablets always come in handy too.
Prepare your carry-on bag
Make sure your carry-on bag is well prepared for airport security checks. Keep all mini liquid bottles together in a resealable plastic bag so when you get to the airport it will be easy to take them out for security. If you have a carry-on bag as well as checked in luggage decide what you should keep in your carry-on bag. Of course, there is always a slight possibility that checked in luggage gets lost on route to the destination so I always like to keep one or two outfits in my carry on luggage as well as necessary toiletries just in case I’m without my main bag for a day or two.
I hope this travellers checklist helped you prepare for your first ever trip overseas. I promise once you’ve covered everything on this checklist your holiday will be plain sailing. If you have any questions or queries, let me know!