It was four years ago that we were preparing to travel abroad, one of us to a place of mystery, the other returning home. I have now made a home in the Czech Republic and took a job that has me travelling internationally. Preparing for international travel, quite naturally requires extra steps.
Just because I am now off the backpacker highway doesn’t mean I can stop preparing. I learned it the hard way when my colleague and I were taking a bus trip to Regensburg, Germany, a mere three-hour drive from Prague. At no time during my packing and gathering work documents did I think about a passport. In the deep recesses of my memory bus travel had never required a passport in a country as vast as the U.S. It was a rude awakening when I was asked for a passport with my ticket and was turned away, forced to take a later bus, to the bewilderment of my colleague, who is European, and couldn’t imagine why such a critical document was forgotten.
Here are six things I recommend to be prepared for the challenges of crossing borders.
Preparing for travel abroad can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to putting your affairs in order. There are official documents to gather, phone numbers to collect, and emergencies to hedge against. Then you have to find a way to organize and carry (and not lose) some of these documents, which is a challenge unto itself on the road. This article will help you prepare for your own trip abroad, providing you with guidelines about what to consider and how to pull it all together.
The amount of preparation required depends on the length of your trip, to some extent. For a short trip you may not powers of attorney. Even so, be it two weeks or two years, anything can happen and it pays to be ready. The following guidelines are good for just about any travel situation; whether it’s a short-term vacation or a long-term way of life.
1. Prepare Your Emergency Contact
I don’t like to think about something happening that would require my emergency contact, yet I complete the emergency contact for every airline ticket purchased. Have I prepared my emergency contact for this critical role?
My emergency contact should have extra copies of identification and key pieces of information at their fingertips if they need to advocate on my behalf if I am incapacitated or unable to make the appropriate calls from my current location.
For longer travel plans more information should be provided. Your emergency contact should have everything from banking information, travel insurance, copies of identification, and even life insurance, wills, and powers of attorney.
2. What Identification to Carry
Your passport is the most precious travel possession you will carry. That is why I love to travel with the Scottevest. My passport, any visas, and any other forms required for immigration are tucked discreetly in a pocket. No digging in a purse or backpack. I also keep my credit cards and money in another pocket. We are the most vulnerable in airports, and train and bus stations. My Scottevest saves me every time.
In addition to your passport you should carry at least one other piece of identification. You may need to provide two types of identification to complete a transaction; and you may need some original identification to help replace a lost or stolen passport.
You should leave at least one piece of original identification (such as your birth certificate) at home, just in case you lose everything else on the road. Make sure your emergency contact has access to it.
3. Passport Copies
I always carry a color copy of my passport in a separate location from the original. If the original is lost I can take a copy to the consulate. Also, in most countries, you can leave your passport in your hotel or apartment and use the copy in an emergency.
I also keep a copy of all my identity documents in the Cloud. In an emergency, they can be printed out from a hotel or internet café.
4. Travel Insurance
Travelling without travel insurance just doesn’t make sense. Not only will you potentially not have the money you need to be helicoptered from the jungle, you will not know how to engage your host countries health care system. An accident or illness could leave you financially impacted, depending on the country, a lot.
You should carry your travel insurance information with you. Most insurers require you to contact them before getting medical care. You, your travel partner, and your emergency contact at home should have the travel insurance company, policy number, and claims phone number at all times. I keep a copy with the copy of my passport. I keep an electronic copy in the Cloud, which thanks to TMobile Global and Dropbox is generally available on my phone in an emergency.
5. Wills & Powers of Attorney
This is not just a travel requirement, and the chances of accident, illness, or death are not greater because you are travelling. Being prepared is simply a kindness to those you leave behind should something happen. Anyone who has had to deal with the loss of a loved one amidst the chaos of no information will understand.
The reality is, if you die without a valid will you will have no say in what happens to your estate. In this scenario the law decides – the legal term is intestacy. Under the rules of intestacy your estate will be divided among certain blood relatives in accordance with a strict order of priority, which may not be in line with your wishes.
This is a complex issue. My view is at least get something down on paper or in the cloud. At least it will give you loved ones some peace of mind that they know your wishes. Check out Wikihow – Write Your Own Will and Testament.
6. Passport Photos
Passport photos are inexpensive and, depending where you are, easy to get in minutes. Get them where it is easy and inexpensive and carry two with you in case you need to have your passport photo replaced on the road.
A Final Travel Tip – Consulate Phone Numbers
When a friend told me this travel tip I thought they were being a grandma. Who checks in with their Embassy when they arrive in a new country? They I heard a wonderful story of a traveler detained by a local authority, wrongly he believed. He was getting nowhere. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed his local consulate. He had stored the number on his phone while browsing the website for his visa. The local authority backed off and he was back on the streets in minute.