Set Up a Checking Account
This may seem weird. After all, you already having a checking/debit account at home, right? It turns out that doesn't really suffice. For starters, you could be looking at sky-high foreign transaction fees and ATM surcharges—neither of which are an issue with Charles Schwab. So, I just revealed where my money is stashed. Oops.
Obtain an International Driving Permit
Again, Mike did this. The question you might be asking is “do I really need an international driving permit (IDP)?” The answer is yes, if you plan on operating a vehicle outside of America. This baby lets you cruise legally in 174 countries. You’ll also need to carry a valid U.S. driver's license. Where do you get such a thing? Either the Automobile Association of America (AAA) or American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). The fee is $20, and it’s good for a full year.
Choose the Right Phone Plan
Now for what may be the biggest change of them all...I’m giving up my iPhone. No disrespect to Apple (I just ordered a new 13” MacBook Air for the trip, so clearly I’m still a fan), but Google does it way better internationally when it comes to phones. If you care about Instagram-worthy pics, Pixel 3 is the move. It has a stellar camera and something called wide-angle selfie mode. Beyond that, it charges in just 15 minutes! The biggest selling point? That clever slogan you've probably heard, "roam for the same price as home." It’s true! The international phone/data package options, which are a steal in comparison to competitors. (Mike and I did exhaustive research.) Project Fi starts at $20/month for unlimited calls and texts, so I can stay in touch with everyone back home. While we’ve done plenty of planning, I can’t even fathom what my data usage might be. So I’m stoked that it’s flexible, just $10/GB.
Purchase Travel Insurance
No matter how impressive your planning skills, unforeseen stuff can happen. Which is why travel insurance is a non-negotiable, if you ask me (and savvy wanderlusters everywhere). After much deliberation, we decided to go with World Nomads. What sold us was the scope of coverage, from overseas medical and dental treatment to replacing stolen credit cards and reimbursement for lost baggage. And 24-hour assistance is an added benefit. Because emergencies always seem to happen at the most inconvenient times.
Copy Important Documents
Before departing, be sure to make copies of your passport and all important documents. Keep originals with you at all times. Then stash one copy in a secure place, whether that’s a locked suitcase or in the hotel safe. It’s also smart to have a digital record saved on your desktop and email or Google drive. We went a step further and sent a copy of everything to my parents as extra backup.
Clearly, you need a passport to travel, however certain countries also require visitors to show proof of yellow fever vaccination—in the form of an International Certificate of Prophylaxis (ICVP)—before granting entry.
What happens if these precious documents are stolen or go missing, along with ID and credits cards? Well, you’ll be grateful copies exist. And it will definitely go a long way if you have to go to the embassy.