A young woman waits for her flight before her trip abroad.

How to Plan a Trip Abroad

Updated June 3, 2016 . AmFam Team

No matter where you’re going or who you’re travelling with, properly preparing for your trip can take away a lot of the most common travel pains. We rounded up some tips to help you start off on the right foot and enjoy your vacation.

Whether you’re going it alone, with a partner or taking your entire family, preparing a thorough plan before you travel to another country can set your vacation up to be a major success. We’ve compiled a list of valuable travel tips that’ll help you enjoy your trip while keeping everything safe and secure at home.

Check In With Safety Officials

The United States government offers plenty of services to keep you up-to-date and safe while you’re abroad. These tips will help you make sure that your destination is safe and allow you to brush up on any emergency safety or communication processes, if necessary.

The learning experience begins at home. The U.S. government’s travel site (Opens in a new tab) offers info about your destination's current passport and visa requirements, vaccinations, currency information, alerts and warnings, laws, embassy and consulate information and travel safety updates.

Make sure your passport and/or visa is valid. Different countries have different rules for passport validity. For example, if you’re traveling to France, your passport must not expire for at least three months from your date of departure. If you’re traveling to Germany, however, your passport must not expire for at least six months. Make sure you have plenty of blank pages in your passport, as countries have different requirements for those, too.

Keep America in the know. Signing up for the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) (Opens in a new tab) keeps you in the know for important travel safety announcements. Plus, it makes it easier for an embassy or consulate to contact you in an emergency. And most importantly, it helps your family get in touch with you via the embassy, if needed.

Money Tips for Your Trips

For your trip to be a success, your finances have to be in order. Having the right kind of credit cards, avoiding fraud and carrying enough local currency can take away a load of confusion and stress in the checkout line.

Let your bank know you’re gone. Calling your credit card companies, bank, credit union or other financial institution and alerting them to your itinerary is the best way to keep your currency flowing. Going from purchases in America to Istanbul, for example, would raise unusual activity flags if your bank wasn’t previously notified.

Make sure your cards will work in a different country. Getting stuck in a foreign country with a credit card that doesn’t work — talk about a bad situation. When you call your bank to tell them when and where you’ll be travelling, ask if your credit or debit card will be accepted in that country. If you usually carry more than one type of credit card, consider bringing at least two to be sure you’ll have some form of payment in case the other doesn’t work. Ask about international fees, too, so you know how much you’ll be paying extra per out-of-country purchase.

Carry some local currency. Locate a currency exchange at your departing airport, arriving airport and other locations in your arrival city. Having some cash on hand can make small transactions quicker and easier.

Get Familiar With Your Destination(s)

There’s strength in phone numbers. Gathering phone numbers for services and contacts you might need at any and all of your destinations makes smart travel sense. Consider local fire and police departments, nearby hospitals, cab companies and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Driving internationally and legally. Driving abroad can be a memorable experience, but many places require an international driving permit, which you can get from your local DMV. Brush up on the local driving laws — like which side of the road you drive on and speed limits — before you hop in a rental car and hit the road.

Map out potential plans. While some of us like to wing it when we go on vacation, you can save yourself some time by taking a few minutes to research and write down a few restaurants, landmarks and other adventure-worthy spots that previous travelers have recommended. It’s fun to explore, but keeping yourself in areas you know are safe can keep you and your travel companions secure.

Health and Safety First

Guard your health. Looking into vaccinations and any other medical precautions your destination may require can help your travels go smoothly. Bringing medicines with you, rather than relying on availability abroad, is a good idea, too.

Travel insurance can also help protect your getaway if illness sidelines your trip. American Family’s travel insurance policies offer trip cancellation insurance, too, to cover you if life throws you a curveball and knocks your trip off the tracks.

Copy all of your important documents — just in case. Emailing copies of your passport’s ID page, itinerary, credit and insurance cards, prescriptions, passes, tickets and other documents to yourself can give you some peace of mind should you lose any valuable documents. Tucking extra copies in your luggage along with extra passport photos helps, too. Giving copies to a trusted someone at home makes it possible for them to fax it to you in a pinch.

Preparing for your adventure is only part of keeping that adventure safe. Staying vigilant and being aware of your surroundings will help you keep your vacation on track, too. And by taking some of our safe travel tips to heart, you’ll be sure to have an enjoyable trip.

Your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) can help you protect yourself from the unexpected while you’re away, too — ask them about how you can add an extra layer of safety to your vacation.

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