Traveling abroad in 2018?

A small checklist international travel can really help plan your first or 100th trip abroad and broaden your perspective on sustainability when traveling.

Going abroad is becoming more and more common for Americans. In 2000, the number of passports in circulation was just 48 million compared to 110 million now. According to U.S. Department of State, this is 15 times higher than the 7 million passport carriers in 1989. People of all ages are traveling abroad and for very good reasons. The world is an exciting and intriguing place!

Getting prepped for that trip abroad can be exciting and somewhat stressful.  Questions such as “What do I take with me? What can be squeezed into an already small bag? Do I need visas to travel to certain countries? How can I ensure my footprint in the host country is positive?”

It is imperative to develop a check list before heading abroad on things to do at home before departing and also giving some thought to sustainability as well. Sojourners abroad should consider the following:

1.)    Subscribe to the State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Benefits to enrolling are receiving safety information, which will alert you of travel restrictions and/or warnings to countries you may intend to visit as well as how family and/or friends can reach you in case of an emergency.

2.)    Verify your passport is up to date, that it will not expire while you are abroad and that you have enough pages inside to venture to the countries you plan to. It is a good idea to make copies of your passport as well and perhaps email yourself a copy of all the important information inside just in case you lose it or it gets stolen. If this is your first time applying for a passport then you should visit the U.S. Department of State-Bureau of Consular Affairs website and apply.

3.)    Notify your bank(s) and credit card companies of international travel or you may find that your funds are frozen after making the first international purchase. Banks are quick to seize funds and activities immediately following international purchases for fear of identity theft and/or stolen cards.

4.)    Cell phones are a necessity in today’s lifestyle. Though not all plans have international coverage, most major companies have supplemental plans you can purchase that will allow access to your phone(s) and internet while crossing borders and sightseeing. Plus, phones now serve as our camera too, which you will most certainly want on your ventures.

5.)    Vaccines are almost always required for your personal health. You will want to review the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for the countries you intend to visit. You should also consider getting vaccines for countries in the vicinity you are traveling just in case you decide to visit an additional location or are unexpectedly diverted.

6.)    One wise and often overlooked travel tip is the need to read and study the country or countries you intend to visit. Having knowledge of culture(s), tradition, does and don’ts, laws for foreigners and other important information can really benefit you as well as make the excursion more enjoyable. USA Today provided some suggestions on laws to be aware of in certain countries that could turn a great trip into a nightmare. Being prepared too for unexpected cultural rules, such as having proper clothing in Buddhist temples can help local people have a positive impression of you and your home country. You can enrich your travel knowledge via the internet, travel books and libraries too.

This list provides suggestions to prepare for before embarking on that international trip of a lifetime.

Another point to consider when traveling abroad is sustainability. Last year, 2017, was considered the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the United Nations General Assembly. What does that mean for someone going abroad? Not much, unless you consider your impact on the community, economy and environment of where you are going. Sustainable tourism is something international inbound and outbound tourists are incorporating into their travels. Tips for responsible travel can be found by visiting travel care code or Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Each resource has suggestions on how to limit your impacts while being a guest in a host country.

The best advice for international travel is to take your time and plan accordingly. Remember, most often you can buy whatever you forget!

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