Thursday, 4 April 2019

Most seasoned globetrotters would agree that careful planning is the key to a seamless, problem-free international trip.

Whether you're working with a travel agent, or you're a do-it-yourself traveler, here's a handy planning checklist that can help you enjoy an amazing overseas adventure.

Make sure your passport and visas are ready.

As soon as you start planning your international trip, you should start the process of getting a new passport or having your existing one renewed if it has expired. That's because the passport process can take six to eight weeks. For an extra $60 you can expedite the process if you're really in a rush. Some countries require your passport be valid for six months beyond your trip date.

Some countries also require you to have two to four blank pages in your passport for visa/stamps. According to the U.S. Department of State website, some airlines won't allow you to board if you don't have the required number of blank pages.

In some cases, you'll need a visa issued by the country you're visiting to enter. The document requirements for all foreign countries can be found at the U.S. Department of State website. You should also start this process as soon as possible as getting a visa can take from two weeks to two months, depending on where you're traveling.

Some countries charge entrance and exit fees, which are often included in the price of your airline tickets. However, if you're traveling to the country by boat, car or train, you'll need to be prepared to pay the fees — which can be as high as $100. Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website to find out which countries charge fees and how much they are.

Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

When you enroll in STEP, you'll receive up-to-date information and alerts about the country or countries you're visiting. The program also makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy and your family members to contact you in the event of an emergency. You can register your trip at the STEP website.

Consider enrolling in the Global Entry Program.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Global Entry Program saves frequent travelers time and hassle by allowing expedited entry at select U.S. airports. Members can enter using special kiosks and skip long processing lines and time-consuming paperwork. What's more, members also have similar expedited access in other participating countries. The application process is lengthy, but if you travel a lot, it could be worth it.

Make copies of travel documents.

Keep a copy of your documents stashed safely in your luggage. You can also store copies digitally on your smartphone or other devices. For an extra layer of safety, leave copies of all your travel documents with family or friends stateside so in the unlikely event you lose your copies, they can fax or email you another set.

Let your bank and credit card issuers know you're traveling.

Most banks and credit card issuers carefully monitor accounts for fraud. If charges start showing up from another country, your credit card company will typically try to reach you to confirm the charges are legitimate. However, if they cannot reach you, there's a chance they'll freeze your card, which you do not want to happen while you're traveling.

If you let them know you're traveling out of the country, they'll know the charges aren't fraudulent. Also, when you contact them, you can confirm your cards will work in the countries you'll be visiting.

You can also keep a close eye on your accounts through mobile banking and even set up alerts to let you know immediately when there is out-of-the-norm account activity.

Get your money ready.

For starters, familiarize yourself with the exchange rates in the countries where you're traveling. Using a credit card overseas can make it easier because credit card  transactions typically reflect exchange rates at the time of the transaction. You can also download an app to do calculations, but it's still a good idea to have a general understanding of the exchange rates and how much basic items cost.

You should always carry some cash in the event you find yourself at an establishment that doesn't accept plastic. When getting cash, you may get the best exchange rate at an ATM.

Check your insurance coverage.

Determine if your medical insurance provides coverage overseas, and if not, you might want to purchase additional coverage. Depending on where you're traveling, you can also purchase coverage to provide air-evacuation in the event of an emergency. If your trip is several months in the future, you can also buy travel insurance that will refund your deposits and other fees if you have to cancel the trip for illness or other reasons.

Prepare your devices for takeoff.

Chances are you'll be taking your smartphone or tablet with you, so check your service plan for additional costs and fees associated with international travel. Also, your U.S. chargers might not work in some foreign countries. If you travel frequently, you might want to invest in a universal adapter that will work around the globe.

International travel should be the experience of a lifetime. Taking some time to plan and prepare can ensure your dream trip is fabulous and flawless.

The content provided is for informational purposes only. Neither BBVA Compass, nor any of its affiliates, is providing legal, tax, or investment advice. You should consult your legal, tax, or financial advisor about your personal situation. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BBVA Compass or any of its affiliates.

Links to third party sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement. BBVA Compass does not provide, is not responsible for, and does not guarantee the products, services or overall content available at third party sites. These sites may not have the same privacy, security or accessibility standards.