Monday, July 19, 2010

To-do list before international travel

Before Memorial Day I wrote about everything we do before heading out of town for the weekend. Preparing for a long international vacation, though, requires more than packing your bags, watering your plants and adjusting your thermostat.

Here's our to-do list for international travel (in our case, a three-week Italian and Spanish vacation):

For the home:
  • Cancel newspaper delivery during time away.
  • Request for the post office to hold mail. You can fill out an online request here.
  • Cancel Blockbuster online. We figured since we're going to be gone for almost a month that we should cancel our account one week before leaving so we don't get charged for our time away. We are only doing this because we are planning to switch to Netflix to take advantage of the streaming capabilities that come with a Netflix account. This seemed like an appropriate time to make the switch.

For the dogs:
  • Get nails trimmed.
  • Buy extra dog food.
  • Take the dogs down to Matt's parents' beach house, where they'll be having their own little vacation while we're away.

For travel:
  • Copy passports. Take one copy with us, packed separate from our actual passports, and keep one copy at home so someone else can access them for us in the worst-case-scenario.
  • Leave family with copies of our itinerary, so they can reach us in case of emergency or, more likely, track our trip progress vicariously.
  • Print all hotel and airline confirmations. (I like to go paperless for most things in life, but international travel is not one of them.)
  • Stock up on travel-sized bottles. We are not checking luggage.

For finances:
  • Pay bills and set up bill pay for our time away.
  • Sign up for a credit card with no (or a low) foreign transaction fees.
  • Get some Euros before we leave the country, just so we have some foreign currency on hand when we land and that's one more thing we don't have to think about on our trip. Most cash we'll need we plan to withdraw from ATMs, which tend to give the best exchange rates.
  • Call banks and credit card companies. Ask them to put a notation on our account with the dates we'll be abroad just so our accounts don't get pegged for suspicious activity.
After we get back, I'll write more about finances abroad. I haven't traveled to Europe since the Euro took over, so I'll hopefully have some personal observations to share.


  1. Good list, I think we do most of the same things to prepare.

    I do want to warn you about a potential problem using credit cards and ATMs in Europe, though. Apparently many European countries are switching from the magnetic stripe on cards to a microchip/smartcard system, which can sometimes cause problems for American tourists.

    I don't know if this applies to Spain & Italy or not but I recommend looking into it. In any case, have a fantastic trip!

  2. Thank you for posting this today, you reminded me to put our mail on hold for an upcoming trip! The link was especially great.

  3. Good luck with that whole "calling the bank" thing. I called mine before I went to Italy a few years ago, and they still froze my debit card. I called them FROM Italy, still no luck.