Before you leave

Before you leave on your trip, tick off each of these points:

  • If you don’t have a current passport, get one!
  • If you don’t have an International Certificate of Vaccination, get one!
  • Review your vaccinations with your family physician and health professionals who have specialized knowledge in this field. Ensure you comply with all the requirements of every foreign country you will be traveling through. Keep in mind, you may have a valid passport, airline ticket and sufficient funds, but unless you comply with all health regulations of a foreign country, they may not let you pass through their borders. Take care of this at least 4-6 months before your departure date.
  • Arrange for someone to take care of your home (including clearing your postal mail, ad mail, and newspapers). Give them contacts for emergencies involving plumbing, heating, electrical, and insurance, and give them appropriate ID numbers for the various agencies. Give them your itinerary, including telephone numbers of where you can be reached, or where urgent messages can be left.
  • Arrange for care of your children and/or parents living with you (if they are not traveling with you, of course).
  • Arrange for care of your pets.
  • Arrange for care of your plants.
  • If you will be away for more than 2-3 weeks, arrange for bills to be paid.
  • Purchase traveler’s health insurance, as well as any other travel insurance you think you need.
  • Ensure there are sufficient funds in your chequing account to cover any pre-authorized payments (mortgages, credit cards, utilities, etc.).
  • If you are traveling for an extended time (over 4 weeks), notify next of kin and register your itinerary with your nearest foreign affairs office or consulate.
  • Purchase sufficient funds in both local US$ cash. Using credit cards while travelling will mean less of a need for cash, however do not rely on using credit cards. Some locations still do not honour credit cards, and those that do often have bizarre rules or “special” prices or surcharges which you may want to avoid.
  • Have sufficient funds available in a chequable bank account to cope with overseas emergencies. Take the bank account number, bank name, address and telephone number. Take two or three paper cheques for this account, fold them up and put them away in your wallet. For the cost of a long distance phone call (for approval from your home bank), you can then have access to these funds in an emergency that doesn’t require a bank or credit card or online access.
  • Keep in mind, some overseas medical facilities will not bill your travel health insurance directly. You must pay them and claim later. In other words, you may need access to sufficient funds to receive medical treatment!
  • Credit card accounts should be paid down to zero balance before leaving. You may need these sources of funds in an emergency.
  • If you are planning to use credit cards while on vacation, be aware that some countries have different security systems than those you are used to in your home country. For instance, the credit card approval process for retail purchases often requires that you enter a PIN into the system. If you don’t know your PIN for your credit card, go to your bank and get one before you leave. Choose a 4-digit PIN, since longer PINs are not universally supported.
  • If you live in a cold climate, ensure your heating system has been fully serviced before you leave. Keep your house temperature sufficiently high to prevent freezing of pipes and fixtures (set no lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 degrees Celsius)
  • Print out a list of essential names, addresses and/or phone numbers of people you may contact while you are away. Don’t rely on this information only being available on your smartphone’s Contacts list.
  • Reconfirm departure flights with airlines 24 hours before departure. Reconfirm your return flights 24 hours ahead of time as well.
  • Turn off the hot water heater for your house at the circuit breaker (unless this is your primary heating system).
  • Clean out the refrigerator the night before departure, and ensure all garbage is taken outside.
  • Install and test timers for house lights. Setup to mimic normal living patterns.
  • Close (or partially close) blinds/drapes before leaving.
  • Turn on your telephone answering machine or enable your voicemail. Ask callers to leave a message, but do not indicate that you are away on vacation.
  • Purchase new batteries for any cameras, travel clocks, or other devices you are taking with you. Leave yourself several days to verify that they are working properly before you depart.
  • Remove any valuables normally kept in the house to a safe deposit box or other secure location.
  • Make three photocopies of the page in your passport with your photo and identification info. Pack one copy in your suitcase, keep the second folded in your wallet or purse, and leave the third with a trusted person who you can contact in case you lose everything.
  • If you are traveling with children, take proof they are yours! Birth certificates, child’s passport (or their names on your passport) are essential. If both parents are not traveling with their children, you will also need a letter of permission from the missing parent. If you are a multinational couple with children, be aware that your respective home countries may consider your children as nationals of the country, and may impose local laws on you and your children upon arrival. Do not take your children out of your home country until you have carefully researched this angle!

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