9 Things to Do 9 Days Before Your International Trip

My next big international trip is fast approaching and I am hard at work getting all my ducks in a row. Leaving the country takes a little more preparation than just leaving on a weekend getaway, so that last seven to ten days before my trip is spent wisely in an effort to avoid a last minute scramble. Here’s what I do:

1. Set up a “travel items pile”

This should be pretty self explanatory. I like to set up a place where I can begin collecting clothes I want to bring, toiletries I need for travel, but not before (like my curling iron), and other items I will be bringing on my trip. I find this helps me to be thoughtful about what I am packing and not just throw in everything and the kitchen sink. It also serves to show me which clothing items I need to clean and add to the pile.

2. Check the weather

There is nothing worse than expecting warm, tropical weather and not getting it. Or expecting it to be sunny and then have it rain your whole trip. Closely monitoring the weather of your destination city – or cities – will save you a ton of hassle. Recently, I traveled to Southern California for work. The trip started in Santa Maria, located in Santa Barbara County. I had figured it would be just as warm as it was in Sacramento, where it was consistently above 100 degrees F. When I arrived, I shivered. I hadn’t accounted for my proximity to the ocean. Never assume you know what the weather will be and you will be better off for it.

Don't forget to check the Weather Channel, or your favorite weather reporting agent before leaving on your trip! 

Don’t forget to check the Weather Channel, or your favorite weather reporting agent before leaving on your trip!

3. Set up a travel notice with the bank

Ever had your bank block your credit card while abroad? If you have, you know just how frustrating – and frankly terrifying – it is to be halfway around the world with a lack of payment options. Fortunately for me, this hasn’t happened while traveling alone, so I’ve been fine, but I consider myself lucky. Sometimes you run into trouble even if you set those travel alerts, but you will help minimize the risk. I also never plan to leave the country without a couple of different credit and/or debit cards. Now I don’t bring all my cards (not that I have that many), but definitely enough to have a backup. It’s also helpful to have cards from multiple carriers. So don’t only bring Bank of America cards with you (that lesson I also learned the hard way), because they might just block all foreign transactions, which can screw you, the traveler, over.

4. Order local currency

I love a travel credit card, but I also know how important it is to have some local cash in hand. While you shouldn’t have too much difficulty exchanging money in the airport of your international destination, there is always the risk that kiosks will be closed or ATMs will be down. I don’t like to take chances. It’s particularly important if you are arriving during non-peak travel times (super late at night, or really early in the morning). If all else fails, you will at least have some cash on hand to take a taxi to your hotel, or wherever you need to get to. When I travel, I like to store my cash in multiple wallets or in multiple bags. That way, if I am pickpocketed, or lose one bag, I am not completely wiped out of hard cash.

Origami Euros gifted to us from a talented friend.

Origami Euros gifted to us from a talented friend.

5. Transition to a travel purse

I love a good travel purse. In fact, I should probably write a post about my travel purses. In any case, the purse I bring abroad is not the purse I bring to work. Switching bags allows me to really prioritize what I need to have handy over the coming trip. My must-have items include: Chapstick, hand sanitizer, tissues (aka emergency toilet paper), sunglasses, Dramamine, wallet, passport, sunglasses and my Kindle.

6. Refill prescriptions

As someone who suffers from acid reflux, I definitely need to make sure I have my pills on hand before I fly. This might mean getting my next prescription a little earlier than I normally would because I need to make sure I have what I need to get me through the trip, without running out halfway through. You should also pick up any other meds you might need. Advil, Pepto-Bismol, whatever you think you *might* end up needing during your trip.

7. Locate your passport

By this point, you should have already made sure your passport is up to date. If it’s not, you’ll probably need to drop everything to get to the nearest same day passport agency (located major US cities). For instance, if you live in Sacramento and need a passport right away, you’d head to San Francisco to make that happen. But for most people, you will have your passport stored away in a safe, or in a desk drawer, take it out and set it in your travel items pile.

8. Hold your mail

The United States Postal Service is kind of amazing. When you go out of town they can “hold” your mail so that you don’t come back to an overflowing mailbox that screams “we aren’t home” to possible burglars. It’s super simple (I actually just took a quick break from writing to post to schedule my next mail hold), all you need to do type in your name, address and phone number and then provide the dates you would like your mail to be held. Voila, you are set.

9. Electronics

While some people like to listen to music when they fly (if so, bring your earbuds), I prefer to read, so having my Kindle fully charged and ready to go it key for me. Make sure to charge any of the electronics you want to take on your trip. You’ll also want to double check to make sure you have the right plug adapters. Find out what type of plug you need for your next trip here.

Electronics bag on the left... fully charged Kindle on the right. 

Electronics bag on the left… fully charged Kindle on the right.

Those are the most pressing items I have to take care of during that last week(ish) before a big trip. I’d love to hear how YOU get ready for those big international trips.