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Preparing to take off

If you decide to travel to a foreign country, here are some things to consider handling before you go. Some of it even works for domestic travel. 😉 

Packing

  • We had a couple of months between selling our house and heading out, which gave us time to practice living in AirBNBs in Reno and figuring out what we actually needed to take. We used every minute of those two months to figure that out, along with all of these other things, many we learned from our friends who have traveled much more than we have. 
  • SmarterTravel.com shares an extensive packing list here — clothes, toiletries and miscellaneous items. 

Healthcare

  • Have access to your necessary medical records and blood type.
  • Have a completed medical directive with you. Don’t assume your spouse can make decisions during a medical emergency in a foreign country. Since Clay and I were only married a couple of years ago and have kids from separate families, we went all in and got our wills, directives and trusts done before leaving. Just in case. 
  • Schedule your doctor appointments, keeping in mind that it could take a few months to get in and even longer to get tests and other services ordered. 
  • Share your plans with your doctors, so they can help you arrange to get extra prescriptions if you need them. Not all medications are readily available in all countries and names can be slightly different, including supplements. I have arthritis in my left knee, so I also got a cortisone shot right before we left. 
  • Check the laws of the countries you visit before packing any medications or creams containing CBD or THC. 
  • Ask your doctor if you need any particular vaccines for the country you’re visiting. 
  • Check the COVID restrictions of the country you’re traveling to and make sure you meet them. And throw a mask in your backpack just in case you need it.
  • Check if the country requires an online health form to be completed 24-72 hours before your arrival.
  • Take your COVID vaccination card and a photo of it, in case you lose it.
  • Check if your health insurance will cover you in a foreign country. 
  • Consider buying traveler’s insurance. Depending on your policy, this will cover trip cancellations, if you get sick in a foreign country and renter’s insurance for AirBNBs. We went with Faye Travel Insurance because it had great reviews. We’ll write about this once we’re on the road. 

Mail

  • If you’re not already doing it, set up your mail, so you get it online. 
  • You’ll need to redirect your physical mail if you’re not leaving someone at home (or selling your house as we did). We have an awesome friend handling ours, but you may need to set up a PO Box or a more inclusive mail service that will forward your mail to you or even open it (at your request) and let you know what’s inside. 
  • Cancel Amazon and your other subscriptions. We’re very good (too good) about stocking up on shampoo, toilet paper, Q-tips and other necessities, so we had to cancel our Amazon subscriptions and find people to give the extras to. That came in super handy for White Elephant gift exchanges during the holidays. You’re welcome, Rachel!
  • If you have an election coming up, make sure you’re signed up to vote absentee.

Finances/Legal

  • Take photos of your passports and other important documents, email them to yourself and then delete them from your phone. You can take the pictures to the embassy for help if you lose them or they get stolen. 
  • If traveling internationally, make sure your credit card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. We ordered a new card to rack up hotel points by paying for our AirBNBs. Those will come in handy when we have a few days in some cities. 
  • Check with your credit card companies and find out if you need to let them know you’re leaving the country. That will save you the embarrassment of having your card declined at a corner market in Lyon. 
  • ATM cards are a great way to get local currency with a lower conversion rate, but make sure you have an extra in case you lose one. Or it gets stolen. Protecting yourself from pickpockets will be a future blog.
  • Find out how much local currency you’ll need for tips, etc. And you may run into some stores and restaurants that don’t take cards. Many countries charge for using restrooms, so make sure you have change or small bills.  
  • Take care of anything important, like your taxes, before you go. Or make sure you can work on them remotely. We let our CPA know our plans and he set us up with an online portal we can use. 
  • If you’re planning to drive, you’ll need to check laws and regulations for your license and car insurance. 

Technology

  • Check to make sure you can use your phone overseas and how much it will cost you.
  • Download WhatsApp, which is much more prevalent for calling and texting internationally. Calls and messages go through the Internet rather than your phone provider, and It has end-to-end encryption. As Mashable shares, “WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world and used in nearly 200 countries.”
  • Find out what kind of adapters (including for your phone) you’ll need for the country you’re visiting, though it’s often cheaper to buy those once you get there.
  • Download a translation app for your phone and practice. Everywhere we’re going, most people speak multiple languages, including English, but it’s polite to have the basics down — hello, goodbye, please, thank you, may I… 
  • Make sure you have your airline miles accounts set up. Traveling internationally gets you some serious miles and you want to take full advantage of those. 
  • If you need internet access, consider purchasing a hotspot that works with your phone. Though we only choose housing that includes wifi, you never know if it’s strong enough for what you need, like Zoom meetings. 
  • We recently found out about Bluetooth Airtags for our luggage so we can locate it with our phone. And this is going to come in super handy when we get back and need keys again! If you get yours on Amazon, we’ll receive a small commission. Thank you for your support! 
Apple AirTag

Safety/Expedited Travel

  • Register with the State Dept. for travel alerts if you need help with the US Embassy. Creating an account and registering your travel dates and destinations is easy.  An app is also available for your smartphone to quickly find embassies.
  • For extra protection, consider signing up with Global Rescue, which promises that “you get the peace of mind that the finest medical, security evacuation, field rescue, intelligence and telehealth personnel always have your back.” 
  • Signing up for TSA Precheck can speed up U.S. airports’ security lines, costing $78 for five years. They promise you’ll: “Experience a smoother screening process, with no need to remove shoes, belts, 3-1-1- liquids, laptops or light jackets.”
  • Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that includes TSA pre-check and allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers arriving  in the United States. It costs $100 per person (for five years) and travelers must be pre-approved, which means a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment. It’s only in select airports, so make sure it works for you before you sign up.
  • If you’re a U.S. citizen or you have lawful permanent residence, and you’re eligible for SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection), it will speed up your vehicle/pedestrian access through Mexico and Canada while also giving you access to TSA PreCheck at airports within the U.S. and U.S territories.
  • Learn how to call the emergency number — our 911 — for the country you’re traveling in. 
  • Most importantly, make sure at least two people in the U.S. have your itinerary and keep them updated so they can make sure you end up where you’re supposed to be. This way, they can take action if they don’t hear from you. 

Shopping

  • Since we’ll be living out of suitcases for an indefinite time, we bought new suitcases and backpacks. 
  • While it can get snowy in Reno, I didn’t want to haul around a giant pair of boots, so I found a waterproof pair of tennis shoes to traipse through France (and possibly Italy) in winter. 

Social/Pets

  • If you have them, make arrangements for your pets. It’s a good idea to introduce them to their new foster parents ahead of time, so everyone can get used to each other while you’re still around. Since we don’t know when we’ll settle down, we found a lovely new family for Han and Chewbacca. We made sure they were up-to-date on shots and other medical services and offered to pay for a year’s worth of food. We get regular photos of them living happily in their new home, so it’s a definite win-win. 
  • Just as importantly, be sure to schedule social time with your people. As we realized we would not see most of our friends and family members for five months, scheduling in-person time with them became more important. And that got more complicated the closer we got to take-off. 

We’ll add to this list as we learn more. If you have ideas of what we should add, please let us know!

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