So you’ve decided where to go on your next trip. Before you disembark, be sure to prepare for your trip so you can travel like a pro. I usually prefer to keep my trips fairly unplanned, but there are some things you should still do beforehand. Here are the top essential things you should do before your next trip, so things don’t go wrong.

1. Check your passport expiration

No one wants to be denied boarding when arriving to the airport. If you’re planning to travel internationally, be sure to check that you know where your passport is, and that you have at least six months before your passport expires. If your passport expires in six months or less, it’s definitely time to renew as soon as possible. You’ll likely be denied entry upon arrival if you have less than six months before it expires.

2. Check Visa Requirements

Similar to checking your passport expiration, you may also need to check if a Visa is required for your next international trip. Most countries offer a Visa on Arrival for US Citizens, but it’s best to check if you need one before you arrive. Sometimes getting a Visa can take up to six months. Lastly, make sure you have the necessary extra blank pages in your passport to accommodate any visas. Some take up a whole page!

If you’re a US Citizen, here is a handy map of visa requirements:

3. Travel Adapters

What type of plugs does the country you’re visiting use? You may need to convert your plug to work in the other country. You can skip the voltage converters and go with a much cheaper plug adapter. All newer electronics can accept a wide range of voltages – but you should check the label on the plug just in case. Just look for the word “Input” and it should say something like “100v – 240v”.

As for plug adapters, I personally recommend the Bonaker Universal Travel Adapter. It’s small, works in every country, and has a couple high powered USB ports to charge your devices. I also typically bring a 3 outlet tap with me as well as they are much cheaper than buying multiple travel adapters. I use the GE Grounded 3-Outlet tap as it’s ultra small and light weight, but a power strip would work as well if you have the room in your luggage.

4. Transportation on Arrival

After your plan has landed, do you know how you’ll get to your hotel? It’s best to pre-plan your arrival and transportation on how to get to your accomodation. There may be a train that connects to the airport, or even a shuttle to the train station. If your only option is a taxi, then you might even want to check to see what the average cost is do you won’t get ripped off.

If Uber or Lyft is available at your destination, you’ll most likely pay a premium to get picked up directly from the airport. If you walk just outside of the airport and request an Uber or Lyft, you could save quite a bit of money.

5. Currency Exchange

Don’t exchange your currency before you go on your trip. You’ll usually pay a hefty fee and get a horrible exchange rate. My go-to way of getting money exchanged is by using an ATM once I arrive. I’ve been to one airport that didn’t have an ATM only once, but a little research will easily tell you if the airport has an ATM or not. If you’re unlucky and are going to an aiport without an ATM, just ask a taxi driver to take you to the nearest ATM. Usually they will without a problem.

6. Notify Your Bank

If you plan to make any purchases, you’re going to need access to your money. Be sure to call your bank in advance and put in a travel notification. This tells the bank where you’re going to be, and when, so they don’t block your card thinking it was stolen. It only takes a few seconds, and usually can be done online.

7. Download Maps

No one likes to be stranded without a map. If you have a smartphone (and who doesn’t these days), you’ll be able to pre-download the map of your destination using Google Maps. Here’s how: https://support.google.com/maps/answer/6291838

8. Inspect your Luggage

Do you know where your luggage is? Are there any rips or tears? Be sure to inspect your luggage just in case you need to buy a new one before your trip.

You should also take this opportunity to slip in a business card or even a piece of paper with your name, address, and phone number in one of the outer pockets just in case you get separated from your luggage. It’ll not only help prove that you’re the owner of the luggage, but it’ll also help in the event your luggage gets lost.

9. Travel Insurance

You wouldn’t drive a car without insurance would you? The same goes for traveling. Don’t risk an accident that could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get home. Medical emergencies are serious and travel insurance is really cheap. I recommend World Nomads travel insurance as they  are pretty cheap, easy to use, and pretty well trusted among travelers.

10. International Drivers License

Although not every country requires one, it’s still a good idea to have one just in case you run into trouble. If you’re going to a non-english speaking country, I highly recommend it. It’s really quite easy to get one, and if you’re American, you can get one through any AAA. Just bring two passport photos and about $15.

11. Shots

Ever been bitten by a mosquito? Did you know mosquitos spread malaria? If you’re heading to the beautiful tropics, it’s a good idea to check if you’ll be at risk of any tropical diseases. Check with your doctor to see if you’ll need to get caught up on any shots, or take any preventative measures. Some countries even require immunization before you can enter.

12. Make Copies

Sometimes bad things happen. You might lose your wallet, or even drop your passport. If you lost your wallet right now, would you know exactly what cards to cancel? Here’s a clever way to know what to cancel: take a photo or scan the back of your cards. Most cards even have the number to call right on the back. It’s also a good idea to take a photo or scan your passort photo page. You can then use it to prove your identity in case it’s lost or stolen.

Be sure to store a copy of the scans or photos on your phone or laptop, or even cloud storage. I usually throw a copy of my passport in my luggage too. You could even sent it to a trusted friend or family member who can send it back to you in the event something happens and you need it.

13. Double Check Dates

I once showed up to my hotel a year early. What happened? I was tired when I was booking it and didn’t realize the date was a year off. It’s a simple mistake, and easily correctable in my case, but it still lead to a weird conversation on arrival. To prevent this, just double check the dates and account for any timezone shifts if you’re traveling across the international date line.

Conclusion

Traveling is fun and should be stress free. Follow these simple tips and you’re on your way to a relaxing vacation. If you have any questions, suggestions, or ideas, please let me know in the comments!