Travel Basics 100: 5 Things to do a Few Days Before Traveling

Imagine this:

You booked a 4-day trip to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica. You’re getting ready to leave the hard grind of your 40+ hour work week. You don’t know what you’re looking forward to the most, the sun or a massage. Your suitcase, packed with short sleeves, sunglasses, and sunblock, is excited to make room for souvenirs. It’s been forever since you and your friends have hung out. You arrive at the airport promptly 3 hours ahead of your flight. As you near the (TSA) agent, you get your passport and your ticket ready. You see them motion for you to step forward. Before they can even ask you, with a smile you present your documents. Then slowly, and painfully, that smile fades away. Shocked, hurt, befuddled – the piercing words of the agent become clear. “Your passport is expired.” There will be no trip.

Avoid the experience above by reading the tips below. About a week or so before your next trip, make sure you’ve done the following things.

  1. Check the expiration of your travel documents. It’s actually not uncommon for some travelers to only realize their passport – or driver license, or green card, etc. – is expired at the airport when an agent is pointing it out to them. Unfortunately, this could mean the end of your trip before it even begins. To avoid this, a week or two before your trip double check the expiration of your travel documents. If you see that they’ve expired – or will expire soon – you may have just enough time to get your documents renewed. If you don’t have enough time to renew your documents, you may still have time to change your travel itinerary. This is also a good time to check to see if your visa is still valid if you’ll be needing one for your upcoming trip.
  2. Set up travel alerts on your credit/debit cards. If you are taking your debit or credit card with you on an international trip, you’ll need to notify your bank of your upcoming travel plans. Many banks and cards will allow you to do this through their mobile apps in less than 5 minutes. Others will require that you call them to set up a travel alert. Furthermore, this is a good time to figure out if you’ll be charged any foreign transaction fees if you’re unsure.
  3. Automate bill payments for anything that will be due while you’re on your trip. Even if you are going on a domestic trip to a different part of your home country, you won’t want to skip this step! As they say, time flies when you’re having fun. It’s super easy to forget to pay bills while you’re on vacation. Whether you’re going to Texas or Morocco, ensure peace of mind during and after your trip by automating anything that will be due while you’re away. Or, if you can, pay those bills early before you leave for your trip.
  4. Figure out the international rates for your cell service provider. This one is pretty straightforward. All phone companies are not created equal and neither are their international plans. If you can’t afford your carrier’s international rates, download free apps like WhatsApp or WeChat and send free texts and calls over WiFi. Additionally, figure out if there will be free WiFi where you’re going. Some hotels, Airbnbs, airports, and countries do charge extra for WiFi usage.
  5. Confirm that you have ALL the correct information for your trip. Are you sure your train leaves at 7:20am? Was your flight at 11:30pm, or am? Do you really have enough time to go home from work to grab your luggage? Wait… How are you getting from the airport to your hotel? Double check all of your travel information to make sure what you think you know is what you know you know. If a friend is giving you a ride to the airport or you’re taking a group trip, also make sure everyone else involved also has the correct information.

There could always be some unexpected and unavoidable things that come up when you’re getting ready to travel. My own trip cancellation and delays are perfect examples of this. But while Mother Nature can be unpredictable, the expiration date of your travel documents is not. Don’t let a small oversight ruin a great experience.

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