Your bags are packed, you’ve planned every outfit down to the accessories and shoes, you’ve Yelped and found a list of bars and restaurants you want to hit, you’ve mapped out an itinerary of activities you want to do, but have you done these 6 essential tasks before you head to the airport?
1. Make sure your Passport/ID is valid (and you have it). You’d be surprised how many people don’t realize their passport/ID is expired before they head to the airport. Luckily, with domestic flights, an expired ID (or if you happen to lose or forget yours) won’t ruin your travel plans. Approach the security area and explain your situation to a TSA agent. You’ll have to fill out a TSL 44 form — a release that states your name, the last four of your SSN digits, and your home address (you must have lived there for at least a year) that grants the TSA permission to check your social security records. You’ll then be asked several questions, such as your date of birth, names of relatives, etc. to verify your identity, TSA will call your answers into a hotline, and if everything checks out, you’ll be able to proceed through security. Arrive at the airport early to leave time for extra interviews and security checks. So while you can fly domestically without a valid form of ID, it’s obviously inconvenient and you want to avoid it if possible.
For international travel, several countries mandate that you have at least three to six months left until your passport expires. If you enter the country with an expired passport, not only will you be fined but in some cases, you’ll also be immediately deported. If your passport expires while you're abroad, you can face significant problems, and you may also face problems returning to the United States.
2. Call your bank/credit card company and let them know your travel plans. A good bank and credit card company will flag your account and lock it when someone tries to authorize a transaction in a different state or country. The last thing you want to do is rack up international minutes on your phone trying to connect with a representative who can sort it all out, and this is assuming you’re calling during a time when you can even speak to a representative.
3. Call your wireless carrier (or visit its website) to see what international plans it offers. It’s often easier (and cheaper) to buy a package of minutes and international data than pay roaming fees. Or seek out a local cellular provider once you arrive in your destination country, and buy a pre-paid SIM card. Keep in mind, for this to work your phone needs to have an unlocked SIM slot. I have a Verizon iPhone 5 which comes factory unlocked. A quick Google search will help you find out if your phone comes unlocked or how you can unlock it.
4. Withdraw a few hundred dollars in cash from your bank account. Sometimes, even with the best preparation, complications and hiccups arise. The last thing you want is to land in a foreign country with all of your credit cards frozen. Luckily, cash is the universal language. In addition, I know multiple instances where having cash helped people get out of sticky situations abroad.
5. Call your hotel in advance to confirm your reservation. I’m surprised more people don’t do this considering it takes less than 10 minutes and can help avoid unnecessary stress, anger, and precious vacation time in the event you arrive to your hotel and they don’t have your reservation on file. Oftentimes, it can easily be sorted out but I have heard stories where the hotel had no trace of the reservation and was completely booked.
6. Check the weather. While we all know weather forecasters are famously inaccurate at times, and the weather can change at a moment’s notice, it’s good to have an idea of the weather so you can pack appropriately. Sure, you can buy ponchos or umbrellas overseas but do you really want to be spending your time going shopping for items you could have easily thrown into your bag with a quick Google search? For example, if it's raining the day you fly in, you'll want to keep an umbrella in your bag. Getting soaked is not an ideal way to start off your vacation.
This BOSSY GALS essential to-do list before your flight will allow you to focus your time and energy into what you should be doing on your vacation — adventuring! Safe travels and have fun!