Are you a last minute packer? A list maker? A rolling-is-the-new-folding believer? No matter your packing style, even the most frequent flyer can forget a trip essential now and again. To prepare for your next international trip, here are the five travel essentials I never leave the country without.
A Valid Passport
Packing your passport to travel internationally may seem obvious, but with just 42% of the US population possessing a passport, I’m not jumping to any conclusions. Plus, as a passport carrier, there are some important stipulations you should know. For starters, keep an eye on your passport’s expiration date. Many countries require six months of validity upon arrival; a number of others require anywhere between one month and four months, with a remaining few allowing you to visit their country right up until the expiration date.
Next, always do your visa research. Every country differs in its visa requirements, and a valid passport doesn’t always equate to guaranteed entry. Americans can travel to many countries without needing a visa for their trip, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes travelers may need to purchase a short-term visa at the point of entry; other times, you must apply for one well ahead of time. Variables such as the nationality of your passport, trip length, whether you will leave the airport, the nature of your trip, your point of entry, the areas you will be visiting and possessing a return ticket can all impact your ability to enter a country or need for a visa.
Finally, passport holders will want to double-check their status with the IRS. Earlier this year, the IRS began implementing new provisions of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The FAST Act requires the IRS to notify the State Department of taxpayers owing a seriously delinquent tax debt. It also requires the State Department to deny their passport application or deny renewal of their passport. In some cases, the State Department may even revoke a passport. Who does this new act apply to? Taxpayers affected by this law are those who owe the IRS more than $51,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest for which the IRS has filed a Notice of Federal Tax Lien and the period to challenge it has expired or the IRS has issued a levy.
Travel Credit Card
I signed up for my first travel credit card a couple of years ago. At the time, my primary goal for applying was to once and for all avoid pesky foreign transaction fees. Secondly, it was time to get serious about my points game. I chose the Chase Sapphire Reserve for its generous sign-up bonus, 3x points earned for travel and dining, and complimentary Global Entry and TSA PreCheck membership. I call out these benefits specifically because they align to my individual travel style and rewards goals. The CSR also comes with a hefty annual fee, so it’s not for everyone. The good news is: there are a number of great travel credit cards out there. If you prioritize spending your money on travel like I do, I recommend checking out the variety of cards available and finding one that aligns to your rewards goals.
Despite the convenience of travel credit cards, I don’t leave for an international trip without a modest supply of my destination’s currency. Whether I use it for tipping, cab rides, or street vendors, having cash on-hand makes traveling abroad that much more seamless and stress-free. Plus, in some countries, like Cuba, you can’t swipe an American credit or debit card at all—so changing to the local currency and carrying cash is your only way to go.
Not sure where to change your currency? There are a number of options here. To start, many banks allow you to order foreign currency at a banking center if you’re a customer. You can also visit a foreign currency exchange—either before you head to the airport, or you can visit a kiosk in the airport, as well. Some currencies, such as the Moroccan dirham, aren’t available outside of their respective countries, so you don’t have a choice but to exchange your currency when you arrive at your destination. Bear in mind that each of these options charge a fee per transaction. Try to take out exactly what you anticipate you’ll need to avoid multiple withdrawal fees and/or losing money on converting foreign currency back to your local currency once your trip is done.
Outlet Adapters and Power Converters
If you’ve ever watched the 2003 rom-com Just Married with Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy, you will recall the scene when the duo shut down the entire town’s power by forcing an American plug into a European outlet. To avoid getting kicked out of your luxury accommodations or, the more likely scenario—frying your electronics—pack the appropriate outlet adapters and power converters for your destination(s). You can find them in major retailers like Target or Best Buy, as well as most airport convenience stores.
Not familiar with the difference between the two? Outlet adapters act as a conduit to allow you to plug your dual-voltage appliance into the wall outlet of another country. They do not convert electricity; that’s what power converters are for. Power converters step up or down the voltage and should only be used with electronics that are simple heating devices or have mechanical motors. These include hair dryers, curling irons, shavers, or electric toothbrushes. Converters are not designed for continuous use (or to be constantly plugged in) and should only be used for an hour or two at a time.
Skyroam Global Wi-Fi Hotspot
There’s a time and a place for going completely off the grid, but doing so is not always feasible or even desirable—especially if you’re a business traveler or digital nomad. If you’re traveling internationally and need a means of staying online at all times, a Skyroam hotspot should round out your top five travel essentials.
If you’ve never connected to a personal Wi-Fi hotspot before, this device is incredibly easy to use and connect to. Skyroam gives you unlimited 4G LTE data in over 120 countries without the need for a SIM card or data plan. You can rent or purchase a device, then either pay a daily flat fee for 24 hours of Wi-Fi access or sign-up for a monthly subscription. The Skyroam Solis also doubles as a portable battery pack for charging your phone—so if you were worried about lugging a number of accessories around, the folks at Skyroam are already one step ahead of you.
One last tip: Pair your phone and other devices (you can connect up to five!) to the hotspot before leaving for your trip. This will ensure you’re connected from the moment your plane touches down. With Skyroam, your Instagram Story won’t skip a beat!
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