Date published: Monday, July 20, 2009
NEA Member Benefits
Passport and Visas
Most countries require that your passport be valid 6 months after your return date. Check the expiration date of your passport and if you need to renew, go here to find your nearest passport facility. Allow up to 6 weeks for the passport application to be processed. If you need the passport more immediately, use the expedited service for an extra fee and receive your passport in 2-3 weeks.
Check the U.S. Department of State’s Country Specific Information to learn important facts about your destination. Here you will find out if you need a Visa and where to get it, as well as other important details on crime, special circumstances, medical information and more.
Make a photocopy of the information page of your passport and the Visa page(s) for your destination(s) and pack them separately from your passport.
Travel Warnings and Advisories
Check if the U.S. government has issued a travel warning, for countries where long-term issues create a risky environment for travelers, or a travel alert, for countries with short-term conditions that may pose a threat to travelers, for your destination. Many travel insurance policies will not cover travel to countries that are under travel warnings.
Vaccinations and Prescriptions
Go to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website to find out health information and vaccination requirements for your destination. For maximum protection, shots should be received 6 weeks before departure. If you are traveling to a country where disease is rampant, consult a travel medicine professional. The CDC website is also a good source of information on the health risks of consuming the water and food, nonprescription items to take with you and other health tips.
Check the “Confiscation of Prescription Drugs and Other Medicine” on the U.S. Department of State’s Country Specific Information site to see which prescription drugs are illegal in your destination country.
Bring photocopies of your prescriptions, packed separately from your medicine, and note the generic drug name. Always pack your medicine, in its prescription bottles, in your carry-on. If you need to use syringes, make sure that you have a letter from your doctor. Always declare the syringes before you go through security. Bring more than enough medicine to last your trip, as it may be difficult to get your prescription filled abroad.
Register Your Trip
Sign in online with the U.S. Department of State and enter your itinerary. In case of an emergency, the U.S. government will know about your presence in the country and where to contact you. Also, if specified that your travel information can be shared with third parties, your family and friends can contact the Department of State to locate you should the need arise. Registration is free.
Choose 1 or 2 credit cards to take with you and call the issuers shortly before you leave to inform them of which countries you will be visiting. Otherwise your credit card could be denied, as the issuer may find the international activity suspicious.
Traveler’s checks are no longer universally accepted, and you may have trouble using them in many countries, especially the less developed ones. Instead, use your bankcard to withdraw money from ATMs, which can be found in even the most exotic destinations. Memorize the numeric PIN code, as many ATM keypads will not display roman letters, or they may be placed differently. Generally, your most favorable exchange rate will be through the ATM, though most companies will charge a transaction fee.
Record your credit card numbers and keep separately from your wallet. Know how to contact your company from abroad. Toll-free numbers do not work from outside the U.S., but credit card companies will accept collect calls at a designated number.
It is likely that your health insurance will not cover you while you are abroad. Depending on where you are going, consider buying medical evacuation and emergency medical insurance. Also, if your trip requires a large down payment or is booked many months in advance, trip interruption and cancellation insurance provides valuable protection from the unexpected.
Other than the necessary electronics, do not bring valuables with you. Expensive jewelry could attract thieves who are experts at targeting tourists. Always travel with your valuables in your carry-on and keep them in the hotel safe.
Empty your wallet of unnecessary items, like credit cards that you will not use, before you leave.
If you wear prescription glasses, pack an extra pair.
Use closed baggage tags to label each bag. Put your name, address and telephone number both inside and outside your luggage.
Buy Transportation Security Administration approved locks and always keep your luggage locked. Check, though, to see if you can send your locked bags on in-country flights; TSA locks may not be recognized and could be cut to inspect your bags. Never put valuables in your checked luggage, and check carefully after going through security to ensure that all of your valuables are still in your carry-on.
Know Before You Go
As educators, you know that studying up is the best way to be prepared. The more you know about the history and customs of your destination countries, the more you will enjoy and benefit from your journey. Do not bring shorts, miniskirts and tank tops if you are going to a conservative country. If you are going to a place where you will have to take your shoes off frequently to enter tourist sites, pack slip on shoes. Know who to tip and how much. Learn how to say simple phrases in the language, like “thank you” and “good morning.” A little effort goes a long way.