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International Travel Checklist

Vital Documents for Travel Abroad

Last Updated: May 08, 2024

Key Takeaways:

  • Be prepared with the correct identification for transit and legal situations.
  • Ensure your wishes are known and respected internationally with an estate plan and consent forms if needed.
  • Secure insurance and create emergency plans with essential contacts to make your trip smoother.

All trips require planning, but many people don’t know that international travel takes more preparation to ensure you’re safe and ready for any outcome.
Don’t be one of the many people who forget some of the most essential documents and preparations for international travel. Doing so can delay your trip or stop it altogether.
This international travel document checklist will help you prepare the documents needed to give you peace of mind while visiting another country.

1. Passports and travel permits

When traveling abroad, you’ll first need the proper documentation to enter a foreign country. These documents are necessary to have before you leave, and some are even essential for your return home.
  • A valid passport certifies your identity and nationality. If you’re traveling with children, no matter their age, they’ll also need a valid passport. To help make your travels smoother, always check the passport requirements for your destination. For example, some European destinations require your passport to be valid for at least six months.
  • A travel or entry visa may be necessary, depending on your destination. Countries have different entry requirements and security clearance protocols. For example, U.S. tourists visiting Australia need either a visa or an Electronic Travel Authority to enter the country. Check your destination before booking your flight to ensure you receive everyone’s visa on time for your holiday.

Other identification

While your passport is a primary document for traveling abroad, it’s important to have secondary pieces of ID.
Additional proof of identity might be crucial if your passport is lost or stolen. What’s more, some airlines or countries require travelers to carry a form of personal ID other than a passport. Consider bringing:
  • A valid photo ID to use as an extra form of identification. This way, you’re not relying on your passport, reducing the risk of it being lost or stolen.
  • An international driving permit, as not all countries may recognize your license.
  • A valid student ID, if you’re a student. Some places, especially cities with universities, may offer student discounts on tourist attractions or services.
As you’re prepping your entry documents, it’s essential to consider how different cultures may treat you because of your identity. Look at international travel advisories for current travel alerts, warnings, and any safety concerns for groups like women, LGBTQI+, and more.

2. Estate planning documents

While often overlooked in the excitement of planning a trip, estate planning documents should be a priority for travelers going abroad.
Travel inherently carries risks, including accidents, illnesses, or other unforeseen events that can lead to serious injury or death.
As such, these documents are crucial for ensuring your affairs are in order if anything happens to you on your trip.
These estate planning documents can alleviate the burden on your loved ones by providing clear guidance and the legal authority to act on your behalf:
  • A Last Will and Testament outlines your wishes for the guardianship of any dependent children and the division of your assets when you pass away. You can also appoint an executor to manage your estate. Many people create a Will before traveling to give themselves and their families peace of mind.
  • A Power of Attorney can give someone the authority to be your representative in financial, legal, business, and real estate decisions while you’re away. For example, if you’re a landlord, you may need someone to manage a property or to collect rent payments.
  • A Living Will outlines personal medical care preferences. Use this document to appoint a representative to speak for you if you become incapacitated. This may be particularly helpful if you’re in a country with different medical practices or legal standards. A Living Will is also known as a medical power of attorney or health care directive.

It’s good practice to leave your estate planning documents with someone you trust in case they need them while you’re gone.

Also, you must inform the proper people and organizations (e.g., your bank, tenants, real estate agents, etc.) that you have an active Power of Attorney and that your representative will manage things while you’re on holiday.

Consent forms play a crucial role in ensuring safety, legal compliance, and peace of mind for international travelers — especially regarding minors.
These documents can address various scenarios that could arise during travel, giving clear instructions or permissions that may be required by foreign authorities, medical professionals, or emergency responders.
  • A Child Travel Consent form is a document that is essential when traveling with children. Many countries require adults traveling with minors who aren't their children (or even when one parent is absent) to have a consent letter to prevent child abduction. Even if it's not required, having one usually facilitates smoother border crossings. Plus, it contains the contact information of the child's guardians, which may be needed in emergency situations.
  • A Child Medical Consent form authorizes a temporary guardian to make medical decisions on their parents’ behalf. Some countries may require such documentation before allowing an accompanying adult to consent to medical care. Plus, this form offers reassurance to families separated by international borders because it helps ensure a child receives medical attention without delay.

4. Insurance for traveling abroad

Like your estate planning, getting proper insurance prepares you for any potential incidents on your trip.
Trip cancellations, emergency health care, or even repatriation (i.e., bringing you back home) can carry extremely high costs. Currently, the U.S. government doesn’t offer insurance coverage overseas. Medicare and Medicaid don’t cover any medical costs you incur while out of the country.
If you have another insurance provider, check their coverage for theft, loss, or damage of personal items while on vacation.
The types of insurance to keep you covered include:
  • Travel Insurance to help cover flight cancellations, delays, or lost luggage. These interruptions are beyond your control. You can be reimbursed for otherwise non-refundable expenses with the right travel insurance.
  • Medical insurance to help cover costs should an emergency occur or someone falls ill on your trip. You can even tailor your coverage if you’re an adventurous traveler going on risky excursions.

Keep a copy of your policies on hand to show proof of insurance or make any claims during your trip.

5. Emergency plans

It’s important to let someone know you’re traveling. Giving a family member or someone you trust your contact details and itinerary can help them reach you if there’s an issue at home. They can also be sure to provide authorities with the correct information if they’re concerned about your well-being.
These documents can outline clear instructions and provide vital details for emergencies during your travels:
  • An Emergency Plan outlines actions to take in case of an emergency or natural disaster. Your plan lists the location of legal documents, contracts, and actionable steps for anyone in charge of your home during your vacation. This document lets family or friends know the location of items like emergency kits and contact numbers. It also gives them directions for situations that may require sheltering in place or evacuation.
  • Just-In-Case Instructions compiles your personal, legal, and financial information in one document. These instructions can assist anyone caring for your home by giving instructions like pet care and property management. It can also be a valuable list for anyone handling your personal affairs, like the executor of your Will. Your instructions and Emergency Plan can be left with a loved one or your attorney-in-fact.
  • An Essential Contacts Sheet with addresses, emails, and phone numbers of the resources that can aid your trip abroad. For instance, this can include details of the local U.S. embassy, 911 equivalent numbers, and other helpful travel and accommodation details.
  • An End-of-Life Plan includes how you wish your remains to be handled should you pass away during your travels. It also details your wishes for a service and burial. You should have this document with you and save a copy with your Will to ensure caretakers follow your wishes.
Additionally, give your itinerary to your bank and credit card company. Giving them your trip details can help them detect fraud and keep your accounts unblocked for purchases abroad. Having access to your money may be required for emergencies like a last-minute flight home or car rental.

It’s strongly recommended that you inform the State Department you’re traveling internationally. Informing the government allows officials to assist citizens abroad in case of a natural disaster, emergency, or other crisis.

6. Preparation and compliance papers

Ensure your trip goes smoothly by familiarizing yourself with your destination’s expectations, including customs, laws, currency, and health requirements. This preparation will enhance your travel experience and show respect to local residents.
Consider bringing these critical items:
  • A Prescription Letter from your doctor detailing your medications can help avoid legal issues at customs.
  • Translation apps and travel guides will help you navigate language barriers effectively.
  • Local currency is suitable for small expenses where digital payments may not be accepted, as well as any emergency spending.
  • Vaccination cards may be needed to meet entry and health requirements.
Additionally, if you’re traveling with your family pet, you’ll need the correct vaccinations and paperwork. These requirements vary depending on where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and the type of pet you’re bringing with you. You should also consult the CDC before returning home with your pet.

7. Tips for securing your documents

Remember to check the legal requirements of your destination regarding document originality. You should also ensure your documents are easily accessible but securely stored during your travels.
Though you’ll need the original version of documents like your passport, visa, and consent forms, it’s wise to have digital or physical copies in case of loss or theft.
What’s more, it’s crucial to keep copies of your estate planning documents stored securely online. LawDepot offers our online Estate Vault to secure your estate planning once you create your documents. Our service allows you to give someone you trust access to your files. This can be your attorney-in-fact or a family member. Being able to quickly access your plans if something goes missing or there's an emergency will save them time and stress.
Now, you’ve got everything prepped. Well done!
With careful attention to the documents you prepare and carry with you on your travels, you can finally focus on the enriching experiences ahead.