I briefly emerged from my book-writing stupor-cocoon to find this amazing submission in the inbox, courtesy of Jill. I am pretty positive enacting these steps will instantly prevent up to 72 percent of all international traveler headaches. They’re just so damned grown-up. Anyway. Jill?
So I live in China now, along with like 380,859,583 other foreigners, and these are my tried and true overseas adult moves.
1. Get a passport wallet, one that can handle your passport, money, driver’s license, etc. It makes going through multiple security checkpoints much faster.
2. Make a color-photo scan of all your important documents (visas, passports, degrees, etc). Save these scans somewhere online, as well as in something you can carry with you (iphone, for example), and keep them locked. You never know when you need your papers (in China right now, cops have been checking everyone’s), and in most cases a scan is just fine. Phones are easy to replace, your passport is not.
3. Make a word document up that holds all your contact info, for everything from cable provider to doctor. If you have multiple emails/blogs, include those AND passwords. Leave this document with someone you trust with EVERYTHING (spouse, bestie). In this case, my mother, ha. It is much easier for someone stateside to call Comcast and yell at them for a false HBO charge than it is for you to do it at 4 a.m. over your Skype phone.
4. Contact your doctor(s), and have a copy of your medical files released to you. Bring copies of this with you. See if your insurance will work overseas, and hit that up too.
5. Contact your bank and let them know you’re going overseas and charges will be happening. Also send them a letter! Because maybe you’ll be in Hong Kong and someone won’t read the verbal memo you just left, and you will have to live off 10 dollars US for two days.
6. Talk to your phone company! See if your phone can go international, what prices for roaming are, etc.—then get that in writing. It’ll be useful.
7. Does your credit card/debit card have frequent flier miles? No? GET SOME. They’re awesome. Do you have AAA? See what discounts they have.
8. Look into cultural norms of where you’re moving to, and bring along appropriate gifts—or learn to say a few things, if you don’t already know the language. People will love you for trying.
9. Dress nicely for the plane. This has ALWAYS paid off for me, as people tend to be nicer to people they perceive as return flyers (business people). Also, know the rules of the airport; I find getting my bag o’ okayed liquids/laptop/shoes off while still in line makes that awkward security scan go a lot faster. I keep my belt/jewelry in a small bag that I keep in my carryon UNTIL I get through security.
10. Bring clothes to change into on the plane! When you fly 16 hours, you get out of the plane feeling like death. If you change into your pjs halfway through (brushing teeth, washing face, etc), then do a morning change and groom, you feel a lot better. This is especially useful if your office mates are the ones picking you up at the airport and you have to be a human that day. Just be quick — don’t be that guy who takes up the bathroom stall on the plane for an hour. (Bonus points: you get to walk around the plane, which you should do anyway)
11. Don’t be a dick. Everything can and probably will go wrong in some way while traveling. If you are calm, nice, and respectful of every service person you meet, things will work out for you. Promise.