Checklist for International Travel

by | Sep 21, 2017 | Travel Tips | 12 comments

My niece did the CN Tower EdgeWalk this week

This is one trip that I do not need to prepare for, because I am NEVER going to do it.


If you want to take this trip, here is the link to plan it:


This is quite the view for the Blue Jays baseball game


I am not doing the EdgeWalk, ever. I am, however, planning a trip. We are leaving for Australia and New Zealand in two weeks.

After many international trips, you would think that I have a handy checklist of everything to do before a trip. I don’t. I am writing it now, for the first time.

Checklist for International Trips:

Passport: What is the expiry date on your passport?

I learned the hard way that some countries require your passport to be valid for six months after the date of departure from that country. We were at the Toronto airport, ready to fly to Singapore. Our trip was only seven days, including travel time. The agent at the check-in desk examined my passport. My passport was not expired. It was valid for the complete duration of our 7-day trip. It was due to expire in 5 months. The agent said that I could not board the flight because my passport was not valid for 6 months after our departure from Singapore.

One of us could fly and one of us could not. What would you do? We were torn. Should we both abandon the trip? Should Norman go alone? Was there any point in trying to get a passport and taking a later flight? Flying half-way around the world and back in seven days seemed too short. Now my trip would be even shorter. After adjusting to the shock that I could not go, I told Norman to go ahead and I would try to get a new passport and fly later.

Norman walked through the departure gate and I hauled my bag back through the airport and took a cab to the passport office. I am lucky that there is a passport office in Toronto. When I explained my situation to the passport clerk, he said that he could issue a new passport if I completed everything on the application, including a new photo. I was not exactly camera-ready but I hauled my bag to the nearest photographer. It is the absolute worst photo of me in the world. If you ever see mugs of escaped convicts, armed and dangerous, that is how I looked … and felt. However, it would do for a passport. I schlepped back to the passport office with my bag and they issued a new passport on the spot.

Four hours after I said goodbye to Norman at the airport, I had a new passport in hand. However, the airline had only one flight a day to Singapore. I had to wait until the next day to fly. I was very fortunate that the airline changed the date on my ticket, without any penalty or surcharge. It was a long flight alone, but I made it to Singapore. We had an absolutely fabulous week.

Now, I always renew my passport so that I have the new passport at least 6 months before the old one is due to expire. Since it can take up to six weeks to get a new passport, that effectively means that I apply for a new passport about 8 months before the old one expires.

Visa: Do you need a Visa?

Everyone loves Canadians. Surely I do not need a Visa for Australia, a fellow commonwealth country. Wrong! I need a visa.

All travellers, except New Zealand citizens, must obtain a visa before travelling to Australia.

Lucky for me, Norman checked this requirement. I applied online and now have a visa for the trip. Sometimes, airlines have the authority to issue tourist visas, but I am not running that risk.


Health card: Is it current?

I will be in Australia for my birthday. Isn’t that a fabulous place to celebrate? However, yesterday I remembered seeing something from Service Ontario in the stack of mail that needs to be sorted before our trip. My health card needs to be renewed before my birthday! You can guess where I was yesterday: at Service Ontario. I now have a new health card.


Travel Insurance: What insurance do you buy when you travel?

I do not buy trip-cancellation insurance. If I cannot make the flight for any reason, I stand to lose the cost of the flight. If I were to buy insurance, it would reimburse me if I miss the flight due to illness. It won’t cover me if I miss the flight for any other reason, such as no passport or no visa.

However, I always have supplemental insurance for illness while in a foreign country. Even a day trip to the United States can be a financial disaster if you require emergency medical treatment.

When I retired, I opted to purchase life-time out-of-country medical coverage for me and Norman, with no requirement for future medical check-ups. I pay a monthly premium, set up as an auto-withdrawal from our bank account. At least this is one big thing I do not need to think about before I travel.


Car Insurance: Are you renting a car?

Daily insurance on a rental car is very expensive. Some credit cards provide this insurance. Check to see if your credit card already covers rental cars in foreign countries. Also check the insurance coverage on your car at home. It usually covers rental cars with the same deductible.


Medication: Take extra

If you require any medication on your trip, take extra. Pack it in a place where you will not lose it. Carry a copy of your prescription with you.

Last year, a friend took local transportation from the airport to our house. He had three bags with him. He left one behind on the subway. That bag had his new medication for a minor ailment. He did not have a copy of the prescription. He had no meds and no prescription. He spent the first day of his vacation finding a doctor, describing the condition and getting a new prescription.


Credit cards and debit card: notify your bank and credit card providers

A few years ago, our host for a dinner in Spain was upset when her credit card was refused. She had not informed her provider to expect charges from Spain. Her card provider assumed that the charge was fraudulent and denied coverage.

Call our credit card providers a couple of days in advance to let them know of your travel plans.


Cash: carry local cash

I charge hotels and meals, but I like to use cash at local stores and markets.

When I was living and working in Indonesia a few years ago, I had no problems getting local currency in Manado, where I stayed. However, when I took a weekend trip to Bali, most of the cash machines did not work. I had to hire a cab driver to take me from machine to machine until I finally found one that spit out cash.

Cash is also great when you arrive at a foreign airport. You don’t need to search for a money machine at the airport when you are tired and jetlagged. You have money to jump into a cab. Your hotel can then direct you to nearby cash machines after you are refreshed and invigorated.


Phone: What phone plan do you need?

Plan ahead so that you are not caught by roaming charges. We are going to rent a car in New Zealand and use Norman’s phone as a GPS. We will buy a big data plan for Norman’s phone and a minimum package for my phone.


Wallet: Clean it out

Close your eyes. Picture everything in your wallet. This is what you will need to do if you lose your wallet on a trip. You will need to contact your bank and credit card providers immediately. Do you have those phone numbers?

I have a photocopier at home. It cost $49. Before I leave for Australia, I will make 2 copies of everything in my wallet. I will also make 2 copies of my passport. I will keep one copy with me (not in my wallet). I will give one copy to my son in Toronto. If worse comes to worst and I lose everything, I can get in touch with my son and have him cancel all my cards. He can tell me my passport details. This will make it easier to get a new passport. Some people recommend that you take pictures of your passport and cards and email the photos to yourself. As long as you have access to email, you can find copies of your cards and passport. Somehow, I am not comfortable with all that information in cyberspace so I will stick to my photocopy method.


Home insurance: Are you covered while you are away?

Water damage is the most common problem when people are away. Whenever we are away for more than 3 days, our insurance does not cover water damage unless we turn off the water and drain the pipes, or have someone come into the house every day.


There are lots of little things to do before leaving on a trip. Here is everything in one list:

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Health card
  • Travel insurance
  • Car insurance
  • Home insurance
  • Debit card notification
  • Credit card notification
  • Cash
  • Phone plan
  • Copies of wallet contents
  • Copies of passport
  • Clean fridge
  • Throw out garbage
  • Cancel newspapers
  • Cancel mail or arrange pickup
  • Arrange to have driveway shovelled in winter
  • Put automatic timers on some lights
  • Pay bills
  • Water plants
  • Turn down air conditioner or heat

Let me know what I should add to the list.

Now that I have my handy list, I am good to go!

Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray