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Pre-Trip Checklist

This is our broad list of reminders leading up to the departure for your project. For more detailed information, click on the links within each section below.

If you have suggestions for other items, please contact us.

Three Months Before Leaving

Research the Country. Check out information at our Country Guide. For weather information, check out the Washington Post Weather Database. For aviation safety in your project country, go to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) International Aviation Safety Assessment site.

Immunizations. Check disease precautions and required immunizations at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. You may also want to check other resources listed on Pre-Trip Health.

Insurance. Review your policies as well as any coverage provided by the field organization. Consider purchasing additional coverage. See our Insurance discussion.

Shipping. Decide if anything needs to be shipped to your project location in advance. Allow sufficient time for transportation.

Passport, Visas, and Customs. Will your passport expire while you are abroad? See our discussion of Passports, Visas, and Customs.

One Month Before Leaving

Gifts. Determine what gifts you may want to bring. See our Gifts discussion.

Currency. Become familiar with the currency and prevailing exchange rates at your destination. Decide how much currency you'll need to exchange prior to departing. For long projects, you might consider setting up a basic bank account at a bank of your destination country that has a branch in your home country.

Guidebooks. Select travel guide books, maps, and language phrase books. Consider their size and weight, and what you will really need on the trip.

Medical. Consider making any doctor, dentist, chiropractor, etc. visits prior to your trip. Purchase sufficient supplies of prescription and non-prescription medications. Retain copies of written prescriptions for as many medications as possible.

Adapters. Consider the adapters, converters and related devices you may need.

International Driver's License. If you are planning on driving, an international driver's license will be useful. (see Should I Drive? for safety considerations). International driver's licenses are typically issued by an automotive association in your home country. The Automobile Association of America (the “triple-A”) issues them to US drivers, and the Canadian Automobile Association (the CAA) issues them for Canadian drivers.

Camera. Replace the batteries and purchase fresh spare batteries for your camera. If your camera is new or you have not used it in a while, shoot and develop a test roll of film.

Phone Service. Contact your telephone service provider to determine how to access their network from within your destination country. They may be able to give you a local phone number from within your destination country which will allow you to dial numbers in your home country directly. Also, check what service plans they have. Many have “global” plans which provide discounted rates using their network, for a small monthly fee.

E-Mail Setup. Contact your ISP or on-line service and figure out the best way to handle E-Mail and Internet access. See The Home Front. To keep in touch with our friends back home, we compose a general E-Mail every two weeks or so and do a group mailing. If you plan on having E-Mail access and will also have access to your address book, you can assemble a “group” of E-Mail addresses so you can just E-Mail to the “group.” Note that some ISPs have limits on the number of recipients in a group (50 addresses is a common limit). You may need to create several groups.

Language. Learn to say a few words in the language of your destination country. Even if they know your native language, learning to at least say hello in their language is a great ice-breaker.

One Week Before Leaving

Insurance. Change your car, house, and other insurance policies, if appropriate.

Home arrangements. Make arrangements for newspapers, garbage pickup, magazine subscriptions, and your mail, as necessary.

Embassy or Consulate Address. Note the contact information for your home country's embassy or consulate in your destination countries. The U.S. State Department Embassy List links to this information for all U.S. embassies, consulates, and missions in other countries.

Itinerary. Make up an itinerary with as many dates, names, addresses, and phone numbers as possible. Leave it with some friends or family members, so that they can contact you in case of emergency.

Travel Documents. Make two copies of your important travel documents (passport, visas, plane tickets, etc.) as well as credit card numbers and travelers’ check serial numbers. Carry one copy with you, but separate from the actual documents. Leave the other copy with a friend or family member.

Immediately Before Leaving

Answering Machine Messages. Change them, as appropriate.

House water and electrical. Shut them down, as appropriate. We unplug many electrical appliances to reduce the possibility of damage from lightning strikes.
 

 

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