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Written by: Byron Edgington
Date: September 7, 2016

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My wife and I recently relocated to the Republic of Panama. We became expats for a number of reasons. On our fixed income, we needed a place to call home that allows sufficient discretionary income for us to travel.

The travel bug is a common ailment of older, retired folks, and we’re no different.  We have a long and growing list of places we intend to visit.

My role these days is taking care of the right-brain stuff—discovering artifacts of interest, stories behind the stories of our destinations, people, cultural aspects and intriguing insights, and photographing, reviewing and writing about them.

Mariah’s task is the left-brain part—identifying and securing travel bargains, price reductions and credit card bonuses in the form of airline miles and free flight options from several sites, such as www.thepointsguy.com.  She’s very good at her role.  Our latest trip to Panama City, for example, cost us only taxes and airport fees. The hobby is fun, lucrative and satisfying. We’re making trips, anyway; why not save money as we go?

For both hemispheres of our brains we’ve had to create a checklist for every facet of a trip so we don’t arrive in Copenhagen without phone chargers, Bali without sunblock or, heaven forbid, Paris without a passport. Here’s a short version of what we scratch off our list before schlepping through the TSA line:

  1. Passports/visas/ID cards/medical docs. We have a packet necklace to ease the security check and keep documents visible. Note: If you travel with children, (16 and under) make sure they have ID papers, and you may need documentation of custody or written consent from a parent for them to travel with you. Traveling with pets, you’ll need required rabies and/or other proof of inoculation. Note 2: Never pack travel documents in checked baggage. If the airline offers to check your carry-on at the gate, take out passports, ID cards, keys, electronics, meds and financial data.
  2. Minimal toiletry items: If you forget toothpaste or a brush, ask the hotel for a free replacement. Airbnb may not have this feature, but large hotels will.
  3. Sturdy yet comfortable shoes and dry-overnight socks.  Don’t wear new shoes on a trip. Break them in first. We’ve acquired items that can be hand-washed and dried overnight, thus minimizing baggage space.  We try to carry on only, no checked bags if possible.
  4. Prescription meds to last the trip, plus extra for unforeseen delays. Take written scrips with you, and documentation of any medical implants that may set off TSA alarm bells.  Note: Some foreign governments require written scrips for drugs brought into the country, and medicines must be in the original container. Note: Bringing foreign sold/acquired/manufactured medications into the U.S. is prohibited by law.
  5. Contact info: In an emergency, who should be notified, and how? If you acquire travel insurance, do you know the contract number & stipulations? Here’s a tip: take a picture of documents, passport, visas and other essential documents with your smart phone. Don’t include financial and/or password data in case the phone is lost or stolen, and add an I.C.E. ‘In Case of Emergency’ number to your phone.
  6. Voltage adapter: A lot of countries use 220 volts rather than the U.S. standard 110 volts. Adapters are hard to find abroad, so be prepared.
  7. Check state department notices/warnings/health precautions for your destination.  Be aware of exchange rates, and obtain a small amount of local currency before traveling. Know the contact info for the U.S. embassy, and put it in your phone. Source: www.travel.state.gov.

That’s a bare-bones traveling checklist. Yours will be different, and will depend on the destination, duration of the trip and personal needs, but it’s a start. Next time I’ll provide a checklist for easing your way through the airport—tips from my 40-year career in aviation, plus the latest inside info on TSA pre-check procedures and the Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) program called Global Entry.

Stay tuned.