This is the second post in our series aimed at families spending any significant amount of time abroad. Last time, we shared about the topic that receives the most attention for anyone considering such a move: money. [Read Money Tips for U.S. Families Abroad] This time around, we’ll take a step back and look at a list of general items to consider before leaving the United States.
Scan or take photos of important documents, like passports, drivers’ licenses, birth certificates, kids’ school records, medical reports, and tax documents, so you’ll have access from wherever you go but won’t have to carry paper. Store the originals in a plastic container (that won’t be affected by moisture, cold, or heat), in the home of a trusted family member or friend.
If you don’t already have cloud storage, consider getting a free Dropbox account so you can store those important files on your personal computer plus on a secure server that is backed up and protected. Dropbox takes care of all the syncing, so all you have to do is put the files in a specific folder (from your computer or mobile device), and then they are accessible from anywhere you travel (using your personal login credentials). Use this link to sign up and we both get extra free storage space: Get Dropbox.
Check your medical insurance policy to see what — if any — sort of coverage you have while traveling. If you will be overseas for more than 6 months in a 12 month period, consider purchasing global coverage from a company like Azimuth Risk Solutions: www.azimuthrisk.com or Cigna Global. For shorter trips, look into travel insurance through a credit card or travel club.
Also, consider medical evacuation insurance if you plan to be in an area without quality medical care. You can purchase it separately, but first check to see if any of your credit cards or insurance policies already offer it. For example, the American Express Platinum card we got for our time in Nicaragua offers a great medical evacuation policy as part of the card benefits. They will pay for any family member to be transported to a U.S. hospital, in the event of an emergency that can’t be treated locally. (Here’s that link again to apply for this card: http://amex.co/1olAZeQ).
Physicals & Prescriptions
Speaking of medical insurance, schedule a physical for each family member a few weeks before you plan to depart, to allow time for any follow-up care that might be necessary. Discuss your travel plans with your doctor and ask for extended dosing of prescriptions. For example, if you take thyroid medication daily, ask for 180 or 365 days worth in a single script. Most likely your health insurance won’t cover a year’s worth at a time, but shop around because you may find a pharmacy that will give you a discount for buying a large quality of a generic option. This will give you peace of mind when traveling, as well as plenty of time to see if the medication is available in your new home.
Decide where your U.S. mail with go, such as to the home of a family member or trusted friend. File a change of address notice with the post office, to route your mail to the new location appropriately. Discontinue all magazines. Contact anyone who regularly sends you mail — including banks and credit card companies — to ask that you be placed on “electronic correspondence only.” If you have doctors or others who typically send “reminder notices,” don’t forget to contact them as well.
Speed Through Immigration
If you plan to travel back and forth more than once or twice a year, consider signing up for Global Entry (http://www.globalentry.gov/). This will allow you to be pre-approved for expedited clearance through immigration at all U.S. borders. Note that the American Express Platinum card (which I already told you is great for travelers 🙂 reimburses for the $100 application fee! (Here’s that link again to apply for this card: http://amex.co/1olAZeQ).
That’s it for now. If you have specific questions for us, please don’t hesitate to ask!
* Photo courtesy of Flikr