Setting off on a journey that will take you away from American soil can be an extremely exciting experience. You will likely come in contact with new cultures, religions, lifestyles, languages and even weather. With so much to see and do, who wants to waste time worrying?

To help make your overseas travel experience smoother, we’ve compiled five great suggestions for things you can do before you even leave your house.

Check for Travel Advisories

We often hear about the big stories that make the news, but there are many other conflicts hat do not get covered by mainstream media. For this reason, it’s a good idea to go to the official Consular Affairs website (travel.state.gov) to get the latest on what is actually happen around the world.

Get Vaccinated

Some areas have illnesses and diseases that we are rarely exposed to in North America. For example, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B are quite prevalent in some corners of the globe and simply having a drink containing contaminated ice cubes can put you at risk. Talk to someone at a local travel clinic about your planned destination. They will be able to tell you if you need to be vaccinated. Do it well in advance, if possible.  Some immunizations need to be given in a series of doses which can take a couple weeks.

Learn Local Laws/Customs

Many foreigners make the mistake of assuming that things that are legal/illegal in the States are the same elsewhere. It’s tragic when someone is arrested or imprisoned for a crime that they didn’t intend to commit. Take some time to learn about the laws and customs before you arrive at your destination.

Travel Insurance

There are several options for obtaining travel insurance. Many online booking sites allow you to add coverage at the time of booking but, often, you will be unable to have in-depth information about the policy. It is a good idea to have something that will include emergency medical coverage.  If in doubt, a travel agent should be able to provide some guidance.

Have a Back-Up Plan

Natural disasters and unexpected events happen every day. Of course, there is no way to plan thoroughly for every situation but it is a good idea to have a contingency plan, if needed.  Many of us don’t have limitless disposable cash but traveling abroad with just enough money for the trip is a bad idea. If you know people in the area where you are traveling, ask if you could come to them in the event of an emergency. It could also help to know where any local shelters are located.

When you save up enough money to embark on an international adventure, a little planning in advance can allow you to skip the worry and spend your time having fun.