Next summer’s mission trip abroad will be much more successful and enjoyable if you start planning right now, and follow a careful timeline. Travelers who plan ahead and allow sufficient time for paperwork to be processed find fewer inconveniences and unwelcome surprises along the way.
For best preparation, follow this timeline to get ready for your trip.
Six to nine months ahead
Book air travel: This is the time to confirm your travel details with your destination office. Contact Ministry Travel so we can obtain the best airfare and other rates for your group. Discuss your needs for travel insurance with your agent.
Pay deposits: Your agent will provide specific details for your group, but deposits will be required not long after reservations are made. Refund terms vary depending on whether payment was made by check or credit card.
Review visa requirements: Your Ministry Travel agent will advise you how to determine the visa requirements for the country or countries you plan to visit, and assist you in obtaining any necessary documents.
Determine immunization requirements: Check with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out the most current immunization requirements for the country or countries you plan to visit. Then, receive the required immunizations. Check with your physician about whether you should update your tetanus, polio and other standard vaccines as well. Obtain proof of all immunizations for the visa process.
The CDC provides information and printable forms for recording what vaccines were received and when.
Four to six months ahead
Apply for visas. Complete visa applications and gather signed passports and photos for submission. The U.S. State Department’s website provides detailed visa information, searchable by country.
Two to three months ahead
Submit final list of travel group. The airline will want a final list of the members of your group several months before departure. This will vary depending on the destination and the airline. Also, remember that the names on the list must be identical to the names on their passports.
Update group members. This is the time to remind fellow travelers of the due date for the balance of the trip expense and the final amount due. Double check the names on tickets and itineraries for accuracy, and contact us at Ministry Travel if there are any discrepancies. Also, if you have not bought travel insurance for this trip, you may still do so. Your agent can explain the various options available to you.
Consider baggage regulations. Check with your airline or agent about current baggage rules and regulations. You need to know what is allowed for free and what additional baggage charges will be. In addition, it’s good to know about restrictions on imports, so you don’t bring anything with you that is not allowed into the country you are visiting.
Two weeks ahead
Check in with field office. This is the time to check with those at your destination about who is meeting your group at the airport, and obtain phone numbers for your contacts there, in case of emergency. In a safe place, record the addresses and phone numbers of the American embassies or consulates in the nations you are visiting. You can find a list here.
Double check credentials. It’s important to make sure everyone in your group has passport and visas, plane tickets, immunization records, a copy of the passport in case of loss or theft, and any applicable missionary credentials.
One week ahead
Secure transportation to the airport. Make sure your plans allow adequate time for traffic delays and airline check-in — note that international flight check-in takes longer than domestic check-in — and adequate space in the vehicles for everyone’s luggage.
Three days ahead
Confirm flight plans. Call the airlines to confirm flights for departure and return.
Day of departure
Final credential check: Before heading to the airport, make sure every passenger has his or her airline tickets, passport, visas, medical documentation and other necessary credentials for foreign travel. Check to see that all luggage is properly identified.