For vacationers who love to travel, few things are as exciting as planning an international trip. Researching the local culture or dreaming about delectable new cuisines are exciting parts of the trip – next to the actual trip of course. True die-hard travelers even enjoy packing (tip for everyone else: befriend these people and let them pack for you).

When going abroad, packing and planning ahead is critical. Finding an unexpected cost or itinerary hiccup can ruin an otherwise fabulous trip. Fortunately, by making a simple checklist, you can avoid any problems and focus on enjoying the destination.

Passport check

Here’s a question a lot of people don’t consider until it’s too late: when does your passport expire? If you don’t travel a lot, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about this, but passport expiration dates are real and enforced. Make sure you give yourself a lot of lead time as well. In many cases, the normal process of getting a new passport can take months. Express services might be available, but you’ll pay a price for it.

Likewise, some countries won’t let you enter if yours expires in the next six months. They want to ensure you’ll be able to re-enter the U.S. if you get stuck in their country for some reason. Don’t let the clock tick down on your expiration date.

Pack light

It may sound obvious, but a light suitcase will make your life abroad so much easier. If you plan on walking any amount of distance, a heavy bag will quickly become an unwanted chore and distraction. Choose multi-purpose outfits and perhaps even do laundry while on your trip. As for amenities, focus on the essentials. Items like toothbrushes, contact solution, and deodorant are must-haves that are also compact. Additionally, don’t forget that outlets are different in most countries. By bringing a good 220 volt 110 conversion set up, you’ll be able to plug in your cell phone charger and other electronics in most places.

Cash and credit

A common question among would-be international travelers is, “Do I bring cash or credit cards?” Perhaps the best strategy is to use both. Converting your cash ahead of time in the U.S. means you’ll avoid potentially huge fees for using an ATM abroad. On the other hand, you probably don’t want to carry large sums of money in your pockets. By contrast, credit cards allow you to travel light and offer great exchange rates. The downside is that some companies may hit you up with a hefty transaction fee. Your best bet? Research no-fee cards for traveling, and use a combination of credit (for big purchases) and cash (for smaller, local transactions). The added benefit is security. If for some reason your credit card gets declined or stolen, you won’t necessarily have to withdraw cash at a local bank, while absorbing all of the mind-boggling fees.