by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | May 01, 2006

The main elements of your international meeting might be in place, but before you or your attendees depart for distant lands, consider the following precautions.

Read up on customs, topography, culture, weather, language phrases, legal issues, politics, etc. Study maps.
    Consult with colleagues familiar with the country, as well as internal resources such as the corporate travel department. Local information also can be gleaned from bookstore travel sections and the Internet.

Prescriptions should be filled in advance, packed in their original containers and tucked into a carry-on bag or purse. Note: Some drugs that are legal in the United States are not so in other countries, so be sure to find out if your medications can travel (the U.S. State Department’s website,, has pertinent information). Physicians advise travelers to take copies of their prescriptions with them. Bring an extra pair of glasses/contacts and a copy of your eye prescription. Also, be sure to pack your health insurance card.
    If you have not already done so, get the names and phone numbers of local hospitals and doctors (for English-speaking doctors, the local U.S. consulate can provide recommendations), and have a contingency plan for emergency procedures during the event.
    For the most up-to-date global health alerts and much valuable information on health precautions, immunizations, etc., check with the Centers for Disease Control ( and the World Health Organization (

Will your cell phone work overseas? If not, check with your carrier for other options. You also might want to consider renting a phone in the country where the event is taking place (this usually can be done at the airport) or purchasing a prepaid calling card.

Tips for packing smart could fill an entire column, but here are the main points to keep in mind: 
    * Leave all valuable jewelry behind; accessorize with costume jewelry or easy-to-pack silk scarves. 
     *Pack appropriate clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, dresses, etc., in line with local customs. 
    *Take only necessary credit cards and, if you’ll be driving during the trip, your license; leave the other contents of your wallet at home. 
    *Put ID information inside and outside all luggage.

In general, ATMs offer the best conversion rates. If you want to have some cash on hand when you arrive, convert just enough dollars to cover a light meal and cab fare from the airport to your hotel before you leave the United States.
    Rely on ATM and credit cards or traveler’s checks for the rest. Remember to stash US$20-$100 somewhere safe in your hand-carry luggage for your return.

Be sure to keep the following in your carry-on bag or purse: passport, visa, traveler’s checks, vendor contracts and other legal documents, shipping documents (for materials that are being sent from the States to the meeting) and your itinerary.
    Photocopy all documents in triplicate, and keep copies in your office, home and carry-on luggage.

Make back-up plans for your home, pet and child care (not necessarily in that order) -- not only for the intended duration of your trip, but in the event your return is delayed for any reason.