In my opinion, travel is one of the most exciting things in the world. However, the same cannot be said about preparing to travel. I know there are some people who love the planning aspect of a trip but in my mind, preparation is a minefield with so many things to trip you up. With so much to think about, how does one even begin to know where to start?! Worry no more! From the first time the idea enters your head, right the way through to boarding that plane, I’ve got you covered.
6+ months before
Decide on a destination
This one is hard because there are so many places to choose from! Think about the type of trip you want to take and the kind of activities you want to do. It is good to be able to wing it and explore new places as you go but you must have a rough destination in mind or effective planning becomes impossible!
This is the most important thing if you are going to achieve your travel goals. Sadly, most of us don’t have a stack of money just lying around and need to make a conscientious effort to budget. Start saving early to make your financial target viable.
Read more about how to save for travel here.
I know I have said that this should be one of the things you arrange months before but in all honesty, it varies. Whilst you may not want to book this far in advance, definitely start looking at prices to try to get a rough idea of how much flights are going to set you back. Insider tip: try to fly on a Tuesday as it’s usually the cheapest day of the week.
Arrange transport to the airport
As soon as you have booked your flights, look into arranging your transport there. You may need to drive, in which case you will want to book airport parking very early or you may need to sort out a lift with someone else. If you’ll be getting public transport to the airport, make sure you pre-book tickets if necessary and take this into account when considering your budget.
3 – 6 months before
Get passport/check validity
This can be a surprisingly easy thing to overlook. Make sure you have a valid passport and check that it is in date. It is worth noting here that some countries will only allow you to travel if you have a certain number of blank pages or a minimum of 6 months left. It is worth checking to see whether your destination makes any of these stipulations because if so, you may need to get a new passport even if yours is technically still valid.
Moving around in an unfamiliar environment can be a risky thing, so make sure you have the relevant jabs that are needed prior to entering the country. Unfortunately, some vaccinations need to be delivered over a course of several weeks or ordered in from other pharmacies. Add in the time it can take to get a travel appointment and the cost of paying for the jabs and this can be a big process.
Hand in your notice/book annual leave
I realise not everyone has the opportunity to go all out and quit their jobs but for those of you that are lucky enough, notify your employers early. They will appreciate the consideration and leaving your bridges intact might help when you return. Either way, whether it is a short or a long trip, let your employers know early so that you can work any required notice period or secure the holiday dates whilst they are available.
Start an exercise regime
This is largely dependant on the type of travel that you are planning to do but it is important to make sure you have a decent level of fitness. Naturally, if you are doing something ridiculous like preparing to walk the Camino, you will need some serious training behind you but even if you’re just planning to backpack, be aware that this will take a toll on your body. By stepping up your fitness regime early, you will be better equipped to deal with the physical side of travelling.
Arrange visas if necessary
Check the entry requirements of the countries you are planning to visit and find out whether a visa will be required. Most of the time you are able to pick visas up on the border for a fee, however, there are some countries that will not permit you to enter unless you already have one on your arrival.
3 -1 months before
Notify your bank
To an extent, this is a bit of an outdated idea. It can be good to make your bank aware that you will be out of the country but various companies will handle this information differently. Previously, I have notified my bank that I am going away and they have told me any international transactions made on my card would be verified by text. They no longer make a note on the account. Check with your bank to find out their rules and rates when using your card abroad.
Apply for credit/pre-payment cards
Some people like to travel using pre-payment travel cards. Personally, I have never used cards of this nature although I have heard some positive things. It is worth looking at credit cards which permit worldwide use and that also provide a good rate. Just because you have the card you don’t necessarily have to use it, keep it for emergencies if there is a problem with your main payment card.
Break in your boots
If you have bought new footwear for your travels then for goodness sake make sure that you break them in before going away. Decent blister plasters are not always the easiest thing to come by so don’t let sores on you feet mar a once in a lifetime opportunity to reach that mountain peak.
Buy things you need to pack
Certain trips will mean that you need certain things. Whatever it is that you need, don’t leave buying till the last minute. Problems with sizing, availability and price all crop up when you least expect them so make sure you have enough time to sort out an alternative if necessary. Always remember to check the plug type used at your destination and buy any necessary adaptors beforehand. Tim and I made this mistake and forgot our camera charging cable when visiting Ukraine. We had two options, purchasing one in the airport for £40 (when you can buy them on Amazon for £2) or ration our usage. Needless to say, we cut our losses and went without.
Secure your spot on the top attractions
When it comes to travel I prefer to stay flexible so I can visit places on the spur of the moment. However, before I travel I always collate my list of must-see attractions. For those things you just can’t miss, do your research and find out whether it is worth booking in advance. Attractions like the Catacombs in Paris usually have a 4+ hour wait during peak season so purchasing queue jump tickets in advance is well worth it if you are short on time in the city.
Book accommodation (but only for your first destination)
I am a big advocate for winging it (had something given it away?!) but you need to be realistic when it comes to accommodation options. When you arrive in a new country you don’t want to spend the first few hours trudging around looking for a place to stay. By booking the accommodation for your first stop in advance, you take a lot of stress out of your arrival. Don’t be afraid to rock up and do it on the fly when you can though!
1 month before
Test your gear
Depending what type of trip you are going on, it is possible that you may have had to stock up on equipment. Make a point of testing anything new: set up your tent, charge your devices and check that sarong isn’t see through. It’s far easier to resolve any issues with equipment before you leave!
Buy travel insurance
Travel insurance is vital to staying healthy on the road. Do your research when it comes to prices and always check what a policy covers as sometimes you may have to pay extra for things you would have assumed are automatically included. Remember that certain types of holiday will require specific types of insurance, for example, extreme sports and cruises. I recommend the wizards at StaySure especially if you have a pre-diagnosed medical condition.
Decide what to do with your phone
Don’t get caught out by hefty roaming charges when you’re away and make sure you know what is included in your phone contract. If you live in the UK, it can be very easy and cheap to enable data roaming in other European countries. The rates for destinations outside Europe vary but always remember to make arrangements with your mobile network prior to travel.
Make copies of important documents
When it comes to travel, it is always important to have a contingency plan. Keep both hard and virtual copies of your passport, yellow fever certificate (if applicable) and any visas. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to prevent being pickpocketed or losing something important but keeping copies of everything can sure help when it comes to resolving these issues.
-1 week before
Download important apps
Before you leave for the trip of a lifetime, make sure you have downloaded everything you need. I don’t just mean stocking up on ebooks and podcasts, check that you are able to stay in touch with the people that you need to. This post on keeping in contact abroad has some helpful suggestions for the best apps to use while travelling. It is important to navigate your way around any city so download something like City Maps To Go and plan your way around. Also, check your online banking app is downloaded and enabled, you never know when you might need emergency contact with your bank. Most importantly, check you have got the check-in app for your airline of choice, this will save you heaps of time at the airport!
Pack and repack
Everyone thinks they have bought just the right amount of stuff for a trip away… until it comes to packing it all. Always repack your bag taking more out each time until you are left with the essentials. That seventh emergency outfit may look super cute but you’ll probably come to regret it when it comes to the extra baggage fees!
Check out this post of why you should go hand luggage only on your next trip.
Leave enough time for airport transport
The last point of note on this long list is to always leave enough time for your journey to the airport. Whether you are using public transport or driving, always remember that unforeseen circumstances are common on the road and that flight won’t wait for you. Getting to an airport early can be a bit of a drag but with pretty much all of them playing host to a bar, I bet the wait won’t feel too long!
What do you recommend preparing for an overseas trip?
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