Some would argue you can over-plan your travels, but I think it’s always best to be over-prepared. Insurance and vaccinations are a no brainer, but even research on the places you change your mind about visiting will give you background information about the country you’re in and its history and culture.
The following travel checklist should help you make sure you have everything sorted out before your next trip, so you can enjoy the experience worry and hassle free.
No matter how dangerously you like to live or how much you’re trying to skimp and save for your travels, it’s never worth taking the risk of not purchasing insurance. Make sure you pick travel insurance that covers medical conditions, or else you might find that the company doesn’t pay out. Similarly, you should check that your policy covers you for all of the activities you plan to partake in, all of the countries you plan to visit and all of the items you plan to take with you. Some higher-priced items might require separate cover. While reading the fine print of an insurance document might seem tedious, it’s far less fun to spend your trip worrying about it.
It might seem like your trip is still a long way off, but it’s advisable to make an appointment to see a travel nurse two to three months before you’re due to leave. Some jabs need to be given well in advance, or may be given as part of a course several weeks apart. Some vaccinations, such as diphtheria/polio/tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis A/B and cholera are usually free, while the costs of others can add up quite considerably. Which jabs you need will depend on a multitude of factors, including which countries you’re visiting, where you’re likely to stay, which activities you plan to do, and even the time of year you’ll be there. Seek advice before you plan your trip, and make sure you have the funds to cover every jab you might need. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Visas are sometimes reasonably easy to obtain, or they can be an absolute ballache. Sometimes you can buy one with the click of a mouse, while others require trips to your local embassy. Generally, a travel visa is the most straightforward, but some countries have a long list of requirements before they’ll grant you one. Proof of onward travel is a common request, and one that infuriates long-term travellers. Obviously, you’d never want to risk staying longer than the specified time, but it’s nice to be flexible with timings. The best way to get around this is to pay over the odds for a fully refundable onward flight and then cancel it later. Be aware that you might need a visa just to pass through a country in transit, even if you never leave the airport. You might also encounter delays if you’ve previously applied unsuccessfully for a work visa for the country in question. Check multiple sources to make sure you meet every condition of entry, or your trip might be cut short before it’s really begun.
FOREIGN TRAVEL ADVICE
A fantastic source of up-to-date travel information is the government’s Foreign Travel Advice website. In addition to confirming the entry requirements of each country, this resource provides safety and security details (areas of political unrest; terrorism threats; crime levels; and natural disasters) in addition to useful advice about local laws and customs, and any recent or ongoing health risks.
It’s absolutely true that you can rock up virtually anywhere these days and get by just fine – especially now we all have smartphones. The disadvantage to this is that you’re always a few steps behind. Looking into a destination in advance gives you information that will almost certainly save you time and money once you’re there. You don’t want to constantly be online figuring out the logistics of the next journey when you could be living in the moment. A bit of forethought means you know your options and can make simple last-minute decisions. Research does not have to translate to a rigid itinerary. It just makes it easier to put one together on the spot. TripHobo is a great resource to help you figure out which attractions and accommodation would best suit your destination. Another advantage to having read up on a destination is that recommendations from other travellers make sense to you. And, because you’re better informed, you’ll find it much easier to join in conversations with strangers.
While a lot of research goes a long way, a lot of bookings can be very restrictive. Book your first night’s accommodation for peace of mind and look into any activities that have to be booked in advance or might run out of space. Otherwise, it’s best not to commit to too much. Rather than spend your time making hundreds of reservations, you might want to focus your efforts on tracking down the best search tools and apps so that making last-minute bookings as you go is a piece of cake.
Before you even start to plan what you’re taking, double check the luggage restrictions for all parts of your travels. It’s no use lugging two suitcases to the departure gate if a later domestic flight will only allow carry on. How much you pack will depend on your personal style. Some prefer to travel light, while others rely on technical equipment or specific products that aren’t easily found abroad. While people will tell you that you can usually find anything in your destination country, it’s not always true. Make sure you have that camera filter, charging wire or big box of tampons packed safely in your cabin bag or you could waste days of your trip on a wild-goose chase.
VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORKS
Almost nobody travels without a laptop or mobile phone these days, and the constant need to connect to public networks puts you at risk of having your personal data stolen. This might include passwords, bank card details or browser cookies. With a VPN, you can protect yourself from fraud. VPNs have the added bonus of enabling you to access content that might be blocked in a particular destination.
One of the greater risks of travelling is the potential for losing your gear or having it stolen. Whether this be a result of complacency or bad luck, it’s highly likely you won’t come back with everything you left with. Virtually everything you carry on you is replaceable, except for one thing: your photographs. They represent some of your favourite memories, and it’s crushing to lose them. For this reason, you should always find a way to back them up, and do this frequently. Whether you prefer to upload straight to social media or to store everything in the cloud, get your platforms set up before you travel.
FINAL BITS AND BOBS
As the departure day approaches, there are loads of small things you can do to help prepare yourself: practice packing your bag to make sure everything fits; get your washing done and dried; book all your airport transfers; reconfirm your flight times and check in; print or save copies of all your important paperwork; tell your bank your plans so they don’t cancel your cards; pick up foreign currency; make a note of the exchange rates of the places you’re travelling to; learn which adaptors you’ll need and keep them handy for stopovers; and charge all your electronic devices.