Whether you’ve decided to plan ahead like me or just wing it, this list is for everyone; some things are too important to leave to chance.
1. Check whether or not you need visas
Some countries won’t let you in without a visa, and they’ll have no qualms about shipping you right back to where you came from. For that same reason, even if certain countries do offer visas on arrival at a cheaper rate, you’re still better off organising them beforehand. Imagine if you spent all that time and money on your dream adventure only to be turned away before even leaving the airport?! And yes, it does happen – I worked as a travel consultant and heard a colleague dealing with that situation on the phone one day.
2. Get travel insurance
If you can’t afford insurance, you can’t afford to travel. It’s as simple as that. This should be the very first item you purchase, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s absolutely non-negotiable. And if you think it’s expensive, consider how much an ambulance or surgery could cost in a country like America, where the health care system isn’t quite what we have in Australia.
3. Register your plans with Smart Traveller
I’m a big believer in “hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” so the next few points are along that path. First up, register your plans on Smart Traveller. It’s a service provided by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and is basically the place to register your travel plans for any “just incase” situations (think natural and man made disasters). If you’re a non-Aussie reader, check if your country offers something similar.
4. Put an itinerary together for family/friends
As well as registering plans with Smart Traveller, I always leave a copy of my itinerary with family and/or friends. Because if anything were to happen to me overseas or to my loved ones back at home while I’m travelling, I want them to know how to find me quickly. My itineraries will always have:
– passport & visa copies
– insurance details
– flight/train details (dates, times, cities & flight/train numbers)
– accommodation details (name, address, phone, email, booking number, dates)
If you don’t want to print everything, Evernote is an app you need. It’s a note taking app which I used to plan our entire four month round the world trip. The advantage it offers is the ability to share notebooks with other users, so if you have an itinerary folder with all those details, you can just share access to it via the app. It also means that if you change or update anything while you’re away, the people you’re sharing with will be able to see the changes.
5. Know where your local consulates are
Call it overkill, but with some of the scary stuff going on in the world today (if Kim Kardashian isn’t safe in her Parisian hotel, what hope do the rest of us have?!), I’m erring on the side of caution. It doesn’t take long to Google and save the addresses, phone numbers and/or email addresses of your country’s consulates in some of the bigger cities you’ll visit. Save them in your phone, it couldn’t hurt!
6. See your doctor
A quick phone call to your GP’s office should be able to tell you if you need any immunisations. Also, if you take prescription medication, make sure you have enough to get you through your trip. Some countries can also be quite strict regarding medication coming through customs, so if that’s going to be an issue for any places you’re visiting, ask your doctor for a letter to bring along with you.
7. Call your bank and organize your foreign currency
Seems like a no-brainer, but make sure you know what currency you’re going to need! Rather than travelling with cash or being stung with foreign transaction fees at ATMs when you’re away, consider a travel debit card. I use a Cash Passport, and it’s perfect for what I want; I can load multiple currencies, use it overseas in ATMs or as a regular debit card with no transaction fees, and best of all is that I can top it up whenever I’m running low on cash via their website!
It’s also worth letting your bank know you’re going to be overseas for a while so if there’s a lot of international activity/you don’t touch your account for several weeks, they won’t shut it down.
8. Sort out your phone/communications
I don’t have international roaming on my phone, nor do I intend to. When you travel, there is pretty much always access to free Wi-Fi somewhere. If you don’t want to worry about a horrific phone bill while you’re away (especially if it’s for a few months), think about using apps like Skype, Viber or WhatsApp that you’ll be able to use when your connected to free Wi-Fi instead.
I’m also not on Facebook or Twitter, so my family and friends follow my travels on Instagram. You can also created a private, password-protected mini-blog using Tumblr (totally underrated app) that only your family and friends have the password to, so you can share more personal stuff. There’s also the functionality of a private message section and a public post section, again to make it easy to communicate without international roaming.
9.Bills, bills, bills
Unfortunately, just because you’re checking out of the real world for a while doesn’t mean it stops. If you’re like us, there’s still a mortgage, bills, car and health and home insurance to be paid while we’re away! . I’ve gone into way more detail about the financial side of things in this post, so a few small points here.
We’ve been saving and budgeting for this trip for quite a while, and have been putting a bit of extra money away each pay day to cover our mortgage repayments and other direct debits while we’re away. This way, any money we get paid for annual leave from work goes straight to our trip instead of those bills.
We’ve also elected to receive electronic bills for utilities, so we won’t miss anything. If that’s not possible, it’s a good idea to ask a friend to check your mail every week and open anything that looks like a bill, so you can pay it on time. The other option is to see if anything else can be set up on a direct debit payment plan.
10. Record it all!
I’m obviously one for recording the memories I create, and I don’t think I should be the only one – think about how much time and effort you’ve put into planning this adventure. You won’t want to forget it all a few weeks after you get home! Invest in a good camera, get a travel journal and nice pen, create a travel blog. However you want to do it, make sure you have some place to keep all of the magic moments that happen on the road; those are the moments that turn into golden memories years later 🙂