Before you go there are many things to consider, and like me, you probably think there is always something you forget to do at the last minute! Here is my decision and check-list for traveling, particularly for international travel.
- How long can you go for?
- How much do you wish to spend?
- Where and when to go?
- Organised tour or self-organised holiday?
- Estimate the costs/Pre-pay what you can before hand
- Passport and visas – 6 months validity
- Doctor, dental, eye checks
- Credit Cards
- Communications & electronics – computer, tablet, mobile, camera
- Travel insurance – Make sure you are covered!
- What to pack?
- How to pack?
- Print out all your tickets and reservations – put them in a clear sleeve
- Scan and email yourself your passport and itinerary details
- Plan how to get to the airport, timings, etc.
- At the airport
- Before you go!
How long can you go for?
Are you planning a:
- 2-4 week holiday taken with annual recreational leave,
- gap year on a budget,
- 3 months to one year sabbatical/long service leave, or
- indefinite traveling nomad style trip?
How much do you wish to spend?
The ‘how long can you go for?’ question will perhaps dictate how you spend your money over the length of your trip. How cheap or how extravagant are you willing/wanting to travel? What can you sacrifice and what are your must haves and must dos?
How long do you have to sustain travel for? How much can you spend for a finite amount of time? Does it hurt to go over budget? Can you just recover the debt when you come back to a paying job? Do you need to be more frugal with your cash so you can prolong your holiday, is your aim to sustain being an indefinitely traveling nomad?
Expenses to consider:
- Travel expenses in the city – buses, trains, taxis.
- Additional taxes or visa costs
- Tipping – guides and restaurants
- Gifts and souvenirs
Where and when to go?
To decide this, I usually start with a wish list of places.
Usually it’s nice to ascertain which friends are living in or wanting to travel to the same places. It helps to be open to places that are not on your wish list, or are in close proximity. Consider when you can take holidays, the weather and temperature in the places you are wanting to travel to and narrow down the options, until bingo – you have a winner!
Organised tour vs self-organised holiday?
I would say be open minded to both. Usually my yard-stick to join an organised tour versus a self-organised holiday are if the country I am traveling to:
- has major language barriers,
- is not ideal for female travelers,
- is safer in groups,
- has difficult government regulations to navigate through, and/or
- has difficult or remote physical terrain to organise transportation through.
Estimate the costs/pre-pay what you can before hand
Really you do not want to be caught out, living hand-to-mouth whilst on holidays, so realistic estimations of holiday costs can be a useful pre-holiday task!
Pre-pay what you can, estimate your costs, and always leave a buffer for miscellaneous and unexpected expenses!
Consider getting a debit card or travel card with little to none overseas transactional fees (e.g. currency conversion and ATM withdrawal fees); or a credit card which allows you to pre-load it and withdraw from overseas ATMs with little to no transactional fees.
When going to exchange money – research!
The top three links when ‘Foreign Exchange Rates’ is googled are:
- Look for ‘No Commission’ or ‘Commission Free’ money changers.
- Find money changers who have small buy and sell margins close to the actual daily rate of the currency.
- Bargain with money changers for a better rate. The larger the amount of money you are exchanging, the larger bargaining power you may possess.
Try find a credit card with very low/no currency conversion rates and low/no withdrawal/atm fees. Try and at least clear your credit card, if not pre-load it, so you feel like you are never actually going into debt for a holiday. There is ‘Good debt’ and ‘Bad debt’ – holidays being bad debt.
Passport and visas – 6 months validity
Make sure you have at least 6 months validity on your passport (preferably more depending on how long your trip is, and to allow for contingencies and unexpected extensions of travel time if your planes get delayed/stuck etc.). Check with Government websites of the country you are visiting, as well as your own Government’s website to double check the visa requirements, and how long and at what cost visas comes at.
Tip: Sometimes instead of going to line up at the Embassy in your country, it might be better to post your passport in with the fees and relevant paperwork, in an express, registered envelope, inclusive of an unused express, registered self-addressed envelope, so the Embassy can post your documents back to you in a track-able manner.
Check the countries you are going to (particularly if you are going to rural parts of a particular country) which vaccinations you have had that are still valid, and which vaccinations you need in which time-frame. Remember! Some vaccinations need to be given at least 3-6 week prior to traveling to be effective at the time of travel.
Doctor, dental, eye checks
Dependent on the type of travel and particularly if you are going away for an extended period of time, it might be good to:
- get relevant health checks;
- make sure you are stocked up on any contact lenses or medicines you may need; and
- start putting together a basic medical pack, especially if you are traveling to a developing country which has lower standards of medical care and hygiene than you make be accustomed to.
Travel insurance – Make sure you are covered!
Typically I think of travel insurance saving me from the worst possible event occurring, at a cost of $100,000’s of dollars. Travel insurance is always worth obtaining for peace-of-mind. Credit card companies can offer travel insurance if your flights etc were purchased with the card, however it is very advisable to read and re-read the fine print.
There are many options for travel insurance. Typically I have bought Covermore Insurance. I am not recommending them over any other insurer, it is just the one that I have more frequently bought.
One tip though, is that most insurers only cover you if you have not yet left the country. World Nomads was one of the only ones I found that allows a person to purchase travel insurance even after they have left their home country.
Communications & electronics – computer, tablet, mobile, camera
Computer/tablet/mobile, along with extra batteries, charging cables, country power adaptors and SD cards are all in this day and age, quite important to google information, purchase travel tickets etc on the go, and communicate with friends and family whilst overseas.
What to pack?
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How to pack?
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- Print out all your tickets and reservations in chronological order – put them in a clear sleeve;
- Scan and email yourself a copy of your passport and full itinerary details (and copy someone you trust into the email, who is not travelling with you, so someone else has a record of roughly where you are suppose to be at for the duration of your trip);
- Plan when you need to arrive at the airport, the logistics of getting to the airport and timings;
- Call your Credit Card company to advise which countries you will be visiting, so they do not block you in mid-transaction!
- Call your phone company to turn off data-roaming, and if you’re like me, turn on international-roaming just in case you need to call or text anyone.
Now, after all that pre-planning and effort, go and enjoy your holiday!! 🙂