Travel is awesome! There’s no doubt about that. However, the lead-up to a trip can be stressful if you’re not prepared. Here are 10 easy things you can do before travelling to make your life so much easier. You might also be interested in some of the best tried and tested travel hacks.
1. Give your passport the once over
Most countries state that you need AT LEAST 6 months left on your passport, so don’t forget to check the expiry date of your passport well in advance.
You will also need AT LEAST one blank double page in your passport. If it’s full you will need to replace it regardless of how long you have left on it.
2. Do you need any travel visas?
The great thing with having a British Passport is that we get visa free travel to a ton of places.
If not, some countries are easy to pick up a visa upon entry, others must be applied for in advance. I remember when I applied for my Chinese visa, it consisted of literally pages of questions (they might as well have asked for my bra size!).
Lots of countries offer 30 days free tourist visa. The usual format will be to fill out the official form (sometimes they hand these out on the actual flight, other times you pick them up at the airport).
Sometimes you will have to pay a tourist tax or for a tourist visa when you enter the country.
Visas and entry requirements change, sometimes frequently. Each country is different too, so it’s ALWAYS worth checking out the most up-to-date information. For UK residents the .GOV website has tons of information.
Be careful of unofficial websites offering to sort out visas for you. Frequently these are either scams or a service that adds an absolute premium to the actual cost.
3. Check if you need any vaccinations
Depending on where in the world your destination is, you will need to think about possible vaccinations you might need – if any.
Sometimes your destination country will require that you have a vaccination certificate against certain diseases. For example, if you are travelling to Australia and are coming via a country that has Yellow Fever they will require your vaccination certificate upon arrival.
As soon as you have booked your flights, check if you need any vaccinations. Some of them need to be done up to 6 weeks in advance.
4. Do a little bit of basic planning
I love being spontaneous when I travel. Although I’m not an advocate for planning to the Nth degree on any of my trips, I do always have a list of main points of interest in each country.
My three go-to areas for basic research are;
Lonely Planet – Available in both digital and hard copies this is the first place I go to after I’ve booked my flights; to go and get a guide book. I’m a big lover of the hard-copies of books. I’ve tried other brands of guide book but keep coming back to Lonely Planet. They are so much more than just a guidebook, they give you lots of juicy insights into culture, history, local facts etc. I love their suggested itinerates if you are in a region for one a set number of days.
Pinterest – There are tons and reviews, posts and articles on Pinterest. If you’ve not embraced the world of Pinterest, then go take a look NOW! – (ok after reading this post). I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. It’s so easy to use and admittedly very addictive. I’ve lost hours to Pinterest researching and sourcing ideas for every topic imaginable.
Facebook – Believe it or not Facebook CAN be a good source for some great destination research. I’ll set my status along the lines of; ‘I’m off too *insert country name here* can anyone suggest must-see landmarks, things off the beaten track, places to avoid etc’.
I get so many people commenting on my status – I could easily make a whole itinerary for a 2-month trip! Essentially people love talking about their adventures and are genuinely helpful and eager for you to see and experience the same. Also, because the recommendations are from your own personal network of friends there is no hard sell or someone trying to get a commission on a booking.
Facebook is also great when friends start tagging people to the thread who they’ve met through travelling. This is Networking at its finest and although it has its pitfalls Facebook is an awesome tool for finding information when it’s used properly.
The best money deals are usually found online AND bought in advance. I’ve yet to find one particular company that I use every time as they all have different deals and offers. As a general rule and from personal experience, Supermarkets usually have the best rates.
My suggestion is to shop around. MoneySupermaket have a whole section dedicated to travel money and have a pretty comprehensive list of the best rates.
If you don’t manage (or forget to order in advance) there is always the airport but be prepared to get stung with the most extortionate eye-watering exchange rates.
Don’t forget before you leave for your travels to inform your bank what countries you will be visiting, it will reduce the chances of getting your card blocked whilst abroad.
Top Money Tip
It’s always a good idea to travel with an emergency stash of cash – Dollars, Euros and the good old Great British Pound are pretty much accepted internationally, especially in cities. If you have a problem with your bank card or it gets stolen, this can be a real lifesaver.
6. Travel Insurance
Often overlooked and probably the last thing on your mind when you are wanting to get onto the exciting stuff such as planning your trip. Although you certainly don’t plan for anything bad to happen while you are away, unless you have a crystal ball and can predict the future then you have no way of knowing, no matter how cautious you are.
Make sure you read the small print to see what activities you are covered for. Lots of adventure, extreme or adrenalin sports aren’t included in the basic level packages.
I also get a bolt on Gadget insurance, just for the peace of mind. As standard, I travel with a Camera, Netbook, GoPro, Phone; in monetary terms that’s quite a wadge of cash if I needed to replace them. Travel Insurance also covers you for a plethora of other issues that might occur during your travels, such as delayed flights, loss of luggage and Injury to name a few.
Thankfully I’ve never had to use mine yet, but that being said, I would never go on a trip without it.
7. Don't underestimate hard copies
Living in a paper-free World is great! however it’s a good idea to have a hard copy – that’s right, good old paper version – of your important documents.
Make sure any important addresses, emergency contacts, hotel names etc. are physically written somewhere. It could be handwritten on a napkin or printed out before you leave, it doesn’t matter!
What if your phone breaks, gets lost or stolen?
Remember that old phrase ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’‘? By having a hard copy of your important docs you’ve covered your own back if you’re stuck without the digital version. You will really thank yourself for having a backup.
Having no signal is really annoying!
If you’re only passing through a country for a few days, it’s probably not worth getting a local sim and you certainly don’t want to use the extortionate prices of international roaming. Unless you have decent Wi-Fi (trust me LOTS of airports don’t!) your phone is as good as useless when it comes to sifting through for an email confirmation. A hard copy saves this frustration.
You’ll stand out from the crowd, for all the wrong reasons.
From a safety point of view, there’s nothing that screams out ‘rich tourist’ than wandering about outside the airport, phone in hand, half distracted by trying to locate the details of your hostel. You are a first-class target for thieves here. It’s much better to have the address of your destination on paper so you can just hand that address to a taxi driver. Don’t become a victim before you trip really begins.
8. Remember to pack hand luggage essentials
Very few people can say they enjoy their long-haul flight in cattle class. There’s nothing worse than after a long-haul flight when you’re feeling groggy, in dirty clothes and with a rank taste in your mouth than having to deal with lost or delayed luggage.
A few essentials can make the world of difference and hardly take up any space in your hand luggage. Things I will always pack in my carry-on are;
In those situations, small things like these can make you feel a million times better and in a much better frame of mind to try and sort out the situation of being reunited with your stuff.
9. Find out a little bit about the culture.
It didn’t even cross my mind, before I went to Cuba, that things we take for granted (pens, notebooks, soap, plugs for a sink) the Cubans really struggle to get out there. My one regret of Cuba is not knowing this.
Most of the accommodation (outside of big hotels) is homestay/guest houses and it wasn’t until I experienced first-hand that I WISH I had a little gift to leave each of the families I stayed with. Trivial things to us but make a big difference to them.
On a similar note at the END of your trip if you are getting rid of clothing that you deem to scruffy to take back home, ask the hostel if they have a collection box. During my stay in South Africa, I had a pair of shoes that were a bit scruffy for wearing down the UK high street but still had loads of sole on them. The hostel took in unwanted clothing which was then donated to the local orphanage – one man’s waste is another man’s treasure.
Another note on culture, it’s also worthwhile reading up about local customs, manners and general do’s and don’ts. For example, the Hindu Temples in Bali, Indonesia, when entering both men and women MUST have a garment that covers below your knees. If you are unsure – ask a local. They are usually more than happy to explain to and show visitors what their local customs are.
10. Stop overthinking and don't panic!
Despite the years of experience of travelling, even with comprehensive packing lists, I am sure I’ve not yet managed a trip where I 100% packed everything I needed. There’s ALWAYS one small thing that I’ve overlooked.
Believe it or not, I forgot to pack shoes once! – another story for another time.
Even if you do forget to pack something and have a panic mid-flight; relax. The rest of the World do actually have shops and if you’re lucky, most international cities have Shopping Malls to rival anything we have here in the UK. Trust me, you’ll be alright!
Relax – you’re travelling the world!
So now, time to take on the World, stress-free.
Follow these hacks for stress free travel on your next trip.
If you enjoyed reading hacks for stress free travel, then why not check out how to save a fortune to go travelling or 23 of the World’s best tried and tested travel hacks.
Do you have any top trips to take the stress out of travel? I’d love to hear from you, so please comment below.
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