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Checklist: how to prepare for your big trip

Checklist: how to prepare for your big trip

 

After several trips, I made a what-to-check-before-I-leave-list, for myself but also for you. This list is especially handy when I visit new countries or new places. But even with locations I’ve been, I like to check a few things before I go, like the weather or if the visa rules didn’t change.

 

I love travelling without a plan, just go and see. But sometimes it is nice to know some information in advance. Like the weather season, if you arrive at this beautiful national park that you’ve been looking forward to visiting and you are confronted with the fact that they are closed during rainy season… Things like this are good to check.
Or if you go to a country with different writing, like Chinese it, it is maybe useful to realize that you can’t read everything. And if you are good with languages, it is perhaps an idea to learn some signs. 

Hong kong airport

Some screens at Hong Kong airport…
Luckily they change to English.

 

At two moments it is good to check some details.

  • Before you book, is this the place and right time to go?
  • And before you actually go, do you have the right adapter to charge your things?
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    First, some basics.

    Where are you going? Why? How long? What do you want to do? And what to see? So as I mentioned before I love travelling without a plan, but a bit of an idea often can make things easy on the go.

     

    Where do you want to go? To know in which country you want to start is an excellent beginning. Otherwise, it gets quite tricky to buy that plane ticket.
    Are you going alone? Or do you have or want a travel buddy?

    How long will you go? Are you free to stay as long as you want, as long as your budget lets you or do you need to be back at a specific time?
    What is your budget? Think about what your trip will cost, do some research. Think about plane tickets, public transport, accommodation, food, activities, visa.
    Is it possible the way you want it or do you maybe have to adjust a little, shorten the period or look for a cheaper destination? Do you want to work?
    I also wrote a blog about cheap nights of sleep while travelling, so maybe that will help to realize your trip and not spend too much.

     

    To check before choosing / booking
  • Passport
  • Is your passport still valid? Sometimes your visa or the country you are going to request that your passport is valid for at least a couple of months after you will leave their country; so check this.
     

  • The weather season
  • If you book your trip and it’s the rainy season it’s maybe not the best place to be at that moment. I’ve been in countries in the rainy season, and it wasn’t that bad, but sometimes you are less lucky. Also sometimes national parks are closed with the rainy season because it gets dangerous. But there are also places where it is way too humid and hot in summer, so maybe spring is a better time to visit.
    These things come to the time of the year, so easy and pleasant to check before booking.
     

  • Visa
  • You MUST check if you need a visa and how you can get one. Often you can go to the official government page and read about the visas and apply for one. They don’t allow excuses at the immigration office. If you don’t have a good one and they don’t provide them at the airport, then you can go straight back home. If you don’t get the visa then your ticket is a waste of money, so also important to check even before booking other things. There are different visas for most countries, like a tourist visa or a visa if you want to work in that country.
     

  • Vaccines & medicine
  • Sometimes you need vaccines for your trip, some countries you are not even allowed in if you didn’t have that certain one that obligated (or more then one). So, good to check.
    Better to check this before booking. With some of the vaccines, they recommend getting them a few months before your trip. Especially when you go on a long journey then for some vaccines you need two-dose with a couple of months in between.

    Some countries you need to take medicine for malaria, or at least you want to have an emergency package with medicine in case you get sick.

    For your own medicine that you want to bring; Not all medications are allowed to go everywhere, so best to go to your doctor and ask for a medicine passport. This is a kind of letter that says which medicine you need and that you have a doctors approval for this. You can show this if required at the border control and also in case of an emergency; doctors can see what kind of medicine you need.
    Still, check if your medicines are allowed if you have special ones, some are simply not approved in other countries.

    This medicine passport is something different than the vaccination passport, the (often yellow) small book you get with all the vaccines you have. This vaccination passport is essential, and sometimes you have to show this as well at the border control.
     

  • Diet wishes
  • While booking it is good to check if you get meals during your flight and tell them your dietary preferences, often you can choose about a bunch of different kinds. If you eat everything, there is no need for this, but if you have an allergy or are vegetarian, you can tell them.
     

  • Pre-Book?
  • You can plan your whole trip and book everything in advance. This is maybe good if you have limited time and wish to see a lot.
    I like to just go and see but booking the first two nights in a hostel is something I do like to do. This gives me a little time to adjust to a new place, especially when it was a long trip and I have a jetlag. When booking too much, I feel stuck in my plans. During the journey, sometimes, ideas, schedules and wishes are changing.

    If you want to work or do some volunteering, like workaway, direct starting in the first week, it can be useful to arrange this from home.

    By the way, at most countries, you are only allowed for a maximum of three months, and you have to show them your ticket with the date you leave the country before ‘your time runs out’. What you can do is buy a cheap bus or plane ticket out of the country, so that you can leave this, if your plans go in the other direction.
    (But I do recommend leaving before your visa runs out, I have heard of people that got into a lot of trouble, so you can go the other way and skip that bus ticket but don’t skip it because you want to stay longer).

     

    To check before going
  • Water
  • Can you drink the water from the tap? You can check this over there as well, but for example, if you arrive late at your hotel/hostel and want some water, it’s pleasant if you have some with you or to know it’s safe to drink from the tap.
     

  • Rules in a country
  • Clothes, for example, some countries like it if you cover your knees and shoulders.
    Another example: Chewing gum is prohibited in Singapore. You don’t want to get a fine because you didn’t know…
     

  • Wall outlets
  • It is useful to know what kind of wall outlets there are. If you have a world adapter you have no problem, it fits (almost) everywhere.
    But sometimes you don’t have one (or you had, but it broke while travelling, like mine last time) and you want to know if you can charge your things in the next country. 99% of the time, you can buy an extension in the country itself. But to some countries I rather bring my own, then I know it works properly.
     

  • Insurance
  • Do you have travel insurance? Here you have to check if it covers everything. For example, often when I book a travel insurance, the standard is ‘only covered in Europe’. So I have to check the box ‘world cover’. Also, it doesn’t always cover working in different countries or ‘extreme sports’ like diving and bungee jumping. So good to check.
     

  • Money
  • I would recommend changing or withdraw cash in the country you are going. But if you arrive late, It might be a good idea to already have some money in the right currency, for a taxi or the bus. Often you can change money at the airport where you leave or arrive, for all different currencies.

    It is good to check if your debit card works in that country or if you need a credit card. If you are staying for long in one country and you are opening a bank account, you can use Currencyfair to transfer money to that account.
     

  • Do you have everything?
  • First of all, do you have a good backpack? Go shopping and let them inform you.
    While packing your backpack, did you miss anything? Not sure what to take with you? See my backpack checklist.
     

  • Transport to your hostel
  • Especially when I have a late arrival, I like to know before how to get from the airport to my hostel. In the middle of the night when it’s dark, and I am tired and don’t feel like looking for the right bus and finding out that there aren’t any busses anyway to the place where I want to go…
     

  • Your house
  • If you have your own home (not like me, I am homeless), it may be useful to inform some trustworthy neighbours about your trip.
    You can install a time clock on some of your lights, so it looks less like an abandoned place. If you have plants, give them a temporarily other home or ask someone to water them. And I used to disconnect all the chargers and electronics when I still had a home. When lightning hits the building at least, your electronics are not damaged, and it saves energy. The only thing I left was the freezer…
     

  • Charged?
  • The day before you go; charge all your devices. It’s a bummer if you are sitting on the plane and want to listen to your specially installed sweet music and your phone is dead.
     

  • Optional: online check-in
  • The day before you can check-in online. This is optional; I don’t always do this. Checking in when you arrive at the airport is also good. Only if you want to have more options in choosing your seat, then online check-in the day before is worth it.

     

    Extra:
  • At the airport: If you have a transfer, check whether your luggage goes straight to the other plane or that you have to arrange that. I always like to ask this while checking in my backpack, just to be sure.
  • Long trip? Think about what you want with your house? Do you want to keep it? Maybe you can rent it to someone else in the meantime.
    Think about your job. Can you go for so long? Do you want to quit it?
    Do you have any memberships? At the gym, for a magazine? Maybe you can quit them, or let is send to a friend in the time that you’re not there.
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    Good luck with your travels and enjoy!

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