I spend a lot of time dreaming about where to go next. It’s 20 years of traveling for me now – I’ve finally put my top 10 things to remember to do before I leave on paper…maybe now I’ll stop making some of these mistakes.
- Documents: Make sure all the paperwork you need is in order like visas, passports, flights, etc. I always leave a digital copy of my passport, itinerary, and other important documentation with an emergency contact at home so they can email it to me if I get myself in a bind. Make sure you understand the visa requirements for the country you are going to. You don’t want to be calling the immigration hall home.
- Itinerary: Don’t create a rigid itinerary. If you are only going for a couple weeks the tendency is to want to cover as much ground as possible so you can take in all the sites. I get that – you might only go there once – but I’ve found my trips much more enjoyable when I content myself with covering only a small area and spending longer periods of time in each spot. Talk to other travelers and locals about where their favourite spots are. Be spontaneous, go where the wind blows – you are out of your daily routine and your grind is back at home, enjoy it and embrace it!
- Book the First Night: The last thing I want to do when I land after a long flight is start looking for a place to spend the night. I always book my hotel or guesthouse for the first night of my trip ahead of time, especially if I am arriving after dark. I’m tired from a long flight and my senses are being bombarded from my new surroundings – just get me out of the airport and let me drop my bag as quick as I can.
- Research: Learn a few things about the culture, history and geography before you go. This won’t make you an expert but it will definitely give you a little background and totally psych you up to get on that plane. Look at pictures and dream of things you hope to experience. Waiting for your departure day to arrive is the hardest part!
- Money: Try to have a little local currency on hand as airport exchange will usually hose you. If not, carry some US dollars (or possibly Euro) because most people will take that in a pinch. I never carry more than a couple hundred dollars on me when I leave. Just don’t forget your debit card and make sure it has a 4 digit pin. Don’t forget to contact your credit card company to let them know of your travel plans.
- Packing: Seriously, do you really need to bring that? I once met a girl who had her entire backpack stolen and left her only with her small day pack. She wouldn’t stop raving about how happy she was. Pack light – you’re still on earth so I’m sure you can find what you need in the markets or shops. Oh, and a little tip because our airlines are always oh so efficient – if you’re traveling with a partner consider packing half of your clothes in each others bags for the flight. When your bag is missing upon arrival and they can’t find it for half your trip, you’ll be glad you took my advice!
- Safety: Don’t believe everything you read online. Especially the negative. Some places have a bad reputation but are gems – others are really just that bad and you shouldn’t go there now. Know the difference and don’t miss out on a beautiful country and amazing people because everyone tells you that you are crazy for wanting to go there.
- Insurance: Don’t skimp on the travel insurance. Really. Buy the travel insurance and make sure it doesn’t exclude any crazy things you want to do on your trip.
- Health: Check out the list of recommended and/or required immunizations for travel to certain countries. Travel should change you and leave lasting memories –but that should be in a good way and not because you didn’t take the appropriate precautions to protect your health.
- Electronics: Be crazy – consider not bringing any! Okay…having considered that, let’s be real. You likely will so make sure that you bring all adapters (and if you are packing light you shouldn’t need a converter), chargers and batteries that you need and can’t get on your trip. If you are going to use your phone then make sure you look up travel plans or what it would take to convert your phone to a local phone.
The world is a big place, the world’s a small place. Be your own explorer.