How to Prepare for Your Trip – The Countdown
Coming Up With the Idea (Six Months to Go)
If you feel like you want to get away, but aren’t sure exactly where, now is the time to start looking into different destinations. Start by finding a place (or multiple places) where you want to go and make a list of things that you would like to do (such as elephant trekking or bungee jumping).
If you want to go with a friend (but don’t know who), start asking your friends if they want to go with you, and what they’d like out of the trip. If you want to go with someone, but none of your friends are up for it, check out this article on finding a travel companion.
Next, plan out a rough route that you could take, and have a look at what kind of weather/climate you could expect in each place (based on the season you’re there). Plan out a basic itinerary with rough dates (E.g. what date you’ll leave, what date you’ll come back).
Work out how much money your trip will cost (roughly) and start budgeting. Start visiting (or phoning) travel agents and looking online for the best prices.
Three Months to Go
By now you should be well aware of where the best deals are, so it’s time to book your ticket! It’s a good idea to get your travel insurance at the same time as you book your ticket so you’re covered in the event that you have to cancel your trip.
Now that you’ve booked your trip, the realization that you’re actually going away will start sinking in. Don’t be afraid. There’s no escaping it now!
Visit your doctor and explain to them where you’re going. You may need to make further appointments with the nurse to get vaccinations (depending on which countries you’re visiting) and to discuss malaria prevention treatments. Note that in some countries (such as India), you must show proof of immunizations to be able to pass through their customs, so make sure that you get these from your doctor.
Find your passport and check whether it has enough time left on it and whether there’s enough blank pages left inside it for all of the new and exciting stamps and visas you’ll be collecting. If you find it’s expiring soon or it’s short of blank pages, apply for a new one as soon as possible.
Depending on how long you’re going for, you may wish to rent out your apartment/flat/house/barn while you’re gone. If this is the case, start by getting the word out round your peer group and put up some notices at your work.
Work out a plan to pay your bills while you’re away (if necessary). Setting up a standing order is the easiest way to do this. The other option is to give someone at home the power of attorney (so that they can pay your bills for you), but this is a lot more hassle and is not something that should be handed out lightly.
If you have any plants or pets in your home, now is also a good time to work out who’s going to look after them while you’re away. I find that parents or close friends are best for this task. Be sure to take them out for dinner to say thank you. If it was your Dad you could always take him out to play pool and buy him a beer.
Two Months to Go
Check what visas you’ll need to enter the countries you’re going to and how you’re supposed to go about getting them. Some countries allow you to visit for 90 days without a visa (such as the USA), some visas can be bought on the border right before you enter the country and some visas need to be sorted out in advance.
If you’re planning on doing some hiking/trekking while you’re away and you need some new boots, now is the ideal time to buy them. It’s a good idea to wear them in before you leave, so they’re comfortable when you need them (and they won’t give you blisters).
Take a look at the expiry dates of your credit and debit card(s). If they’re due to expire before the end of your trip, go into (or call up) your bank and order some new ones.
One Month to Go
Now is the ideal time to do the main bulk of your shopping (as it still gives you plenty of time in case you forget anything important). Make a list of everything you’ll need, and set aside a weekend to get it all. Some things may need to be bought online, so buying them well in advance means they’ll have a chance to arrive before you set off.
If you haven’t booked all of your accommodation in advance (as you’d do when you go on a holiday) because you want to book it as you go (as you aren’t sure exactly where you’ll be on which dates), then make sure you at least book a hostel/hotel in the first place you’re arriving at (so you know exactly where you’re staying the first night). I recommend staying in a hostel to begin with. They allow you to easily interact with other travelers (helping you get into the ‘traveling mindset’) and most hostel owners are extremely friendly and knowledgeable, making them a vital source of information.
If it’s been a while since you were last at the dentist, book yourself in for a check-up before you leave. Do the same with the optician.
If you’re planning on doing some work while you’re away (and you aren’t going to take your laptop), sign up for GoToMyPC (or a similar application) and test it out (GoToMyPC lets you access your home computer from any computer in the world, so it’s ideal for doing work while abroad). You want to be confident in using it before you leave, as it’s a lot easier to iron out the kinks while you’re still at home than when you’re on the road.
If you’re taking an iPod (or any kind of mp3 player) with you, start working out what music you’ll want to take on your trip.
Two Weeks to Go
Get some money changed over to traveler’s checks and the currency of the first country you’re visiting (so you have some money available on your arrival). Remember that you should only get a small portion of your money changed into cash, as you don’t want to carry too much around with you at any one time.
Work out how much money you need to set aside to pay all of your bills while you’re away, and put it in a separate account if necessary (so you don’t spend it).
One Week to Go
Start this week by getting some passport photos made up, as you’ll need these for any future visa applications.
Scan in and create photocopies of all of your identification. This will include your passport information, ticket information, travel insurance information, visas and your credit cards. Keep them saved on your computer, and email them to yourself (so you can access them from anywhere when required). Print out multiple copies and give them to your friends/family, as well as taking a couple of copies yourself (which should be kept in different places).
In addition to this, give several people a copy of your travel itinerary so that they know where you’ll be on which dates (roughly). This will help them to feel a lot more reassured about your safety, and means that they have all of your vital information should you need it.
This may be your last chance (for a while) to get a proper haircut, so visit your local barber shop/hairdressers and get something quite short (as short hair is much easier to manage on the road).
Half a Week to Go
Change your work/home phone answering message to something like: “Please do not leave me a voicemail right now, as I am currently overseas on business. If the matter is important, feel free to send me an email at _____@_____.com. Thank you for understanding”. Obviously you aren’t actually on ‘overseas business’ (you’re traveling!) but people will complain a lot less if you tell them you are!
On top of this, if you won’t be checking your email regularly, it’s a good idea to set up an email autoresponder on your account. This will send out an automatic message every time someone emails you, and should alert them that you’re not checking your email regularly due to overseas business travel but that you’ll get back to them as soon as you can. It can also be a good idea to give them some kind of an indication as to how long you’ll take to reply (roughly). For example: “I’ll try to get back to you within seven days”.
If someone is looking after your pet(s), take them round to them. Make sure to give them enough money to pay for pet food and anything else they might need (E.g. kitty litter). If they’re looking after your plants, either bring those around as well or give them a copy of your house key so that they can come around and water them for you.
Say goodbye to all of your friends and family. I like to go out for a ‘bon voyage’ dinner with my family and then out for a few drinks with my friends. Make sure you don’t leave this till the night before you leave as you don’t want to wake up with a hangover when you’ve got a long flight ahead of you.
The Day Before
By now you should have taken care of almost everything. Double check your flight time online and make sure that if you requested any specialty meals (i.e. vegetarian of kosher) they have been taken care of.
Run through the list you made (under the ‘One Month to Go’ section) and double check you’ve packed everything. Do any last minute shopping if necessary.
The Big Day
Do a quick double check to make sure you’ve got everything. Most importantly, don’t leave home without your passport, wallet, tickets and travel documents (including your travel insurance). Once my Dad arrived at the airport an hour before his flight and found he didn’t have his passport – he was lucky and managed to get it couriered to the airport on time with the help of a police escort – you may not be so lucky!
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