Travelling can be stressful for some, with people on the other side of the world wondering if they made sure they turned off the tap in the bathroom and whether their house is safe. If something unexpected happens while you’re abroad, you need to make sure that you have everything you’d need including access to your debit and credit cards as well as knowing how to contact your travel insurance provider.
Have You Got Everything?
Before you make your trip to the airport the first thing to do is make sure that you have everything. It seems silly and unnecessary but you’d be surprised at the amount of people that turn up to the airport without essential items such as their passport and information regarding their flight or booking. Writing a checklist is the easiest way to make sure you’ve got everything and prevents those self-doubts when you’re at 35,000 feet. The most important items include: passport, VISA documents, hotel or accommodation confirmation, travel insurance documents, credit or debit cards as well as money.
Travel insurance is one of the most important items you will need before travelling - make sure that you know what your travel insurance covers as well as how much you’re covered for. If you’ve purchased an annual policy then make sure it’s in date and includes the countries you’re visiting. For example, some policies have some exclusions when travelling within Europe and within the United States as well as countries such as Turkey and Egypt. Most importantly, make sure that you have information that you may need if you run into a problem as well as your policy documents to refer to (including your policy reference number and any supporting documents).
Is Your Passport in Date?
Another stupid question but regardless your passport doesn’t expire on the date that it states it expires - technically. Certain countries require visitors to have more than 6 months left on their passport to enter. Imagine getting all the way to your final destination to be told that you cannot enter because you simply didn’t spend a few seconds checking that you have enough months left on your passport. While you’re checking these dates you should also check if you have enough pages left to be given a stamp stating what date you need to leave the country by. If you’re a frequent traveller then you’d know how quickly these pages can become filled out - especially when border control officials pick a spot that nearly takes up the whole page.
Do You Have A Visa?
When booking your holiday the airline you’re flying with usually recommends getting your Visa to prevent any last minute panicking - especially if you’re at the airport and remember you’ve completely forgotten to buy one. It took me around 3 minutes to look at Visa Application Fees through GOV.UK. Applying for an ESTA, which is the American version of a Visa, took me no more than 20 minutes as well as only taking around a week to get it confirmed. Depending on the country you’re visiting, Visas can cost up to £100, which would not only break the bank if booking last minute but eats into your hard earned spending money.
If you plan to rent a car while you’re abroad then make sure that you have an International Driving Permit (IDP) if needed as well as your driver's license from your home country. An International Driving Permit may only be needed if you’re travelling outside of the EU but there’s also specific requirements that need to be followed such as overseas driving rules. For some countries you may need to purchase emission stickers as well as headlight converter stickers which conforms to the state and local rules. Not only will you be breaking the law if you do not abide by these rules but you could be in for a hefty fine too.
If you’re on medication then not only must you make sure that you have enough to last you for the duration of your trip but also make sure that your medication has your name clearly stated on it. If your bag is searched and a your medication is found without any labels or signage that states that it's yours - the border control will not only have a hard time believing you but may also confiscate it if it’s a controlled drug. I always make sure that I bring a copy of my prescription as well as making sure that all medication is in my hand luggage and readily available if it needs inspection.
Have You Got Your Travel Vaccinations?
Depending on the country you’re visiting, visitors are advised to get their vaccinations to prevent against diseases found in other parts of the world. In the UK there’s four vaccinations which are currently free: polio, typhoid, hepatitis A and cholera - more information can be found by clicking here. Some countries also require proof of vaccination, so it would be important to keep a record and carry any documents supporting these just in case they’re needed. If you have an immune deficiency and want to travel to certain countries then you may be strongly advised by your GP to avoid certain vaccinations - it’s better to be safe than sorry so check before you even begin to book up your holiday.
It would be advisable to make a small first aid kit, even if you’ve planned to stay in the hotel the entire time, as anything can happen. These small first aid kits could simply be paracetamol, plasters, bandages and antiseptic wipes as well as hydration tablets such as Dioraltye (for those suffering from diarrhoea). It’s horrible not having paracetamol when you’re in a country where you cannot obtain it or cannot find a pharmacist that speaks the same language as you. Especially if you’re travelling with children then plasters will be a lifesaver as children tend to fall over out of nowhere and instead of rushing around to try and get plasters - having them on hand will be a lot easier.
You’ve found the perfect accommodation but wait - there’s a problem with your booking. This can make every traveller’s worst nightmare come to life, especially when they’ve just arrived after hours upon hours of travelling. However, if you have documents that state you’re reserved or paid in full for your stay it’ll make it much easier to find your booking and resolve any queries. Many people rely on their phone to store bookings and documents but there’s always that small chance that you may get no signal or the WiFi may not be working. Carrying an extra copy of your reservation is advisable - even when you’ve arrived in a country such as America and need to show proof of where you’ll be staying.
Taking Copies Of Everything
It’s advisable to take a copy of every important document to which you can leave in your accommodation or even better the safe that’s provided. Printing out your tickets is a great idea, as mentioned above, there’s the uncertainty that your phone may not work or run out of battery when you need it. Furthermore, some airlines don’t allow passengers to show their tickets on their phone which also applies to train tickets - especially if you’re standing in front of the ticket inspector whose demanding to see your ticket while your phone miraculously wants to freeze. Taking a copy of your passport is essential for two reasons - if you’ve become a victim of theft then you can take your copy to the police to prevent it being used elsewhere. The second reason being that you will have a copy of your passport to give to your accommodation especially if you’re booking through platforms such as Airbnb or Booking.com.
Notify Friends & Family of Your Whereabouts
If you’re travelling for one day or one hundred days then you should tell your close family and friends, including reliable neighbours, who will keep an eye on your house/flat while you’re gone. If you give your itinerary to even one person, it’ll give them an idea of where you’ll be if you fail to pick up your phone or even worse if you’ve been declared missing. Notifying friends and family of your whereabouts will also come in handy if there’s an emergency such as a terrorist attack or if there’s an emergency within the country. For example, when members of my family were on holiday there were reports of an earthquake in another part of the country they were staying in. Miraculously they had no idea as there were no English-speaking channels but luckily they had the chance to prepare themselves for the worst and make suitable arrangements.
Check What You’ve Booked Up
The amount of times I’ve booked up specific excursions or events and somehow booked another event on the same day surprises me - I really have a goldfish brain. If you book through platforms such as GetYourGuide then there’s the chance you can either modify or cancel your reservation up to the day before without being charged. Making an itinerary prevents this and doubles up as a guide to follow when travelling. As some events and excursions are non-refundable I’d advise just spending that extra minute or two checking the dates and making sure that you’ve got the correct date before ending up out of pocket.
What Are You Allowed To Carry?
Packing a suitcase can be one of the easiest tasks before travelling, well for me it is, but there are slight restrictions as to what you can and cannot bring. The obvious being you cannot bring any explosive materials, weapons or drugs but there are restrictions on food when travelling abroad. For example, when collecting my luggage at New York there were numerous families begging officials to not fine them as they had taken fresh fruit from the flight into New York - something that’s prohibited and means a passenger can be given a fine of up to $500 - not the greatest way to begin your holiday. Not only is there a restriction on what you can bring in but there’s a restriction on the weight of your suitcase. If you go over the maximum weight limit then you will be either forced to leave your precious souvenirs behind or pay a hefty price to allow your suitcase to go through.
What’s The Weather Like?
You’d be surprised how hot it was in New York when I visited - I didn’t wear half of the outfits I packed as I had resorted to wearing shorts and tank tops for the majority of my stay. Before packing the first thing you should do is check what the weather would be like and more specifically what temperatures you’ll be living in for the next few days. On the other hand, I researched how cold Poland would be when I visited in November but I underestimated how cold it would be when visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau - a thermal vest, thick t-shirt, a hoodie and a thick insulated jacket still wasn’t enough to stop me from shaking in my boots. Packing an umbrella never hurt anyone - even if where you’re travelling to predicts to be warm and sunny, the same might not be said from when you return from your travels (especially if you live in the UK).
One thing that catches everyone out is forgetting that plug sockets around the world are very different from the ones we’re used to back at home. I’ve been caught out a few times and have been left asking at reception where the nearest supermarket is and trust me, these adaptors don’t come easily nor cheaply. It would be advisable to bring more than one, the same applies to phone leads, as there’s always that small chance that they could break and you’d be left without them. Even at the airport or train station adaptors have come in handy time and time again - from checking Facebook updates to then make sure everyone knows how much you really are going to miss Paris.
Portable Chargers & Charging Electronics
As much as we all think that 79% will be enough to get us through a 3 hour flight, people fail to recognise that you’d most likely use your phone at the airport with the free WiFi as well as using your phone when you arrive at your destination. Making sure that your phone, laptop and other electronics are charged fully will prevent the worry that halfway through listening to your specially made Spotify playlist for the flight your phone will run out of battery. A portable charger is a readily and cheaply available product, if you buy it before travelling, with it being small and compact meaning it can easily fit into your pocket and charge your phone.
Can You Use Your Phone Abroad?
Luckily I’m with Three, a network that allows me to use my texts, minutes and data abroad at no extra cost to me, which most provides also allow customers to do. However, when travelling outside of Europe providers may not support your use of data in countries such as America and Australia - which if you don’t read about beforehand might leave you with a hefty phone bill and can ultimately ruin a perfectly enjoyable holiday. When me and my friend had got off the plane at New York and began making our way to our hotel, she found out that her mobile provider doesn’t allow her to use her phone in America - which led to a sigh and the realisation that she couldn’t like all the comments on Facebook from people telling her to enjoy her holiday.
Debit & Credit Cards
If you’ve chosen to use your debit or credit card while abroad then make sure you contact your bank so they can allow payments and transactions to go through. A simple phone call will allow the bank to put a message on your account rather than blocking your card with the suspicion of fraud on your account. When you’re abroad this is the worst thing that could happen - not having access to your bank account if you needed to pay for hospital bills or returning flights if necessary. Furthermore, it would be advisable to leave enough money in your account so that bills and other direct debits can be taken out accordingly. If you do decide to use your debit or credit card - try using an account that doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee attached to it as you might spend even more than you had hoped.
Getting foreign currency can be a bit of a hassle with different providers stating that they’re the best and you’ll get the best rates in town. Sometimes this can be so much of a hassle for people that they actually forget to do it - trust me I know a few people who have completely forgot to change up their pounds and pence for euros and cents. If you’ve already got your chosen currency then make sure you’ve got enough and just a little extra in case something goes wrong or you just plan to treat yourself while abroad. Cash always comes in handy even if you’re set on using your debit or credit card and the ATM or the card itself doesn’t work abroad.
Research About The Place You’re Visiting
If you’re planning to go to countries which local communities prefer tourists to wear conservative clothing when out and about or visiting sacred temples - then it’s better to be prepared. For example, if you’re wearing shorts and a tank top then there is no way that you’ll be allowed in as you will be asked to return once you’ve covered up or you will need to purchase additional clothing while there. In countries located in the Middle East and Asia tourists are required to cover up from their shoulders down to their knees - this information can allow visitors to wear clothes that respects these customs and make themselves feel comfortable. In Dubai public displays of affection aren’t illegal but are frowned upon as well as two people of opposite genders sharing a hotel room - as sex outside of marriage is illegal as well as homosexuality. So if you are unmarried and travelling with a partner, try to avoid displays of affection and sharing a room until your return home - it’s better than a hefty fine and in extreme circumstances jail time.
Tips and tricks for all aspects of travelling, most of which include saving money.