Getting ready for a trip isn’t just about throwing a few outfits in the suitcase and showing up at the airport on the day of your flight. No! It takes planning and preparation, hours of daydreaming, days spent organizing things at home, and then finally, yes finally, you can breathe a sigh of relief as you make your way to the departures terminal. Here’s your to do list before you hit the road:
Check your travel documents.
I was once waiting to board my flight to Tokyo when the man in front of me was denied boarding due to an expired passport! I have no idea how he made it past the check-in counter and immigration without a valid document…but he did. It wasn’t until they scanned his passport as the flight was boarding, that the mistake became apparent. It turns out it had expired a month ago and he wasn’t even aware of it! When you’re getting ready to travel, don’t just check to make sure you have your passport – ensure it is still valid. The same goes with visas; some countries may let you obtain one once you land, but the majority require that you do so beforehand.
Cash, cards and cheques.
There’s nothing quite like landing in Lisbon with 50 Euros in your pocket because you intend to use your credit card, only to realize your card has been frozen! Yes, that happened to me. I was sensible enough to inform my company ahead of time where and when I would be travelling, but this doesn’t always mean things will go smoothly. Have a backup just in case your card is lost, stolen, or eaten by an ATM machine – stranger things have happened!
I understand some people like to go with the flow and see how they like a city before they pre-book themselves for ten days; I do too. However, it is a good idea to decide on accommodations at least for your first few nights in town rather than stepping out of an airport, bus terminal or train station with no idea of where you will be resting your head. Hunting for accommodations is no fun when you’re tired from a day’s travel and you have a heavy backpack to lug around. Also keep in mind that places may be fully booked during holidays, festivals, or special events. You don’t want to be spending the night on a park bench.
Research your destination before you get there.
Yes, you can pick up maps, brochures, and even join tours once you get there, but you could miss out on some great sites by not doing some preliminary research. Like the time I completely forgot about the catacombs in Paris, or overlooked Barri Gòtic in Barcelona… These are places I would have loved to visit, but I got sidetracked by the main attractions and completely dismissed some pretty fascinating spots around town. Do a bit of googling and find out what you want to see.
The bills aren’t going to pay themselves.
And the mail isn’t going to pick itself up either. But how I wish they would! For anyone embarking on an extended vacation or long-term travel, these are things to consider. Know when your bills are due and pay them on time; there’s no sense in paying high interest charges because you were a few days late with your payment. Most banks now offer online banking, and you may also be able to set up some direct payments for your monthly bills. When it comes to your mail, you can either ask your post office to put it on hold, or perhaps a family member or trusted friend will be willing to do so.