My trip planning normally goes like this: book flight, research where to eat, book accommodation. Then in the week before going away, there’s ten things that I prep to make sure that I don’t run into any issues abroad. From being contactable to keeping safe and saving my sanity; they’re all totally dull things to organise, but a real pain if you forget any of them. So, to save you the hassle, here’s a quick cheat’s guide to being 100% prepared for your next trip:
1) Check your debit and credit card fees
Relying on paying for everything on your card? Make sure you know your bank charges for purchases abroad and especially for cash withdrawal fees. Debit cards generally will whack an extra cost on to anything, but there’s plenty of credit cards that don’t charge for usage abroad. Then there’s cash cards that you can load up with currency specifically to use on holiday; I used to have from the International Currency Exchange, but I’ve just applied for one with Avios so I can keep on collecting air miles whilst I travel.
2) Order your currency in advance
Then there’s the decision as to whether you want cash on you or not. I find keeping track of the money I spend abroad easier when I’m spending cash, but I’ve fallen foul to not being prepared enough and then taking it out of an ATM on arrival and getting an awful exchange rate. Now, I order my currency through the Avios e-store (because again, I’m all about that air miles life!) and then collect it from the Travelex close to my work. It means I get a good exchange rate and I’m immediately ready to pay for my onward travel from the arrival airport.
3) Do not travel without insurance!
So many people just assume that they don’t need insurance, like it’s some sort of scam. But travel insurance can protect you in situations where you’re safety could be compromised or you’re in danger of losing a whole heap of money, and it’s actually much cheaper than you might think. It can cover your luggage going missing, illnesses you might contract, your hotel closing down before you get there; and if you’re doing anything like skiing or some other extreme sports activities, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the right options, so read up on how to stay safe.
4) Plan your journey to and from the airport
Again, I’m just trying to appeal to the part of your travel planning that isn’t fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, which does kind of go against my instincts, but I’ve made the mistake a couple of times of assuming that every airport in the world will have a version of Heathrow Express to get you efficiently into whichever city I’m visiting. Spoiler alert: they do not. Figuring out if you need to find a bus or a train, if there’s a pre-paid card like an Oyster that you can use, and how far away it is from your accommodation will make life so much easier when you’ve had to get up at 4am for a flight and all you want is a coffee and a shower.
5) Pack the relevant medication
I’m not talking about your regular prescriptions, although of course you need to make sure you have enough of those too. This is more precautionary stuff because honestly, being ill on holiday is the absolute worst. Some countries will need all sorts of jabs, but really I’m just talking about the things that I always have in my own bathroom cabinet: paracetamol for hangovers, Imodium for dodgy food situations, and for the love of god, take some emergency tampons. I once came on my period early whilst on holiday in Beijing and it turns out trying to find anything other than a five-inch thick sanitary towel is basically impossible. Which was great.
6) Check which adaptors you need
I’ve always split adaptors between Europe and International, but my trip to South Africa proved me wrong. I went that entire trip without having any immediate way to charge any of my electronics, instead I had to borrow chargers from my friend who lives in Cape Town and was travelling with me. South African electrical points are the only of their type in the world, so…now I know. And so do you. Do some Googling!
7) Check your data allowance
I know full well that if I don’t prep my data situation before I go anywhere, I’ll just give in and switch on my 3G for quick Instagram upload and BOOM, there goes my phone bill. Thankfully, most places in Europe are now included in UK data plans, but it’s always worth checking, regardless. When it comes to travelling out of Europe, you can buy a local SIM but with some countries you need to do it before you arrive (which is what I did for Japan), and others you can do it once you land (Auckland airport in New Zealand has two phone kiosks for travel SIMs as soon as you walk into Arrivals).
Most patronising and obvious post ever? Potentially. But holiday planning is stressful and when it’s not fun things like where to stay or what to eat, the essential admin tasks can fall by the wayside. Tick these ten tasks off and that’s a weight off your mind, at least.
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