I have been in prep mode as the time for my next big trip draws closer. What I’ve noticed is that a carefree attitude leading up to travel is never a good idea. There is more to do than buying tickets and packing your bags. Also, I’ve learned that there are some aspects of preparing for travel that can’t be rushed the night before while there are others that can. Over the years, I’ve developed a system of what I consider to be the most-to-least important things to prepare for in relation to my travels.
The most important things: check the validity of your passport and validity of necessary visas. There is nothing worse than looking forward to a trip for months, only to discover on travel day that you require a visa to visit a country that you always assumed having a passport would be enough to be allowed entry. Or worse, that your visa or passport is expired. [Make sure that you have some form of up-to-date government ID (eg. driver’s license, etc) as well. From getting on a plane, to checking into a room, to renting a car or drinking an adult beverage – you can’t do much without a valid ID.]
- How far in advance: Check those dates at least three months in advance, just in case you need to renew or apply for a new visa or passport. Depending on your country & time of year you apply, the process may be slow. You’ll need funds available for application fees and passport photos.
The fairly important things:
1) check to see if your debit/credit card or traveler’s cheques will be accepted in the country you visit. I personally know of someone who did not carry any money to his destination because he decided to solely rely on his credit card that, in the end, could not be used in that country. Yes, this is 2012 but not all places accept credit cards and not many institutions/hotels/restaurants accept all types of credit cards. Don’t get burned.
- How far in advance: Something like this can be handled in a week or so with some simple research online, emails or calls. If you do discover that the country does not accept your card, purchasing some foreign currency at your bank before you leave is your best bet. [It’s never a good idea to travel with large sums of money but I also don’t recommend traveling without any.] Be sure to have two forms of government ID & proof of a purchased ticket(s) to the foreign country handy when you go to buy foreign currency at the bank.
2) check to see that you have a good supply of your prescription medication – enough to cover you for the duration of your trip. Also, store the contact information of your pharmacy/pharmacist (or memorize it) in case you lose your bag and are in dire need of a refill abroad. You will most likely need a referral from your local pharmacist before a foreign pharmacist will approve of providing prescription meds.
- How far in advance: This can also be done a week before your trip. My suggestion is to keep the info stored online or in email, so that in case you lose your all belongings, you can have your family at home or the foreign pharmacist access the info for you. A bonus would be to scan the labels of your meds ahead of time, to have all the important info you need in one quick file.
The least important things: ensure that you pack all the necessary chargers, wires, etc that are needed for your trip. A lot of people write while ‘on the road’ and use their smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc. heavily during travel. I’m sure others might consider this to be most important but the truth is, if you’re traveling to a major city, there may be a chance to purchase what wires/cords/chargers you left at home. Or, you could go the old fashioned route wherever you are and document your trip with a simple pen and paper. The point is, it’s no big deal if you forget but remembering could save you some money that can be used to enjoy your trip.
- How far in advance: The night before or the morning of your trip is enough time to make sure that all of your tech accessories are safely packed away & ready for travel.
In my opinion, these are the basic essentials to any trip prep – get your travel documents right, get your money right and get your meds right before you leave. Anything else (for me) is a bonus.