Planning a trip in my late twenties has been a considerably different experience to the one that I had in my early twenties, when preparation involved little more than packing a backpack the day before boarding a plane.
That is a slight exaggeration, but it is fair to say that my brain functioned slightly differently at that time in my life. I thought far less of what might occur in the future, which was in some ways liberating, but in many ways it was pretty irresponsible and silly, and left me woefully unprepared for a ten-month trip.
Of course, most things have a habit of working themselves out in the end but, in the interest of being a responsible grown-up (ahem), I have noted down some of the steps that I have taken, and which should be taken, when preparing for a trip. I leave for my own, three-month trip at the end of April, and these are some of the tasks which are preoccupying me. Some are pretty mundane and/or time-consuming, but each could prevent a potentially stressful situation further down the line.
Get your travel jabs
Booking an appointment with your GP to talk through necessary vaccinations is important, and your travel nurse or doctor will also be able to tell you whether and when you will need to take antimalarials, as well as the different options and price points available. We are lucky in the UK to have the NHS, and so vaccinations are largely free, while antimalarials need to be paid for. However, contracting malaria is relatively common among travellers, and very serious, so precautions should be taken.
Inform your bank to avoid overseas charges
Letting your bank know when and where you will be going should stop your card from being blocked when you use it abroad. If this does happen it is usually pretty easy to rectify with a call to your card provider, but you will save yourself an annoying task and potential overseas call charges if you let your bank know in advance. Natwest, who I bank with in the UK, lets you do this automatically through online banking, so it literally takes minutes.
Cancel direct debits or standing orders
In the same vein, you should ensure that you’re not paying any unnecessary monthly costs, such as a gym membership, while you’re away. Unfortunately, mobile networks in the UK don’t currently let you suspend your phone contract, and the only way out of them is to pay vast sums, but you may want to suspend certain features, such as 3G, while you’re outside of your home country to avoid unwanted charges.
Take care of your current living space and possessions
This means something different to everyone. Since I am renting I simply found someone else to take my room, and have thought about options for when I return. However, for some this will mean renting out your own place, which is a great source of income while you’re away. Likewise, due to renting I have limited personal possessions, and am hiring a small storage space for the duration of my trip, but if you’re lucky to have friends or family who don’t mind being burdened with your things while you travel then all the better. Just buy them a drink to say thank you!
Buy travel insurance
Another irritating but necessary expenditure, travel insurance should be purchased as early as possible to ensure that it covers all of your flights. There are comparison sites for finding the cheapest insurance deals, but I found that the majority of annual and multi-trip travel insurance deals limited each stay outside of the home country to a maximum of 30-days, which is not suitable for backpackers. Instead, many providers now offer ‘backpackers insurance’, which is specifically for long trips to multiple destinations. I went with Insure and Go which set me back £84 for three months. Obviously the cost varies greatly depending on what you want covered; this is a low-end price (Backpacker Bronze).
Check which visas you will need
Embarrassingly, this is an area that I have neglected in the past. Not acquiring the necessary visas can cause stress and delay at airports, which you really don’t need to put yourself through. Use your government’s travel resources (in the UK that’s gov.uk) to find out which countries you’ll need visas for, and how long you’re allowed to stay in each country on a tourist visa. Out of the countries I am visiting – Malaysia, Philippines, Nepal and India – UK citizens only need advance visas for India, which you can now apply for online.
Apply for a travel credit card or an overdraft extension
I’m not sure whether this is sensible advice, but it is something to consider purely for the sake of having a safety blanket should you veer off-budget. Hopefully you are a far better budgeteer than me and you will not need to use your reserve funds, but it’s good to have the option in case you find yourself in a sticky situation. At the end of the day, access to funds can keep you safe.
Finally… check into your flights
Airlines won’t let you check into your flights until a few weeks to a month before your departure date, but ensuring that you have checked-in where possible will help you move smoothly through the airport. You might also want to print-off your flight details in case your tech fails you. Printing-off the address of your first-night’s accommodation can also be very useful for finding the place when you’re unfamiliar with the language and currency.
What do you think of my advice? Are all of these steps necessary? Have I missed out anything important? Let me know 🙂