So; the destination is chosen, the flights are booked, you’re packed and…ready to go?
There are numerous things, both big and small, that need to be taken care of before you go skipping off to the airport. In this article, I’ll be talking through the top things that need to be done before you start travelling.
- Travel alert with your bank: Make sure that your bank card doesn’t get blocked while you’re away by putting a travel alert on your bank account. This is a relatively simple process that can be done either in branch or on your online account. The online process usually requires you to enter each individual country you will visit but in branch they should be able to put a ‘worldwide’ alert on if you are heading to numerous countries in one trip.
- Cashcard/Credit Card/Debit Card: You need to think carefully about how you will access your money while travelling. Look carefully at your credit/debit cards – are there fees for using them abroad? What are the charges for transactions/ATMs? For those of you in the UK, the Halifax Clarity Card is brilliant for travelling because there are no fees for transactions (although there are ATM fees). In the end AJ and myself ended up getting cashcards as there are no transaction or ATM fees. Make sure you shop around and do research into what kind of card will work best for you. A good starting point would be an external comparison site such as Money Savings Expert; this will give you a range of banks and companies so you can compare what they offer side by side.
- Ordering currency: If you’re travelling somewhere like the USA or Europe, it’s pretty easy to get your hands on dollars/euros/pounds. However, not all currency is readily available in post offices or banks, so you will need to make sure you order the currency you need. This can take a few days so make sure that you give yourself plenty of time before you leave.
Health and Safety:
- Health Insurance: this is pretty obvious but incredibly important, especially if you’re travelling for longer or doing more extreme activities. Make sure to shop around for the best deals, and ensure that any activities you are planning on doing are covered.
- Vaccinations: Depending on the country, certain vaccinations may be required, especially in more rural areas. Fit For Travel is a website by the UK NHS which is a fantastic resource for knowing what vaccinations are necessary for every country. Make sure to take your immunisation record with you, as some countries require proof of certain immunisations on entry (eg Yellow Fever). Vaccinations are expensive, so make sure you check out the prices at both your doctor’s and at travel clinics to get the best deal. For those of you who need malaria tablets, you can order them online at a fraction of the cost – Superdrug UK have an online service which only requires you to fill out a questionnaire to get a prescription.
- Allergies: If you have any allergies, you need to make sure that (a) you can tell people in the language of the country you are travelling in, and (b) that you have it recorded somehow and on your person at all times just in case; a note in your wallet, a medibracelet, whatever works.
- Power of attorney: This is mainly for people travelling long term, and also for people who are travelling with partners they are not married to. If something were to happen and one person ended up in hospital, their partner would have no legal standing to make any decisions for them. By giving each other power of attorney, it creates an extra layer of safety for emergency situations. It’s not an absolute must-do, but it is something to think about.
- Visas and Passports: check well in advance whether or not you need to apply in advance for a visa for the country you are staying in. Some countries will issue visas to you when you enter the country, but some require you to apply and receive your visa before you leave your country. Also check the expiry date on your passport – most countries require that your passport is valid for at least 6 months after you enter the country.
- Make photocopies: make sure you photocopy all of your documentation: passport, driver’s licence, vaccination information, travel insurance information. If you can, also scan your documentation and store on Dropbox so you can access them electronically wherever you are.
- Accessing online account: some online accounts, such as email, bank accounts, and PayPal, flag up you signing in from a completely different country as suspicious (and rightly so). If it’s possible, try to put some sort of travel alert on the account, and if that’s not possible, make sure that you are able to verify your identity however is required. I decided not to bring my phone with me on my travels as I didn’t think it was necessary, and then had huge issues with PayPal’s customer service when I couldn’t verify my identity through their chosen method of a text message with a security code. The same goes for online banking – for most banks, in order to set up a new payment or transfer funds they will contact you to confirm via a phone call or text. If you plan on having money in different accounts and transferring between them whilst you are away, make sure that the transfers are set up prior to departure.
- Phone/Sim: whether you bring your phone with you or not will depend on a number of factors: how long you’re travelling for, the charges from your phone company for using your phone abroad, how necessary a phone will be to you. Some phone companies do brilliant deals on using phones while travelling abroad. If your phone is unlocked you could buy a local SIM to use while in the country, reducing costs for you and those who want to contact you. Make sure you understand the rate for using your phone abroad, especially for data roaming – there are numerous horror stories of people being charged ridiculous amounts of money because they didn’t realise that data roaming was turned on.
- Mail forwarding address: this really only concerns long-term travellers. It’s a good idea to change your address on your bank account and other accounts that you are signed up to, to one of someone you trust to receive your mail, whether it’s family or friend. If something urgent comes along, they can contact you about it and help you deal with it.
- Phrasebook – if you are travelling to a country where you do not speak the local language, a phrasebook is an excellent investment. Have a look around at what’s on offer – the best ones will have a mini dictionary, basic grammar rules, and all the basic necessary phrases.
- Plug Adaptors: make sure to check what the plug sockets are like where you’re travelling, and that you get yourself a plug adaptor if necessary. There is a huge variety of adaptors available, from basic smalls ones, to adaptors that have USB connections. I personally love the Kinder travel adaptors that AJ and I are using, with the one small issue being that they are a little bulky.
- Voltage and current: Years ago, I worked in a hair and beauty shop in Edinburgh, and I was surprised by the amount of American women that would come into the shop looking to buy new hairdryers and straighteners because theirs had blown and couldn’t be fixed. What I then realised was that the mains current and voltage in America is much lower than the mains current and voltage in the UK; these women had bought basic adaptors that simply adapted to the plug socket shape when what they needed was an adaptor that was also a transformer. It would have reduced the current going into their devices, which would have then worked perfectly without breaking. Make sure to check what the mains voltage and current are where you’re travelling compared to home so you know what kind of adaptor you need.
Before you get wrapped up in the flurry of excitement that comes with finally having booked your trip abroad, remember to take care of the little things; what seems like a potentially minor thing before you leave, could turn into an issue whist you’re away.
If there’s anything you think I’ve missed, please let me know!