I thought I’d write something useful for a change. Or at least make an honest attempt to do so. And what could be more useful then helping people sort out both formalities and practicalities when they just booked their flight tickets or overnight stays for their next holiday.
You know the feeling: that tingling feeling when you close your eyes, whilst giving the globe on your desk a good spin. And after that simple twist of fate, have your indexfinger land on your next travel destination. You’re feeling giddy, exited, almost lightheaded as you start planning your stay abroad. You’re anxiously going over possible travel routes, sights to see and potential residences. But aside from your itinerary and lodgings, there are some more blanks to fill.
1. Check how to obtain legal access to your destination
In any country, even your own, you’re required to always and at all times be able to identify yourself. If you’re not travelling too far from home, in most cases a valid identity card or driver’s license will suffice for identification purposes. However, if you’re crossing continental borders, you’re obliged to have an international travel passport. Check a couple of months in advance if you’ll be needing such travel identification in the well-known format of a booklet. Your national department of foreign affairs will be able to provide you the proper intel on the matter.
If you’ve got your ID-formalities sorted out, it’s time to find out if you’ll be granted access to the country you want to travel to. The endorsement placed on a passport, the stamp in the booklet, that’s what you’re after. In most cases, when a lawful consent to enter the nation aka a ‘visa‘, is required, you’ll need to apply for it in advance.
One last thing to consider before leaving. Say you’re trip hoppin’ from one country to another or you’ve already got a bunch of travelstamps in your booklet from previous conquests, do bear in mind that not all nations are equally keen on one another. Yes, embargo’s exist even in the world of travel. For instance, some years back when I travelled to Egypt and Jordan, we heard that entering Egypt with an Israeli stamp on your passport, was prohibited. Same was said for Syria at the time. And I can image it still is subject to strict regulation as diplomatic relations between those countries are still tensed.
2. Check medical requirements
Ask yourself, will you be needing shots? No, I don’t mean the ones you get from the bottle. I mean the ones you get from the doctor. Most countries insist on say, your basics like hepatitis or tetanus. However some of these routine vaccines fade out after a couple of years. So be sure to check if your up-to-date on your injections.
If you’re not sure what specific vaccinations are recommended when travelling to a certain county, the website from the CDC will give you a clear overview.
3. Check transportation
When mapping out your travel route, consider both the road to get there, as well as the transportation that will bring you where you need to be. If you prepare in advance, chances are your travel will be facilitated and a lot cheaper too.
Roads in some countries don’t come cheap. In a lot of European countries, if you’re burning down the highway, you’ll be charged a tax. For example, Austria will have you buy a vignette. France on the other hand has its ‘peages’. You could off course try to save a couple of bucks if you check in advance if you can’t (partially) circumnavigate these ‘taxed routes‘.
In case you’d be in need of a rental car or camper, a great way to safeguard some of your travel budget is to book up front. In any case, whether you travel in a rental vehicle or your own, you’ll want to get it gassed up for the least amount of money. So make sure you’re getting ‘tanked’ in countries or states where fueltaxes are favourable and you’ll be able to pinch more than just some pennies.
In case you’re relying on local public transportation, you don’t have to worry about your gasmoney. However you can very well cut some corners here as well, if you check details in advance. Say you’re going Christmas shopping in London. You might want to check if anyone you know still has an Oyster card lying around. And why not consider taking a nighttrain going from point A to point B? It will save you an overnight stay and skimp some time off your travel schedule.
4. Check your insurances
A necessary evil, my boys and girls. You never wish upon something bad to happen. But when it does, you want to get the most out of a bad situation. That’s what insurances are for. Essential however to the principle of insurances, is that you get some béfore something happens. And that’s not all, you should also make sure that whatever occurs, will get covered under the terms that apply to your contract. Yes, we’re talking risk assessment here. Not a day to day occupation for most, so I’ll try to get you going …
The holy trinity in terms of travel insurances, are Assistance, Hospitalization and Annulation. AHA, that’s right! If you ain’t got nothin’ of that, you should seriously consider getting some. I got my first travel assistance insurance in preparation of my trip to Nepal. Embarking on a trekking through the Himalayas, I found it quiet reassuring to know that a helicopter would be at my rescue when needed, without having to break out in a sweat thinking about the bill to follow or having to consider a yak as ambulance ad interim. Afterwards I decided to keep the insurance cover going as the price was more than reasonable and it included a car assistance as well.
Which brings me seamlessly to an important side note. Most travel agencies or tour operators will offer their clients ‘travel’ insurances. Be that as it may, your insurance broker will generally be able to guarantee the same securities, incorporating them into your existing insurances. In most cases it’ll be at cut-rate and you’ll be able to rely on it throughout the rest of the year, at home or abroad and not just for the duration of your trip.
Other pointers or should I say snags to be wary for are territoriality and duration of your stay abroad. Some insurance-formula’s come off as more economical, meaning they come cheaper. Yet, cheaper often implies more restrictions. So be sure to check if your coverage applies to wherever you’re going and for the entire duration of your stay abroad. And while you’re going through the details of your terms, you might want to do the same for any liability-insurance and legal-insurance you might have (or have your insurance broker take on that task).
5. Check your Finances
Money makes the world go ’round. Or better yet, money makes you go ’round the world. Regardless the budget you put aside for your travel, financial issues cramping up your holiday is most definitely the last thing you want. So let’s get your sh*t together.
First things first. Still a freight load of invoices lingering around? Start raking them together and pay them suckers, because they won’t stop coming just ’cause you’re out of the house. And if you feel like holding out for a bit on the grounds that they’re only due in a few days or weeks, consider using a memo date to add to your payment.
So far so good. Your finances at home are taken care of. But what about your resources while abroad? Like anything these days, even your wallet exists above all digitally. In order to get access to your digital chips and to be able to spend them abundantly, some set-up changes might be needed. Depending on where you’re headed, your bank may have to open up your card(s) for usage in other parts of the world. Another card parameter to check are spending limits. Even if you want to keep your purse strings nice and tight, keep in mind that hotels, car rentals etc. will ask for a deposit if you want to enjoy their services. In most cases they will block an amount on your credit card, which could cause a real drag once you realize, that security deposit made you reach your cut-off point way to soon.
Furthermore, there’s still cold hard cash. However, as you might have noticed, not every country holds the same currency. If you do mind feeling like you’ve been taken to the cleaners every time you pull out the greens, get armed and ready in advance. Check where and when exchange rates are in your favor. Try to avoid exchange agents around the airport as commissions are probably higher. Be on the look-out for a brief economical recess where you’re going so you can buy the currency a bit cheaper. The Brexit for example made it interesting to go pound-shopping and occasionally Trump barfing out hot air, does the same for the dollar.
Last but not least in this department, there are a ton of apps that can facilitate your financial wires while away. I usually upload a standard ‘change rates app‘. Most of those are free of charge anyway and they instantly make me realize what money I’m in for. Likewise, in case you travel with companionship, you’ll find app’s that will keep count of your (and your compagnions’) share in the bills. No more calculating after each and every pub or restaurant visit. Just input all bills in the app together with the person who payed it and settle your score at the end of your journey together.
6. Check your paperwork
Getting robbed by a Thai hooker during a world series football match or leaving your satchel behind on a Nepali mountain trail. Quite inconvenient, I must say. And I admit, I speak from personal experience. Luckily, I’ll never leave on a trip without making copies of all important travel documents; visa, driver’s license, flight tickets, hotel bookings and so on and so forth. All carefully assembled in one map. In that same map you can store your travel itinerary and a list of useful contacts, in case you lose your phone. I’ve learned the hard way to include the address of my embassy as well.
Made your homework? Splendid! Now copy the map you made for yourself and entrust a close relative or ‘BFF’ with it. In case of disaster, your home-front will know were exactly you are, where they can contact you or what authorities to turn to.
7. Check for Home Care Volunteers
Time to delegate some of those nasty day to day chores you’re escaping from, like watering your plants or taking in the mail. And anything else you’d like to get done around the house for that matter. Like that one time when we were still renovating our house and one of our close friends took it upon himself to fully install our livingroom and kitchen ceiling while we were on holiday. Or that one time when my sister probably spent hours, scrubbing our bathtub that had turned rainbow thanks to the multicolored squeaky bathtoys from our kids. (My eternal gratitude is forever theirs!)Needless to say, an extra set of house keys comes in handy at times like these. Off course you can always contemplate on how to make their responsibilities slightly less burdensome. For example, consider placing timers on a couple of your in- and out-door lights. That way no one will have to face morning and evening traffic to open and close your blinds.
For obvious safety reasons, you’ll also want to notify your neighbors. Even if they’re not too keen on taking on any of your chores. It doesn’t take much of an effort to keep an eye on things while you’re far away from home. If you’ve got a driveway in front of your house, you can even offer them an extra parking space next-door so they can keep up the appearance of an occupied home.
Last but not least, don’t forget to provide the proper shelter for your pets. No, we’re not stringing the dog to a tree and if you do, may you burn in hell for eternity you f*cking basterd.
8. Check Roaming Rates
Nowadays every self-respecting hotel, BNB or tourist rental property offers free WiFi. But what to do when you’re out on the road and you get lost? What to do when out on a sandy, sunny beach and you’d like to get your tan optimized whilst listing to your online playlist or reading up on the daily gossips? And what to do when you just snapped a mind-blowingly sweet, awesome selfie and you so desperately want to share it on your socials? What to do … you turn to the internet. Nevertheless, surfing the waves of the Web, might cause a big bite in your budget. Same goes for your phone bill by the way.
So be sure to check what rates will be charged for mobile data usage or international calls and try finding alternatives were possible. Instead of turning to Google Maps, try approaching some locals for a change. You could favor a temporary Premium subscription for your playlist or download some e-books in advance. You could mind posting your selfies while you’re having your margarita in a bar that offers free WiFi. Likewise, try convincing your stay-at-home network to use apps like Facetime to call in for updates on your journey, off course, while you’re in a free-WiFi zone.
9. Check your Language Skills
No one expects you to master the local Swahili dialect when you’re travelling to Eastern Africa. But looking up some day-to-day basic words or expressions will go a long way in communication with the natives. The gigantic advantage of picking up on some vocabulary is that you suddenly shapeshift from being a cocky tourist to an emphatic stranger.
Don’t worry, no need to hit the books or drag a 20-pound dictionary around. There’s a sh*tload of apps around for translation purposes. Although for all you potty-mouths, I can strongly recommend my ‘swear word dictionary’ …
10. Last Check-Up
No one likes to come home to a complete and utter mess. After an active excursion, you’ll literally long for your crach-pad to unwind. And after an unwinding get-away, freeing yourself from stress of daily grind, you don’t want to get your nerves getting tensed up again all at once. Therefore, you’ll want to avoid opening up the door to funky trash-bin odors or a fungi-infested dish-washer.
Thus, before you embark on your journey, make sure to properly secure your house: remove and store all outside furniture indoor, empty the trash, empty the dishwasher, shut off your outside faucet, make sure the coffee-machine is cleaned out, shut down all electrical appliances completely, donate all perishable food from your fridge to the needy and leave with emptied laundry-hampers.