After spending a lot of time in airports and foreign countries in 2015, (three continents in two days anyone?) I’ve learned the hard way to be more prepared for my travels. I’ve done the dirty work, so you don’t have to…here’s my list of 7 things to do before you travel.
DON’T try and skimp on this, pay the extra, get all the add-ons, bump up to premium…hopefully you’ll never have to use it, but the peace of mind is worth it. Yearly policies are cheap these days, I’ve got worldwide cover including winter sports from Blue Insurance for €69 a year. It covers stuff like delayed baggage, accidents and doctors fees, travel disruption and replacement passports. Their website is really easy to use and you can get an instant quote online. Never travel without insurance, always make sure it’s in date and keep a note of your policy details and emergency contact number safe.
Do you need vaccinations for the country you’re travelling to? Ten days before I flew to Thailand I called the doctor in a panic, don’t make the same mistake as me! Download the World Health Organisation’s travel and health booklet here for advice on preventable diseases, water, injections etc.
If you’re prone to being eaten alive by mosquitos, like I am (bonus: I’m allergic….stinger, literally), then make sure to take the right preventative measures. Vitamin B is said to help (there’s no solid proof, but it won’t do any harm either) as is quinine which is found in G&T’s. Okay, you don’t have to have the gin part, but I find it makes the tonic go down easier. You can also buy anti-mosquito plug ins and arm bands, natural repellants like citronella and products containing DEET to ward off the bastard things. So yeah, taking advantage of the free gin and tonics on your long-haul flight is one of the 7 things you should do before you travel…that’s basically the gist of what I’m saying.
If you’re tempted to stock up when you arrive at your destination in the hope that everything will be cheaper, it’s not worth it. I was bitten in the taxi from Bangkok airport, lesson learned.
If you take any medications, carry the prescription with you. Some countries’ airport security may request to see it (because, you know, drug smuggling).
Getting your smartphone set up before you leave is definitely one of the 7 things to do before you travel because trying to get a decent wifi connection is almost always a pain while you’re away, so it might be too late. Plus, who wants to spend their holiday browsing the app store? Currency exchange, maps and language translators are all apps you’ll want to use without an internet connection abroad, read my list of the 5 free travel apps you should download immediately here.
What currency does the country you’re going to use? Some have more than one! If it isn’t a common currency you may need to request an order from your bank as they don’t keep everything in stock, just the most popular ones.
While you’re at the bank, ask them to put a note on your account to ensure they don’t put a stop due to “fraudulent activity”…no, no, it was actually me who spent $595 in Sephora!
Consider back up options in case your cards are lost or stolen and never keep them together. I recently dropped my credit card in a restaurant before even arriving at Dublin airport, then forgot to collect my ATM card from the machine in Thailand and I was travelling alone. Luckily, I knew my card details off by heart which meant I was able to book accommodation and transport online. Don’t let that happen to you!
Do you need a visa for the country you’re travelling to? Can you buy it online in advance or will you need to apply at the airport? Check the government websites of each place you’re visiting in advance.
Make photocopies of important documents like your passport, driving licence and insurance policy. Carry one separate to the original and leave another at home with a responsible friend or family member. I also use a password protected app to scan copies onto my phone.
Don’t be stung by rip off tech stuff at the airport or in your hotel like travel adaptors and chargers. Check what kind of plugs you’ll need here.
It might sound obvious, but make sure your batteries and memory cards are in your devices and not sitting in a drawer at home. Been there, done that.
Is your phone set up for roaming? What are the charges like? Check all this with your network before you leave the country.
Research local sim cards in the country you’ll be spending time in and make sure they’re compatible with your phone. This can often work out as a cheaper alternative, especially when you factor in data costs.
If you’d prefer to keep your own home phone number, you can use a local or data sim in a mobile broadband unit…just make sure it’s unlocked first!