Congratulations – I know you must be super excited. If you’re smart, you’ve booked months in advance to take advantage of discount airfares, accommodation, etc.
But before you put your tickets and itinerary in a safe place, grab a pen and paper – or open a spreadsheet on your computer – and begin listing everything you need to do and what you need to pack. Any frequent traveller will agree that planning a holiday reduces stress as the departure date nears.
Now is the time to check out the country’s/countries’ government website to find valuable information. Things to look for include:
- Visas – does your nationality enable you to automatically receive a visa upon entering a country, not require a visa at all, or that you must obtain a visa before you leave home? How much will the visas cost, how must payment be made –cash/credit card?
- Passports – the expiry date must be at least six months after you leave the countries you are visiting. If your passport is due to run out, then get a new one. Don’t leave it too late if you also must obtain visas.
- Vaccinations – a current list will be displayed on the government websites but it’s also a good idea to check with your doctor as well. Once you know what vaccinations, if any, are required, spread them out over time; this helps your body adjust and is gentler on your bank balance.
- International Driver’s Licence – If you are thinking of hiring a vehicle during your holiday, be aware that many countries will not accept your local driver’s licence as valid in their country so you will need to organise an International Driver’s Licence before leaving home. These are usually valid for 12 months from date of issue, therefore wait until about two months before departure to arrange. Make sure you take your local licence with you as well as proof you hold a current licence.
- We often hear tragic stories of young travellers hiring a scooter or a jet-ski, having an accident, then discovering they were meant to hold valid licences for these forms of recreational vehicles. The people renting them won’t disclose these facts; let’s face it, they just want to make money. The ramifications for the travellers are horrendous so think twice.
- Medications – some medications we take for granted in our own country may be banned in the country/countries you are visiting. It is very important to check government websites and discuss with your doctor if you are taking any medication with you. Make sure tablets are in their original packaging; if your prescribed medication could cause any issues, ask your doctor to write an official letter outlining the medication and the reasons you are taking it. Keep the original letter in your hand luggage but also place a photocopy on the top of your luggage. If Customs officials do open your luggage, they will see the letter and most likely reseal it without further enquiries made.
More tasks over the next few months:
- Pets – will someone be prepared to look after them at your home or will they go into a kennel or cattery? Book early and make a note of when they will be dropped off and picked up. If they go a couple of days before your departure, it is one less last-minute thing to worry about.
- Getting to/from the airport – do you have a wonderful family member or friend prepared to take you out to the airport and/or pick you up? If not, plan your route, and if it includes public transport, keep an eye on any changes that may occur to services leading up to your departure. Most airports have companies offering long-term undercover offsite parking with shuttle services to the airport departure and arrivals points – check out the costs involved to see if this is a more viable option.
- Credit cards, etc – one of the biggest mistakes travellers make is to not officially inform their bank or credit card institution that they will be travelling overseas and the countries they will be visiting or passing through. It can be very embarrassing and also time-consuming if your card bounces when paying for accommodation, for example.
- Tip: have two credit cards or at least the ability to move money between two debit cards if necessary. During one holiday I learned my main card had been compromised in a world-wide bank hack and the card cancelled. I was able to shift my funds to another card, still pay for my purchases and continue my holiday.
- Foreign currency – it is far cheaper to obtain foreign currency in your own country than purchasing when you arrive. Be aware that whilst banks will always have plenty of the major currencies on hand, for example, British Pounds, Euros and US Dollars, other currencies may need to be ordered in. Give your bank plenty of advance notice and order small denomination notes. This way you will always to able to purchase from small vendors and also reduce the amount of change given back. Try to get a good understanding of a country’s currency so that you can use up all your loose coins before departing. Banks won’t buy back coins, nor old and damaged notes so keep this in mind throughout your travels.
- Doctor and Dentist – make appointments for check-ups, renew prescriptions, etc.
- Travel Insurance – don’t leave home without it. If you are considering doing any “dangerous” sports, make sure you take out the highest level of cover. The insurance companies can be very unforgiving if you have an accident or injure someone else whilst participating in such a sport, and you’re not covered. You might be amazed at what sports are listed so check thoroughly before settling on the insurance cover you take. Shop around, there is a huge range of companies offering insurance from your bank, private health provider, travel agent through to online worldwide companies.
- Luggage – is yours in good order or do you need to replace or upgrade to something more suitable for where you are going? Over the next few months there’s sure to be a major sale happening at which time you will have the opportunity to get a good bargain.
You’ve probably raced ahead and jotted down other tasks you have thought about. Fantastic. No one list suits everybody and it is important to keep adding/changing it as you head towards your departure date.
By being prepared and having many jobs completed well ahead of time, you will be able to handle any last-minute issues more calmly.