Some people find planning a trip or adventure overwhelming and stressful. It can be time consuming, but it’s something I enjoy thoroughly. I try to make it as enjoyable and stress free as possible. I always start with a good list. Here’s a list of things to do before you set off, so you can enjoy your holiday as much as possible.
Check your passport is in date, and if not, get a new one sorted pronto! You can fast track a new passport for an added fee.
The first thing I do is book the flight.
I use Skyscanner mostly. Select ‘whole month’ and pick the lowest bar chart for the cheapest flights.
Once the flight is booked you must go! It’s a great incentive for saving and organising.
Find out if you need a visa for your chosen destination. These can take a while to process and sometimes require you to send your passport off in advance before you arrive.
On one trip I had flights to Bangkok with travel plans to bus to Cambodia and Laos and then back to Bangkok to fly onto Sydney. This was a five week trip in South East Asia, but you are only allowed 30 days with a Thai visa. When checking in for my flight to Thailand, I was informed that they wouldn’t let me on the flight until I showed them proof I was leaving the country within the 30 day visa allowance. I had to run to a computer and book a train ticket to Laos. If you’re in the same boat, make sure you bring proof that you’re leaving the country to avoid the sweating, running and panic I endured in Dublin airport.
Book an appointment with your doctor/nurse, and find out what vaccinations or boosters you need. They may need to be taken 1-3 times before your trip, so you can’t leave it until the last minute. I would suggest going straight away, but 2-3 months before your departure date should be enough.
First find out what you need. Some countries have two currencies, but you’ll find they prefer one over the other. Find out which one they prefer for transactions. We bought euros for Prague only to find out they prefer to use koruna. We got ripped off with exchange rates. You’ll get currency at a better rate if you order online. If you don’t have time (or patience) for that, just nip down to your local post office or travel agent! Shop around!
6. Travel insurance
I buy yearly insurance! I think it works out cheaper for me. It also means you only have to do it once a year! Just check you are covered for your country and type of holiday before you go! For example, ski holidays will cost more and aren’t covered by standard policies.
If you’re going to Australia, you get free doctor appointments with a British passport and free medical/hospital care with an Irish passport. If you’re Northern Irish, I would advise having both passports. You never know when you might need one or the other. It could also be handy if you lost one, to have a back up!
World nomads travel insurance is recommended on every travel blog I’ve read!
7.Email your bank
Let them know where you’re going to and what dates you’ll be there, so they don’t cancel your card when you try to use it abroad. This happened to me in Laos.
8.Check the weather
I always Google search the average weather for my destination and dates. This will help you with packing, but always remember the weather forecast is often wrong.
9. Suitcase/ Carry on/ Backpack?
Decide what bag you need. Will a carry on do for a long weekend/city break?
Double check baggage allowance for your trip. All airlines are different!
Read my blog below if you’re unsure what to take with you!
10. Packing List
Now that you know what bag you’re taking and what you can fit into your bag, write a list of what you need. The list will change depending on what kind of trip your taking. I have written an all purpose packing list, that I use to avoid forgetting important things.
Read my packing blogs below for more tips.
Create a new Pinterest board with your destination and search travel blogs and pictures of your destination. Pin them to your new board.
Use your pins to construct a list of things you want to do and see.
The internet is vast. Keep your searches to travel blogs, city tourism websites and lonely planet website.
Visit http://www.thewanderingboomerang.com, or any of your other favourite travel bloggers, and see if they have written a blog about your new travel destination. You might find your searching stops there. Reading one good travel blog could save you vast amounts of time.
For example, if you were visiting Belfast, Northern Ireland, I would check out http://www.discoverni.com and http://www.visitbelfast.com. I also like to follow them on facebook/instagram/twitter etc.
Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love guidebooks. Lonely planet guidebooks especially. I could read them cover to cover (and I have done). I understand if you don’t want to do that! If so, then travel blogs are for you or check out the lonely planet website.
I scour the index of my travel magazines for any articles on the destination.
I open my lonely planet world book and cities book, along with any other travel books on my shelf.
I read all the travel blogs/articles I can find and create a list in a notebook of all the things I want to see and do. Including opening times, random facts, and catch phrases I find.
I know a lot of people don’t go to these lengths to research a place before they go. I never used to do it myself, until I got home from a place and realised I had missed something I didn’t even know was there. It is annoying, trust me!
I also do some food research to locate some vegan/veggie food spots. For example, on my Philippines research, I read that their dishes are meat heavy and a lot of veggie travellers struggled to find nice food. I was shocked because I assumed the food would be like the rest of South East Asia and I would have no problems in that department! Never assume!
I check out http://www.happycow.net and make a list of veggie food spots and where to find them.
- word of mouth
Friends/family/work collegues and even strangers are a great source of information. Tell people about your trip and gather some useful info, tips and tricks.
I have a few friends I go to for travel tips. Sinead (thiscrowflies) is an old travel buddy I met in Thailand. Check out her blog!
12. Create an itinerary
As much as I love ‘winging it’ and being free when I travel, sometimes it’s not always possible. Your trip will always be shorter than you want it or need it to be. Once I’ve done my research, I always realise I won’t have the time/resources to see everything I want to see, so you have to prioritise. Some countries are easy to get around (Thailand etc), others are more difficult (the Philippines). If you’re not organised you could end up spending more money than you have budgeted for. Do not become rigid with your travel plans. Book some internal flights/buses/trains when you have to, for visas and shorter trips. Stay free and easy going when you can. Keep the balance! No one wants to holiday with a strict schedule!
Another reason I plan and research heavily before my trip is to avoid spending my precious time in a foreign country finding a wifi zone to plan my next stop.
Now you know where you want to go, work how how you’ll get there.
Buses, planes, trains, hitchhiking, boats, ferries, walking, cycling, rent a car! Which is cheaper/faster/scenic/comfortable? What do the locals use?
Remember the fastest route is not always the best! Enjoy your journeys between destinations! I love staring out a train window at the towns in a country that no one visits! You get a real sense of the place, of the beaten track!
I used to stay in hostels, but now I only use AirBnB. First I create a destination wish list and save all the places I like on the specific AirBnB board. I could spend a whole day reading reviews, checking the location map and photos, before I decide on one.
Use the filters to get the area and price you want within your budget. Once you have booked, contact the host and print the directions.
If I cant find anything on AirBnB, (which is rare), I look up cheap hostels/hotels etc.
Use your AirBnB host as a free travel guide. They are usually locals, who know lots about the area. They can organise airport transfer, tours etc. Just send them a private mail and ask plenty of questions.
Let your AirBnB host know your flight times, so they can plan for your arrival They tend to let you check in early if you let them know in advance.
All the travel blogs I’ve read use Agoda. It seems you can collect points and use them on future hotels stays. They are the specialists of Asia, but you can use them elsewhere. Kids under 12 stay free.
15. Travel apps
- download/upgrade apps
It’s essentially an offline google maps for when you are lost. Download the city map once you get wifi before heading out.
meditation/sleep apps for long journeys.
currency converter app
panorama photo app
go pro app
facebook/whatsapp to contact family/friends
Mobile banking app
translation app (Duolingo and Google Translate are both free)
16. Learn a phrase or two
Always learn a few key phrases in the local language. They’ll either understand you better, respect you for trying, or you’ll make them laugh at your attempt. All three are winners!
- Where is the..?
- Thank you
17. Week before departure
- print boarding passes
- start packing
- photocopy of travel ins doc, passports and I.D. bring apaper copy and email a copy to yourself
- Itinerary of buses/airport times.
- buy premium spotify – offline listening and make playlists offline.
- Plan your trip to the airport.
Always be at the airport at least 2 hours before departure. You need to give yourself extra time for unforeseen events. Car accidents, road diversions, buses breaking down etc. You don’t want to miss a flight for an extra 30 minutes in bed. Get up early and nap in the airport, or on your flight/bus. You also don’t want to start your holiday with a stressful marathon run through an airport.
- delete or transfer phone/camera photos/messages etc
Whatsapp groups, consume nearly all of my phone storage. I delete all messages and make room for some holiday snaps. You don’t want to miss a photo opportunity of a dolphin jumping out of the water, because you didn’t clear your phone/camera memory. This I can say with personal experience.
I hope this useful! If I left anything out, please let comment below!
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Enjoy your adventure and return safely!
the wandering boomerang