Travelling anywhere away from home is an exciting prospect. I love travelling, and think we should all travel more if we can! However, we often get swept up in the excitement of going on holiday and forget about what we need to do to make sure that we have a safe trip and that our homes will be just as we left them when we get back. After countless trips away, I’ve put together my top five tips for crucial things to do before a long trip, or a weekend away.
Prepare Your Home
Home is where the heart is, and you need to make sure your home is safe and sound while you are away. The first thing is to make sure you have a good alarm system, which is vital for any trip away, whether it is for a weekend or a year! If you have a trusted neighbour or friend close by you can give a spare set of keys to, ask them to check in on the house while you’re away to make sure everything is ticking over as it should be. Do you have any houseplants or a garden that needs watering? If you have pets then look at sending them on holiday to a friend’s house, a kennel or cattery, or consider getting a housesitter to look after your home and pets while you are away. Reputable sites like Trusted Housesitters are a good place to find potential sitters.
As you are leaving, turn off the water and electricity (as long as you have emptied your fridge freezer!) to avoid any leaky pipes and unnecessary bills. If you are going on a winter break, you may want to leave your heating on a low temperature (at least 5°C) so your water pipes won’t freeze. If you don’t have anyone to check on your home while you are away, consider leaving the electricity on and getting some time switches for the lights, so it appears that someone is home. Empty all the bins and make sure the windows are closed, the oven is turned off (of course it is!) and the door is properly locked.
If you have any medications you take regularly, check you have enough to take you through until you return home, including some spares in case you lose any. Remember to take the packaging with you in case you have any questions at the customs. It is also best to check if your medication is allowed into the country you are visiting, sometimes our over-the-counter medicines are banned in other countries, for example, some common cold and flu medication is banned in Japan due to the strict anti-stimulant laws there.
Are any vaccines required to travel to your destination? How about malaria medication? If you are travelling outside Europe and North America, make an appointment with your doctor or a travel clinic to check if any vaccinations are required. Try to do this as soon as possible, as some vaccinations require a series of injections. You can also check the Travel Health Pro website for more information on the requirements for travel.
As well as your health, personal appearance is also important, so you might want to have a hair-cut, wax or a mani-pedi before you travel too! It’s also time to cut down on chocolate and fatty foods so you can look and feel your best on the beach, and not feel guilty when chowing down on the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet!
Prepare Your Trip
It sounds silly, but check your passport is in date, not damaged, and still has at least 6 months validity – you’d be surprised how many people suddenly realise they can’t get on their flight because their passport has expired! Make sure you have all the necessary paperwork to enter the country – visa, onward flight ticket, hotel reservation if required. Travel insurance is also a must for any trip, no matter how long or short! Check-in for your flight online if you can – especially if you are flying with budget airlines like Ryanair who may charge you for checking in at the airport.
Inform your bank that you will be travelling so they don’t freeze your cards and consider getting a currency card which won’t charge you exorbitant fees for withdrawing cash abroad. Have some currency for your destination if you can or exchange a little bit at the airport so you have some to keep you going until you find a better rate of exchange.
If you are travelling long-term, you might not have a detailed itinerary or plan for where you are going, but a vague idea is useful. When I was backpacking in South America I had a route plan which I could follow but could also change to visit new places recommended to me along the way. I preferred to book accommodation at least a couple of days in advance, or longer if I was travelling during busy periods. A guidebook is useful as a start, the Lonely Planet books give a good overview, so you can choose the places you want to visit, then do more research online or speaking to people when you are on the road.
Prepare Your Kit
Technology has changed the way we travel no end, but you need to make sure you protect any gadgets that you plan to take with you. Make sure your travel insurance covers the more expensive items like a laptop or iPhone and get protective cases for them. I also keep all my electronics in plastic bags to keep them dry. Remember to bring all the cables and chargers you need, and a universal plug adapter is very handy indeed! I don’t travel without a portable phone charger, which is vital for keeping your camera charged so you don’t miss any once-in-a-lifetime shots when you’re away from electricity. Travelling with a drone? Check the drone laws and regulations in each country, there are some places which won’t even let you in the country with a drone, and there are hefty fines for misuse.
Prepare Your Bag
I used to find packing a nightmare but have now got used to travelling with the bare essentials so I’m not dragging around a huge suitcase. Write a list of what you think you might need, everything from underwear to sun cream. You probably won’t need that spare pair of shoes. Keep important items with you in your hand luggage, passport, tickets, money, camera, phone and charger etc. It is also a good idea to keep a change of clothes and a toothbrush with you in case your checked bag goes missing! Pack all your liquids in your checked bag, or in a clear plastic bag in your hand luggage if it is all under 75ml and remember to check the hand luggage restrictions for your airline carefully – no nail scissors or lighters on the plane! Weigh your bags and measure your hand luggage to make sure it will fit in the overhead lockers. Add a luggage label to each bag you check in, and a brightly coloured band or an easy way to recognise it on the luggage carousel. Why are so many suitcases black??
As you can see, travelling involves a certain amount of preparation, but it is definitely worth it! Do you have any other travel planning tips to share? I’d love to read them, just comment below with your tips!
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