First time travelling? 12 top things to organize before you leave

If it’s your first trip you might be wondering what you need to sort out before you go, or, what you might have forgotten. Use this article as a checklist and get yourself on the road with a clear mind!

Top 12 things to think about before you leave home

1.     First up you need your passport – unless you are travelling locally within your country or for EU citizens, within the EU. If you don't have one yet - apply now. It can take more than a month depending what country you are from.

2.     Tickets – how are you getting there? Booking ahead can save a lot when it comes to flights to the less common destinations. However, consider other options – should or could you go overland by train or bus, can you get on a boat of some sort, how about cycling? This could all cut on costs but will depend on time and location. Also consider what kind of ticket you should get – if want to be able to come back at any point then and open or flexible ticket is the go – usually a bit pricier but then there are no costs for changing dates later. If you are on a set plan then fixed dates is usually cheaper. Finally, don’t book until you have checked your timeframe to get visas and vaccinations – see the next two points

3.     Next Visas – what countries are you going to and what visas do you need? If you need to apply for one before you land in the country then make sure you plan this ahead of time. In many countries you may find you can arrive at the border and get a tourist visa on arrival but that depends on your passport and which country you are going to. Google it and if you are unsure, phone the relevant embassy to check.

4.     At the same time you need to consider vaccinations – where are you going and what do you need. What is your appetite for vaccinations? A good source of info is a main travel clinic in your country, for example the London Travel clinic - of course these clinics will always give the most conservative advice. NOTE that some vaccinations require a course over a month or more so allow time for this.

5.     Travel Insurance – don’t even consider leaving home without it and do a bit of research on the best one. Three friends of mine have ended up exceptionally lucky to be alive while travelling, and in each case it took months of hospitalization in a foreign country to get them up and living again. The cost would have taken all they owned and all their families owned without insurance – so one more time – take out travel insurance. A post is coming soon dedicated to this topic. It is the one thing not to leave home without.

6.     Teeth and medical – if you are going for more than a couple of weeks, get your teeth checked before you go and sort out any problems – unless of course you are planning to do that on the road – see my article about medical tourism.

7.     Cell / Mobile phone – unless you want to travel free of all the modern day conveniences and have a trip back to the 70s and 80s as well as a modern day journey, then you are likely at a minimum to take your phone. I would suggest that you leave your phone unlocked. If you don’t and you are in an accident, or you lose it somewhere, then the people trying to help you, or get your phone back to you, cannot call you or your family. (Yes people do ring others to say they have found their phone – I know of plenty of instances including my own lost phone where a lovely person has rung to say they found it.) But more important is to have your ICE details readily available in case of an accident. For those that don’t know, ICE = in case of emergency. Add phone numbers starting with ICE e.g.  ICE – Mum, ICE – Dad, ICE – brother etc and also make sure you have added Mum, Dad, Daughter, brother or another clear label like this – depending on who you would want to be called.

8.     Water – not that long ago relying on clean tap water or bottled water wherever you went wasn’t really an option – you either took purification pills or filters or you took your luck! These days more and more countries have safe tap water, but do check the countries you are going to and consider if you want to take a filter of some sort – especially if you are going hiking or away from the main centres.

9.   Luggage – figure out what you really really need and then cut some! Keep it light and easy. There is little you can’t buy in other countries if you really need it. The only thing you really need to make sure of if you are going to the likes of Asia and you have big or wide feet – that you have good shoes that will last your trip. Big-feet like me are never going to get shoes there!!

10.  Documents – make copies of all your documents and leave with family and friends either electronically or physically. Best to do both. Also leave copies in a secure place so you can access them if needed (dropbox or the like). At least then if things are stolen you have a record of passport numbers etc. for Police and embassies.

11. Emergency stash – if you can, leave a stash at home in case something happens and you need to get home suddenly (or you decide to stay longer!) Insurance should cover emergencies related to family and injury, illness or death, but you might need to pay up front in some cases.

12. If going for a long time, make sure you say goodbye to anyone special! Not to be morbid, but it may just happen that you don’t get to see them again.

If you have any other tips, or think I have forgotten something, let me know. And of course if you have a question, comment below or message me. Now it’s time to go – enjoy every moment of it! 

Sydney