You’ve done the research, booked your dream tour and now all that’s left to do is count down the days to departure. Everything is taken care of and the only task left on your list is to pack, check in and make it to the airport on time.
As you prepare for take off, there are a few simple steps you can take to make life on the road even easier – and leave you free to enjoy your time away stress-free.
1. Keep hard copies of important details – ALL the important details
Even on a tour where everything is taken care of, there is a chance you might need some information on hand. Travellers rely increasingly more on smartphones and other electronics to guide them on their journeys, but these items are not 100% reliable – you might get into a taxi only to find you forgot the name of your hotel, and that your phone is flat because it was vital you captured video footage of your tour buddies eating those snails.
I always keep details of everything written down in a notebook, as well as screenshots on my phone along with the documents themselves. The number of times I have been grateful for this decision is quite astounding. Just as unexpected wonderful things happen when travelling, so do mistakes and oversights, and you will be grateful you took the time to prepare if you find yourself in need of this information with a dead phone in the middle of Marrakesh.
2. Be ready with adaptors
Before I go anywhere I check a site like power-plugs-sockets.com, to check exactly which adaptor I need to be sure my electronics are not rendered useless. This may sound like an obvious one, but it can be easy to forget in the mad rush of packing with the prospect of weeks with nothing to worry about but where to find the most authentic slice of New York pizza ahead.
3. Check the weather
Something I experienced living in London in particular was an almost comical number of travellers exclaiming over the weather. Do not assume you will only need shorts and a bathing suit because you are travelling in summer. Weather can surprise you and it’s far better to be prepared with the right clothing than have to spend a bunch of carefully-saved travel funds on things you know are sitting patiently in your closet at home.
4. Read up on country-specific warnings
Every country is different and comes with its own set of things to watch out for. In Italy you might more commonly come across distraction tactics where one or two people grab your attention while someone else reaches into your pockets or bag unnoticed, while in Cambodia tuk tuk drivers have occasionally been known to take unsuspecting passengers along the wrong route to comrades waiting to force a handover of valuables. Being aware of the most common tourist traps in each country you are visiting is by far the best way to protect yourself against them.
Don’t google yourself crazy though – check a website like smarttraveller.gov.au where warnings are realistic and matter of fact, designed only to protect and not scare you into never wanting to depart from the delusion that the only place safe is your home.
5. Check visa requirements
One of the bonuses of a tour is that major checklist items like visas are taken care of for you by the experts – or you are at least privileged with guidance and advice from people that genuinely care about your ability to make it through immigration and customs without a hitch. If you are not on a tour, be sure to check visa requirements for every country on your itinerary.
I will never forget the story of a friend who arrived at the airport to discover she needed a visa for India she did not know existed, and therefore was forced to skip that part of her trip.
6. Purchase travel insurance
There is no such thing as ‘it will be fine’ when it comes to travel insurance. The chance that you will need it is slim, but isn’t it worth the peace of mind that comes with knowing your valuables are protected or that you can receive medical treatment if needed? The answer is a resounding YES.
7. Bring more socks and underwear than you think you need
These are two items that run down surprisingly quickly. Bringing more means spending less time in laundromats and more time adventuring.
8. Empty your camera roll and memory card
You want to be ready to start snapping the minute you get off the plane – or even before. Clear out the memory on whatever devices you use to prevent having to do an on-the-run delete session as you walk cobble-stoned streets trying not to lose sight of your travel buddies. Those pictures of last Saturday’s brunch can stay safely at home on your computer, leaving room for the far more epic photo ops coming your way.
9. Take a photo of your luggage
Just in case you are the unlucky person standing by the luggage carousel with increasing gloom gathering as you realise you bag definitely did not make it to Buenos Aires, take a picture of your luggage when it’s all ready to board. Being able to show the airline a picture will help a lot when it comes to providing a description.
Courtney Gahan is a serial expat, traveller and freelance writer who has bartered with Moroccan marketeers, seen the sun rise at Angkor Wat and elbowed her way through crowds on NYE in NYC