Half of the fun of traveling is getting to plan for your trip. Before you travel, you pick your destination, the dates, your hotel and activities. You book your flights and maybe a few tours. Then the countdown begins until the day you actually set off on your adventure. It’s thrilling…. It’s exciting… You’re off to see the world…. wait… did you turn off the stove??
If there is one part of travel that is boring or uninspiring, it’s making the “pre-travel checklist”. Trying to get everything done (without forgetting something) when you’re in a time crunch and distracted by the fun you’re about to have – can be annoying, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Here is our list of Must-Do’s Before you Travel, to help make sure you can relax and enjoy the adventure!
Before You Travel (A List of Must-Do’s)
Check your paperwork
- Are your passports still valid? Keep in mind that most countries require your passport to be valid for 6 months after you return from travel. Double check the requirements for the country you’re visiting to be sure.
- Take photocopies of all of your important documents. A good rule of thumb is photocopy anything you need for your travel. Passport, plane tickets, insurance, credit card, drivers licence and prescriptions. I recommend keeping 2 copies with you (in different bags), as well as emailing yourself an electronic copy. That way if any luggage is lost or stolen, you have the vital information you need.
- Does your destination require a visa? These can take a while to receive and there are different visas for each type of trip, so do your research and plan ahead. You may also need a transit visa for lay-overs or travel through a country on your way to your destination.
Research your destination
- What will the weather be like during the time of year you are traveling? You don’t want to show up during rainy season with no rain gear, and you don’t want to assume that fall at your destination will be the same as your hometown. Be prepared.
- Does the country you’re visiting require that you pack something specific? If you’re traveling to countries like India, for example, some tour companies require you to bring clothing that will allow you to dress modestly, or a light scarf to cover your arms (or head, in some religious temples). In other places, you’ll seriously want to consider a neck wallet or money belt.
- Are there social customs or meal-time rules you should be aware of before arriving? In Japan, they have very specific ways of eating sushi. They also have rules about how to sit on the floor during meals. The preferred option is for everyone to be on their knees (sitting on your heels, with the tops of your feet flat against the floor), however, it can also be acceptable for men to sit cross-legged, while women have the option of sitting with both legs to one side. In many countries the locals are very accommodating and helpful, but when visiting a country that is very traditional, it is a good idea to brush up on some basics. If traveling with kids, this can go a long way to helping them adjust to new surroundings.
Prepare your technology
- For short term travel, make sure you’ve turned off the roaming option on your phone. You should contact your provider to find out what you can and can’t do while abroad, or arrange for a travel package for phone minutes and data.
- Traveling long term? Get an unlocked phone. With these you can buy local SIM cards which will cost you much less than a long term travel plan.
- Have you packed your camera and video camera in a convenient and easily accessible camera bag? Do you have enough empty SD cards to get you through your trip? Always take a spare if you can. Do you have converters/adapters to plug them in at the end of the day?
Make arrangements for your house and pets
- Get a house sitter. It changes by location and company, but on some insurance policies, if you’re away on vacation and don’t have someone checking on your house regularly, you won’t be covered if anything happens (like flooding from burst pipes etc).
- Prepare your home for your departure. Finish or toss any food in your fridge, and take out all of the household garbage. Forward or hold your mail if needed, turn off your water supply if possible, and unplug any appliances you can to save yourself energy costs and to keep them safe from power surges. Another thing you should do is adjust your thermostat so you’re not heating or cooling an empty house. If you’re traveling in the winter months, you will need to make sure the temperature isn’t set low enough that your pipes could freeze. I have checked with professionals, family and friends and there doesn’t seem to be an exact answer for the “right” temperature in winter. We leave our (gas heated) house at 12C/54F with no trouble.
- Do you have pets? Be sure you’ve made plans for them to visit friends/family, or make reservations for them at a kennel. At a kennel you will need a copy of their vaccination records and many places will ask you to bring their own food.
Hopefully this list can help easy your mind when you’re thinking of what needs to be done before you travel. You can make a few notes, or even print this off and use it as a checklist. It isn’t as daunting as it seems, it just takes a little time. For more ideas on what you should do before you travel, check out these other great family travel blogs:
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