Trip Preparation List: This is being posted a day earlier than usual because in a reverse Groundhog’s Day phenomenon, our February 2nd will have disappeared completely in between the time that we leave Los Angeles (Feb 1) and arrive in Sydney (Feb 3). So weird.
It can be overwhelming to get ready to go on a trip. Luckily, there are several good apps to help with packing; but this trip preparation list will help you to make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you leave home with stuff that doesn’t include packing. If you are reading this, hopefully you are getting ready to go on a fun trip and need some help preparing. As B and I are on single digit days left before we head Down Under, I myself need to follow my own advice whilst I type.
Trip Preparation List: When you are buying a ticket
Before you buy a ticket to travel somewhere internationally, you need to read up on what kind of visa you need to get into that country. If you buy your ticket several months in advance, you should be fine to get whatever visa requirements you need. However, just think about what a bummer it would be if you scored a sweet deal to Moscow next month, and then realized that getting a visa for Russia is a real B.
If you do the Goog for the country you are going to, it should be pretty easy to see what red tape you’ll need to cut through. B found a cool website that lists the countries that you’ll need a visa for and then if you pay a fee they’ll take care of it for you (or you can read what you need to do and go off and do it yourself).
Trip Preparation List: The month before
Around a month before you’ll want to start booking appointments for things you need to do before you leave. This could be an immunization or vaccination; check out the CDC’s website for seeing what you need for specific countries. You should always try to stay current on your vaccines, but if you are going to Brazil or Africa, you’ll want to schedule a yellow fever shot at least ten days before you leave and will need to bring your certificate with you when you go. Or perhaps you’ll want to schedule some grooming before you leave.
I like to maximize my looking-good time on a trip and hence schedule a cut, wax, tan, etc. appointment right before I leave, usually the day before. These specific dates for appointments fill up the closer you get to them, so scheduling early secures your preferred date.
Trip Preparation List: The weeks before
In the weeks before your trip, you’ll want to start inventorying what you’ll bring with you on your trip. No matter how many trips we go on, B and I always seem to find new things we ‘need’ before our next trip. If you go through your gear and see what you’re lacking, you’ll have time to pick it up before your trip if you start early enough. Or just get yourself Amazon Prime and you’ll be good too. The weeks before you leave is a good time to figure out what specific things you’ll need and get them squared away so you don’t get panicked and rushed later on.
Last week I did a few other things, like calling my health insurance company and my cell phone provider. Here’s why: I don’t usually worry about having health issues on trips, but Australia has so many creepy crawly, big-toothed and/or stinging creatures that I decided it might be prudent to check it out. Give your insurance company a call. B’s will cover her internationally but my policy doesn’t. Instead I picked up a travel plan for $40. If something does happen, this will probably be the best $40 I’ve ever spent. If nothing (hopefully) happens, I’m okay with spending $40.
If you are worried about other parts of your trip, like if you are going to Puerto Rico in the middle of hurricane season, you might want to consider full on trip insurance. Trip insurance can include medical insurance, but it will probably cost more. For three weeks in Australia trip insurance including medical was around $100. Since I just wanted to the medical, I skipped trip insurance this time around.
I also checked in with AT&T. Because we will be using Uber and Google Maps on our trip, B and I both felt it was worth it to maintain cell service on our trip. I spoke with a lovely lady on the phone and learned a few good tips about how to make best use of your phone in another country. Here’s what I learned:
- Turn off iMessage. The plan I purchased had free text messages, but iMessaging uses data. If you turn off your iMessage, your text will go through for free and you can save your data.
- Turn off automatic updates. My cellular data amount is limited with my plan–so if I turn off my updates I won’t use data without knowing it.
- Turn on call forwarding. I will get charged $1 for each minute of phone calls. When my phone rings, even if I don’t answer it, I will get charged $1. By auto-forwarding to voicemail I can save $ if unwanted calls come in.
Trip Preparation List: In the days before
The week before your trip you’ll want to follow through with all of your appointments that you set up a few weeks prior. Another good rule is to double check your reservations. B and I had a funny story with this one; a few years ago around March, we purchased plane tickets to Oklahoma City for the following October. I put the reservation in my TripIt app and then used that app and my online reservation receipt to tell us when our flight was. On our way to the airport, B checked her email and noticed something strange–our flight time had changed and was in fact about to leave (we were still about 15 minutes away from the airport).
We decided to play dumb when we checked in and everything turned out just fine, but it could have been a very unfortunate beginning to our trip. The moral of the story is flight times change–especially when you book far in advance–and you need to check with the airline to find out what you need to know. We booked our flights for Australia far in advance and almost all of the flights, going and coming, have changed for each of us.
Print your tickets
Unless you know for sure that you are going to be able to use the internet when you are on your trip, it’s a good idea to figure things out before you go. This week B and I have been trying to figure out public transportation options in Sydney and Melbourne (why do cities make these things so confusing? I have yet to look at any city’s website, anywhere in the world, and easily figure out what I need to do. City officials–get your crap together!). If it makes you more comfortable, you can even print instructions and vouchers out before you leave.
When we were climbing on board a bus to take us from Latvia to Estonia, C and B gave the bus driver their names and were waved through. For some reason, though, my name didn’t make the list and they stopped me at the gate. Luckily, B had printed our reservations and was able to show the driver that I was, in fact, not trying to hitchhike.
Call your bank
At this point, you will need to check with your financial institutions to let them know you’ll be adventuring. Some websites let you put in travel warnings for your credit cards, but I like to personally talk to my bank representatives to make sure they set the travel alert for my ATM card. This is my main mode of getting money and it needs to work!
Trip Preparation List: The night before
Congratulations! You’ve reached crunch time for getting ready for your trip. You’ll need to pack your bag, download books and movies to your devices, and double check to make sure you have the important things. You will also need to arrange a way to get to the airport. Other than that, you’ll need to shave your legs, paint your toenails, wash your hair and try to get a good night’s sleep. I’m usually pretty pumped the night before a trip and have a hard time falling asleep–especially if my flight is early in the morning. Popping a night time pill or two should help you out.
It’s reassuring to know that it isn’t the end of the world if you forget something. All you really need is your passport, driver’s license (if you will be driving) and credit cards. If worst comes to worst, you can buy other stuff you need.
Getting ready for a trip takes a lot of effort. You might just need a vacation after all of that hard work….good thing that’s exactly what you’ll get!