Preparing for an overseas holiday requires more than a simple packing list: aside from figuring out what clothing to take along (which is mostly destination-specific), there are several things you may not have considered. So we have!
Ready to head off on the adventure of a lifetime? Here’s your must-have travel checklist to help you tick off the most important tasks. Given that you’ll unnotedly be packing clothing and toiletries, we won’t include them here at all, leaving this guide dedicated to specific pre-travel tasks that are sometimes overlooked.
Simply print out and stick it on your fridge – about the best way to ensure you don’t forget the most important tasks of all.
Check passport validity – Most countries require your passport to have at least 6 months’ validity from the date of entry and plenty of blank pages so best dust-off the most important document of all well ahead of time.
Visas – Do you need a tourist visa for your intended destination(s)? Best check up on that with the relevant embassies in your nearest capital city way ahead of time and ask for application time-frames so you know exactly how far in advance you should lodge your application(s).
Take out travel insurance – Comprehensive travel insurance is always a good idea, even if you’re heading to countries which have a bi-lateral health agreement with Australia. Something can always happen on the way to and from and, if you were to be unfortunate enough to suffer a mishap, it can quickly become an exorbitantly priced mishap. If you’re planning on taking an expedition cruise or indulging in an adventurous activity, make sure you are specifically covered for it.
Make copies of EVERYTHING – Once you have your passport, visas and travel insurance docs sorted, make 1 x physical copy (to pack in your suitcase) and 1 x digital one (to email to yourself). Yes, it is a good idea to leave a copy with a friend back home but it’s an even better idea to simply have a copy on you at all times.
Prepare your house – Services like TrustedHousesitters have become very popular nowadays although having a stranger take care of your house, pets, plants and mail-collection may not be to everyone’s delight. One way or another, however, you’ll have to get these things organised, either by having a friend collect mail and feed the cats or by redirecting your mail and placing pets in good care. Irrespective, it is always a good idea to have a neighbour keep an eye on the house whilst you travel.
Notify your bank – Here’s a lesson we all learn at some point: you must notify your bank that you’ll be travelling abroad (they’ll want to know which countries, specifically) or you risk having your cards cancelled and account frozen the very first time you use them overseas.
Figure out how you’ll access cash abroad – Many banks offer travel cards that seem to be the least expensive way to access cash abroad, but beware: in our experience, it may not always work out cheaper to have a separate card holding foreign currency. Keeping it simple is usually best: pay for big purchases (like hotel bills) with your credit card directly and take out the maximum allowable cash from ATMs to pay for everyday items. Keep most of your stash safely stored in the hotel safe and just take with you what you need for the day.
Have a chat with your doctor – Whether or not you take medication or have any health issues, it’s always a good idea to chat to your trusted doctor before travelling. They can advise you on any vaccinations that are recommended for your destination and whether or not you should be wearing a compression stocking, for example, if you’re about to embark on a long-haul flight. When it comes to regular meds, it is always preferable to take all you’ll need for the duration of the trip. The last thing you may want to do is switch brands when travelling and find that the alternative is just not right for you.
Pack your electronic saviours – There are a few nifty gadgets that will make your life a lot easier and they include an external pocket-sized battery charger (for your mobile phone) and external memory bank if you’re planning to take a lot of high-res photos on your travels. In this case, it’s also a good idea to take spare memory cards and batteries for your camera as you may not have time to download photos and/or recharge daily. For all of this, you’ll need an international adaptor with USB slots so you can charge multiple items simultaneously. This will save you a ton of time. If you’re planning on a road trip adventure, it’s wise to take a 12V car charger as well: they hardly take up any space but allow you to charge your phones and compact camera on the fly.
Avoid international roaming on your mobile phone – International roaming mobile charges are still exorbitant nowadays and given the prolific Wi-Fi offerings in hotels, restaurants and cafes all over the world, it means you need not spend a fortune to stay connected. If you’re travelling for a while, it may pay to buy a prepaid SIM card at your destination: oftentimes the data rates are much cheaper than they are in Australia and certainly cheaper than roaming rates.
Download some clever travel apps – There are a few apps that make travelling abroad so much easier and they include GoogleTranslate (the voice feature is amazingly accurate!) Moovit (a public transport guide that is surprisingly comprehensive), PackPoint (generates detailed packing lists, catered to your destination at the time of year you’re travelling) WiFi Map (to suss out your nearest Wi-Fi hotspot) AccuWeather, a reliable weather forecast app that makes daily activity planning a breeze.
Don’t forget entertainment – When planning for an overseas trip, the last thing you possibly imagine is that there will be a time you may even get a little bored. But it happens; usually on planes, in airports, or long-haul coach rides and even the odd relaxing afternoon when you just want to take a time-out. Include e and audio books on your devices or a crossword puzzle if you fancy: anything you normally do at home is a wonderful inclusion when travelling.
Small medicine bag – You certainly can’t plan for all eventualities but you can always plan for a headache or unsettled stomach, these being the most common travel complaints of all. Take a small Ziplock bag and include the first-aid travel basics: aspirin, neurofen, throat lozenges, eye drops, antidiarrheal tabs, antihistamine, sunscreen, insect repellent, blister packs and band-aids.
For destination-specific packing lists, here are a few specialist guides you’ll find useful:
- Essential Antarctica Packing List
- Inca Trail Packing Guide
- Packing Guide for Patagonia
- Packing Guide for the Amazon
- What to Pack for Your Arctic Cruise
This handy guide was brought to you by Chimu Adventures – Your Latin America and Polar specialists, purveyor of the most phenomenal adventure tours in the world!
Author: Laura Pattara
“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 15 years. She’s tour-guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and has completed a 6-year motorbike trip from Europe to Australia. What ticks her fancy most? Animal encounters in remote wilderness, authentic experiences off the beaten trail and spectacular Autumn colours in Patagonia.”