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Travelling can be stressful, there’s no doubt about that. Did I pack enough underwear? When should I get to the airport? Did I remember my passport? Where the hell is my flight information? Shit…I forgot my travel pillow! Ugh!
As if travelling wasn’t stressful enough, 2020 has proved that yes, it can get even more stressful.
*COVID-19 has entered the chat*
Enough about that though.
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Whether you plan on spending a week lounging on the sandy beaches of Mexico, or spending a month backpacking across Southeast Asia, being prepared before hitting the road is always comforting, not only for you, but your loved ones back home as well.
Here are a few tips on essentials things to remember for your next journey to make sure that you have a seamless and headache free travel experience even before you get to the airport.
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Print Your Travel Documents
Printing out paper copies of your travel documents, flight itinerary and other necessary papers may not seem very environmentally friendly, but trust me when I say this: Always print your travel documents. When I was leaving New Delhi airport last year, I was greeted at the terminal doors by an army official with a massive rifle slung across him and when he asked to see my flight info, I only had my old one printed out to show him and my new flight info as a screen shot on my phone. My flight was changed two days prior to me flying out, so of course, I didn’t have a newly printed itinerary, since I had zero access to a printer and he wasn’t letting me through without a printed version. After much begging and pleading, I was finally allowed entry into the terminal after I said I will get it printed and come back to show him. Spoiler alert…I never did that. 😉
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Give A Copy Of Your Itinerary To A Family Or Friend
Whenever you’re heading out on a trip, always give a copy of your itinerary to a close friend, or family member. Now, you don’t need to give them a play by play of your days, but a list of hotels that you plan on staying in, or towns you plan on visiting may be helpful in case anything less than ideal were to arise. If you’re travelling solo, this may help ease the minds of family members back at home as well.
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Write Down Hotel Info
Have you ever jumped into a cab right out of the airport and tried to communicate your hotel address to the driver who doesn’t speak a lick of English? Ya, it’s not exactly the easiest thing to deal with after a 10 hour flight. I always write down the name and address of my accommodations if I’m grabbing a cab instead of taking public transit just to make things easier for the driver and to ease a bit of stress on myself.
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Book Your First Night’s Accommodations
I like to be prepared when it comes to booking my accommodations. I like knowing that when I roll into a new town, or city, I have a place to go to and not have to worry about availability. I also like to prepay for my accommodations before going, so that I don’t need to worry about additional credit card costs when I arrive, or after I get back home.
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Check Your Passport
Checking your passport should be one of your top priorities before booking a trip. Some countries require you to have your current passport valid for at least 6 months before the expiry date.
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Do You Need An International Driver’s License?
Most people overlook this one important detail when booking a rental car overseas. Always make sure to check with the country’s driving policy to ensure that you don’t get stuck with a rental that you are unable to legally drive in another country. When I went to Iceland, I didn’t require an international driver’s license, but when I went to the Canary Islands, I needed one for the car I was renting on Fuerteventura. If you go through CAA, your international driver’s license is valid for a full year from the date you receive it and since it’s relatively cheap (about $25 CAD for mine), it’s worth getting if you plan on embarking on an epic road trip.
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Do You Need Vaccinations?
Vaccinations are a tough subject to waltz around and these days, you can’t say anything about them without feeling like you are constantly walking on eggshells. Now, I’m NOT an Anti-Vaxxer, but I should be able to choose which vaccination I want to take. That being said, to enter some countries in Africa, you are actually required to show proof of a vaccination. Double check with the country’s tourism board just in case you absolutely need a yellow fever shot, or a Hep B shot to enter the country you are planning to visit.
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People overlook this essential item before travelling more often then you’d think. Once you’ve booked your travel date, always check to see if you need a VISA to enter the country. More often than not, people get a VISA card and a VISA to enter a country totally mixed up. Not sure how you can do that, but it does happen. Pages within a passport are also listed as “VISAS” as well and that is where you get stamped. A VISA to enter a country is a conditional authorization, which is granted by a territory to a foreigner, allowing them to enter, remain within, or to leave that territory and you need to apply for one. When I landed in Jaipur last year, there were two French girls ahead of me in the customs line and they were denied entry because their VISAS weren’t correct for the entry date. I’ve never seen so much crying in my entire life. Make sure you research and know the rules to avoid a travel disaster.
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A couple days before your flight, make sure you check with your airline to ensure that flights are still scheduled the way that you booked them. Most times if there is a flight schedule change, you’ll get an email from your airline, or third party booking company telling you there’s been a change. Before I left for Canary Islands, my flight home was changed three, yes THREE times.
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Basic First Aid Kit
I always travel with a basic first aid kit stocked with sanitizer wipes, alcohol pads, band-aids and some Polysporin just in case I need to clean a wound, or if I cut myself on something while in transit. I also clean high traffic touch areas in my hotel room as well when I arrive. Door handles, light switches, phones and I also wipe down my luggage. This is what I’ve always done, even before the COVID-19 shitshow. You can buy cheap travel first aid kits from your local pharmacy for under $10 and the case can be reused for your future travels as well.
In my mind, cash will always be king. I don’t know how many times I would’ve been up shit creek if I didn’t have cash on hand because my card had an error on international debit machines, or the one time when I was in India and the ATM just said I didn’t have sufficient funds…spoiler alert…I DID have enough in my bank, but international machines can be a little temperamental, so cash is always a great alternative to have. Some smaller shops will only accept cash as well and even buying tickets to climb a church tower for a great view may only accept cash as well. The only downfall with cash is, if you lose it…it’s likely gone forever. 🙁
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As much as I love cash, some things are just easier to place on a credit card. Things like tours, car rentals, hotels and train tickets are easily purchased with a credit card. If the worst case scenario happens and you lose your card, you can always report it to your credit card company and they can cancel the card before someone picks it up and starts to get some retail therapy of their own at your expense. Credit cards are always a great backup to have in case you start to run low on cash money as well.
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Tell Your Bank Where You’re Travelling To
Most banks will tell you that you no longer need to tell them when you are travelling. Don’t listen to them. Whether you are visiting Germany, or visiting Thailand, always call and flag to them that you will be travelling outside of your home country and if they see any activity on the card, it is in fact, YOU using the card. I didn’t report to them when I was travelling to India and I tried to take money out of an ATM and remember above when I mentioned that it said I had insufficient funds available? Ya, well it was because they blocked my card and deemed the ATM withdrawal attempt as suspicious. They said they tried to reach me via phone call, but obviously I was not in the country, had no access to calls, so I literally had no idea. Luckily my VISA card still worked, but I still manged to borrow a few bucks from a friend in the meantime.
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Bring An Umbrella
Walking in the rain can be romantic *sigh*, but it can also be a colossal pain in the ass. I always bring a travel sized umbrella with me in case the weather is less than in my favour. When I was in Germany, I got caught in the rain a few times in Hamburg and while in the Netherlands, I got absolutely drenched in Leiden while walking the streets. I’m usually pretty good at predicting the weather with my headaches (I’m usually never wrong), but sometimes out of nowhere, a storm can brew and nobody wants to walk around looking like a drowned rat. Not a cute look. 😐
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Anybody else get hangry (hungry + angry) when they don’t eat for awhile? Ya, same here. Not to mention, I usually get hunger related headaches as well, so I always carry a few granola bars, mixed nuts, or other small snacks with me in my purse to curb my appetite while on the move. To save some money, I’ll hit up my local bulk store and load up on snacks to bring with me. If you’d rather buy your snacks on the go, local grocery stores, or train stations are a great place to stock up on some travel treats while abroad to have on hand while on trains, planes or buses when frequent stops aren’t possible, or food is not available to purchase.
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Garbage Bag & Dryer Sheets
You’ve been on the road for two weeks, no washer, or dryer available and you haven’t utilized the hotel bathtub as a makeshift laundry machine as much as you thought you would. Things might start to smell a little nasty in your luggage. Gross! To avoid a less than pleasant aroma getting on to your clean clothing, bring a small trash bag (or reusable cotton bag) from home and shove a few dryer sheets in it to keep things smelling fresh.
Check Travel Restrictions
Before booking a trip, always check your home country’s Travel, Health & Tourist Advisory sections for other countries abroad. If the country that you’re travelling to has any health advisories (like with COVID-19 right now), recent terrorist attacks, or anything that may hinder your trip, it will be listed online. Now, that being send, a lot of countries may have advisories, but your common sense plays a role when travelling to other countries as well. India had some travel advisories when I went last year due to the conflict that was happening with Pakistan at the time, but all was resolved and I was able to keep my trip. The advisory was for only certain areas of the country, which we weren’t even travelling in to begin with.
Know Who To Contact In Case Of Emergencies
Nobody likes getting themselves into a situation that requires them to call their emergency contacts. It’s not a good feeling, but if you find yourself in a less than ideal scenario, knowing who to contact could save yourself a ton of stress. If your luggage is stolen/lost, know who to contact within the airport, or have the local authority’s number on hand, so you can call them if you have fallen victim to theft. If you’ve lost your passport (having a printed copy is always good as a backup), know the number and location to your country’s embassy, so you can contact them to deal with the situation quickly and efficiently.
Now that I’ve geared you up with an essential list of things to remember before you travel, you’ll definitely be ready to hit the ground running before your next journey even begins. What’s the one essential thing you always do before you go on vacation? Let me know in the comments below. xo
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