In the first part of Trip Planning 101, I covered the first steps in preparing for a trip, from decided where you want to go to creating a rough budget and doing basic research. Here, we get into the more fine details of preparing for your trip.
Seligman, Arizona, 2016
Sort Out Your Visa And Travel Insurance
Depending on where your from (and where you passport is registered to), you need to check out the visa situation of the country you’re travelling to. There are normally a few options, all of different lengths and allowing you to do different things. Being from the UK, I’m eligible for Australia’s Working Holiday visa, meaning I can travel around Aus for a year, and be employed there too, with a maximum of 6 months per company. For America last year, I got an ESTA (easily available online, and costing around $14), meaning I could travel in the US for up to 90 days.
For advice on how to obtain the correct visa for you, log onto the country’s immigration website, or visit the country’s consulate and/or embassy where you live. While some countries won’t require you to have one, it’s always best to double check what the rules are – and remember to get this organised with plenty of time: it may take a while to come through.
Your travel insurance is something to take into account too. You never know what might happen (broken cameras and sprained ankles occur more than you’d think), and you don’t want to be stuck without it if something does. It’s only a few dollars a day, and can give you peace of mind, even if you never have to use it.
Organise Your Kit
Once you’ve picked a date and place, you’ll need to figure out what kit you’re going to be taking.
One of the most important thing you’ll take with you is your bag. I have a North Face Duffel Bag in Large, which fits enough for a solid month of travelling (and I used to seriously over pack) and is wicked because you can wear is as a backpack. Just remember, you need a bag that is of exceptional quality and will stand through anything. This will probably be one of your most expensive pieces of kit, but you can’t skimp on the quality here.
By now, you will have researched the climate and terrains of wherever you want to go, and figured out that hot, sunny beaches = shorts and t-shirts, while rainforests = bug-proof clothing and suitably-soled shoes. For clothing, remember to look at the local culture of each country, and bear in mind their customs in relation to wearing shorts and other skin-showing clothing (e.g. when visiting temples, I recommend wearing long trousers and tops that cover your shoulders to be respectful).
Tech-wise, a camera is an absolute must. Remember to take back-up chargers and memory cards (these fill up super quick), as you don’t want to be stuck in the desert with a broken camera and nothing to record your adventures. Some people take their laptops with them too, but I never have. It’s a matter of personal preference; take into account whether you’re going to be working while you’re away.
Consider the activities you’ll be doing. If you’re going to be doing a lot of hiking, maps, a compass and good quality walking boots are a must. For beach travel, remember the sun cream and aloe vera gel. Camping-wise, the tent is obviously a must, as well as cooking equipment and a high quality sleeping bag that will serve you well in all temperatures.
There are many comprehensive, in-depth guides to packing for different types of adventures, so do some googling and make a list of everything you’ll need well in advance of your departure date.
An absolute essential, regardless of where you’re going, is a good quality water bottle. I get mine from Hydro Flask. Bringing a non-plastic one (or one that you won’t throw away) will both encourage you to keep hydrated and help the planet. It’s a win-win.
Corvara, the Dolomites, Italy, 2015
Save Your Money
This is a big one. While money shouldn’t be what you’re constantly focused on while preparing for travelling, you do need to make sure there’s enough in the bank to cover every eventuality when you’re on the road. I’ve previously written my 8 tips for saving money for travel, to give you some ideas on how to aggressively save for your adventure.
Always keep your budget in mind, and remember that you’ll need to have a little over what your budget requires just in case. It doesn’t have to be difficult to save money, but you do have to be committed.
You can always sell items too. If you’re going away for more than six months, the chances are you aren’t really going to miss that much of what you’re leaving behind, so selling books, CDs, DVDs and clothes you aren’t taking is always a good option. Befriend Ebay, Amazon and Gumtree.
Not having enough money is often the biggest reason for not travelling, so you don’t want any unnecessary expenditure taking away from your travel fund. You’ll thank yourself for avoiding Starbucks when you’re bungee jumping off the Grand Canyon.
Organise Flights and Accommodation
Flights and accommodation will take out a huge chunk of your budget, and for good reason. There are many good deals you can get on your flights and accommodation (some places even do deals if you book both parts with the same company); there are now even round-the-world flight options which will save you a lot of money and allow you to be really flexible with your flights. Remember to check the box allowing you to move your flight – it might cost a few extra dollars, but it will allow you to be spontaneous and not limited by having to catch certain flights.
Accommodation wise, there are so many options and endless deals to take advantage of. Some hostel chains have discounts for those that stay in their hostels in multiple cities, and that’s definitely something to take advantage of. If you’re throwing caution to the wind and having a last minute trip, check lastminute.com for cheap hotel deals.
Just always make sure you do have somewhere to stay (even if you’re camping – triple check where the campsite is!) in advance of you actually arriving there.
Decide What’s Important
As much as you’d like to, you won’t be able to do everything your destination as to offer, no matter how long you’re there for. It’s best to have a rough idea of what you want to do, and give yourself room to be flexible for any spontaneous excursions. If learning to surf when you’re in Gold Coast is important to you, make that your priority, but if seeing Uluru is your main goal, remember to set aside some $$$ to make the trip into the Outback.
While I wouldn’t recommend having an exact itinerary for every minute of your adventure, as you can become inflexible and not have any room for spontaneity, having a rough mental list of what your main reasons for going are (is it to lie on the beach? is it to climb that mountain?) will help you make sure you do as much as you can do while you’re there.
In Trip Planning 101: Part 3, I’ll be dealing with the final few days before your departure, and you final to-do list in relation to getting adventure ready.