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, and in the second part, broke down the next step of planning for travel, like sorting out visas and getting all your kit together. In part 3, I go through some things you need to remember during the final countdown to the day you depart.
Tickets, Money, Passport
Pretty much anything can be replaced on the road, except the most important things: tickets, money, travel insurance, passport and visas.
For money, it may be best to use a Caxton or FairFx account (or similar) to ensure that your at-home account doesn’t get blocked (remember to let your bank know you’re travelling anyway) and to help you capitalise on exchange rates. These also ensure that if your card gets lost or stolen, it’s quite easy to get another without too much hassle.
Make sure you have a place where all your tickets, passport, vouchers, insurance details are kept. None of them are worth losing, and keep them safe by putting them all together. Keep e-copies of all these too, and make sure a family member or close friend also has access to them from home.
Packing and Kit Checks
Take as little as you can. While it’s tempting to take outfits and gear for every eventuality, you’re probably not going to need half the stuff you want to take. It’s not hard to find most things on the road, and packing light is important when you’re carrying your entire life around. Allow yourself to be free and fluid; dismiss of anything that isn’t totally and completely necessary. You don’t need five pairs of trainers.
Having few possessions allows you to be more spontaneous. You don’t have to deal with the hassle of where you can store things, and more things only equals more worries and problems. The chances are your attachments to your possessions are more emotional needs than actual needs, and over time you’ll be glad that you didn’t bring 34 pairs of shorts (my friend genuinely brought 34 pairs of shorts to America. She wore 4 the whole month we were there). Underwear is probably the only thing you’ll need more than a few of, but apart from that, 5/6 t-shirts and 2/3 pairs of shorts will do you fine.
The Minimalists have a good idea in relation to packing: if you can get it for under £20, in under 20 minutes from where you’ll be and you’re not going to need it every day, don’t pack it; you can always buy it.
I only travel with my day bag and my North Face large duffel bag, and I find that I have more than enough room. You can always buy anything you do find you need en route.
Download Useful Apps
Whether it’s for the bank you’re using while travelling, or simply Google Maps (so you can star every awesome place/bar/restaurant/etc you’ve been to), it’s a good idea to have some apps ready before you fly.
Citymapper: Easy to use and super convenient, Citymapper figures out the cheapest, quickest route from A-B in the cities that it covers. I’ve used it in NYC, LA and at home in London. It’s never failed me.
Packpoint: Super useful; Packpoint takes into account the weather of the place your visiting and the activities you’ll be doing, and creates a checklist of items to pack, as well as general packing lists. Available to share with your friends/travel companions, Packpoint will make sure you don’t forget anything.
XE Currency: Not the prettiest, but XE Currency is one of the best currency converters to use for when you can’t work out whether your next beer is a rip off or not.
Duolingo: Going somewhere with a language barrier? Pick up some useful phrases and words that will help you get around with Duolingo.
WhatsApp: You’ve probably already got it, but Whatsapp allows you to text whoever, wherever, without the risk of SMS or foreign number charges. It’s also pretty handy for a group chat and happens to be the most encrypted, safest way of texting.
ICampsites: For those that love a camping expedition, ICampsites is your best friend. With a guide to more than 9000 campsites in the UK and Europe (with user reviews, GPS coordinates and pictures), it’ll help you find just the spot.
Instagram: Obviously; how else are you going to make everyone jealous of that sunrise in Goa?
THE DAY BEFORE
On your final day at home, triple check everything. Is your visa correctly filed and accepted? Have you organised your money, and got some of the local currency in cash, ready for when you land? Are there any outstanding payments you need to make? Is everything packed and ready – and is your bag within airline weight restrictions? Have you got all your memory cards, swimwear and journals?
Then, finally: GO