20 things to do before travel – ultimate travel checklist
I’ve been on hundreds of trips over the past few years. So now I kind of prepare for each trip automatically without even thinking of what I yet need to do until I leave. But as many of you have been asking me what exactly is necessary to do before a trip, I put up a list of things to check before you travel.
20 things to do before travel
The first thing I always check before booking my flights to a foreign country is visas. Do I need to pay for it? Do I need to ask for visa in advance at an Embassy? If so, only in my native country or where? Or will I get a free visa on the arrival? How long can I stay in the country? 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, 180 days, forever?
All of this varies depending on your nationality and if you arrive by plane or over land so do not count on how your friend got into the country. Check all these things for yourself and then plan your stay. You seriously would not like to get in trouble staying in the country once your visa got expired. The fee could be too high or you might not be able to enter the country again.
2. entrance/exit fees
Some airports/countries won’t let you enter/leave the country until you pay a fee. The fees might vary between the airports and sometimes are not included in your flight price. I remember paying quite a lot when leaving the Philippines a few years ago. Knowing this will make you keep extra money for the exit fees in your pocket. Otherwise you might spend all the local currency until the end of your trip and then get stuck at the airport maybe even with your credit card blocked. You know how all the bad things come in three so just keep extra cash for the exit fees if necessary.
3. passport validity
Is your passport still valid during the whole trip? Most countries require your passport to be valid for another 6 months beyond the end of the trip so double check that. Do you need a passport or an ID is enough? Unless you are from EU and visiting another European Union country, most probably you will need also your passport.
4. weather forecast
I always check how’s usually the weather in the destination in the month of my trip. And then also just a few days before I travel I check what the newest weather forecast says. Is it supposed to be hot and dry? Rainy? Windy? Very cold? It will help you to know what kind of clothes and shoes to pack. I usually carry something light for rain anyway, such as a raincoat or a wind-proof jacket. The weather could make your trip miserable so you do want to be prepared as much as possible.
5. mobile roaming
I am not sure how much you use your phone while abroad but I tend to use my home sim card as least as possible. Roaming charges can get pretty high, unless you are from the US where you do have affordable roaming plans. I can highly recommend you Chatsim which is a sim card allowing you to use 9 chat applications (such as Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp etc.) in over 150 countries in the world. You just buy the sim card and can send unlimited text messages. If you’d like to send/receive photos or call via these chat apps too, you could top up sim card credit. Otherwise just text messages.
But let me tell you, Chatsim would save your butt when spending a whole day on the bus, staying in the jungle or when not having wifi while waiting at the airport for half a day. If you live in Slovakia, Czech republic, Poland, Hungary, Germany, Austria, Switzerland or Slovenia, I recommend you to order Chatsim from Chatsim.cz.
6. travel insurance
Having a travel insurance is a must and don’t even think of leaving home without it. If you are looking for travel medical insurance to use in case you fall sick or need an ambulance/hospital stay etc. then check out SafetyWing.
If you are from Slovakia, I recommend you to check Netfinancie.sk. It’s a website comparing all the different insurances where you can also book your travel insurance directly. If you are from my home country Slovakia, then I can recommend you to check Netfinancie. It’s a website comparing different kinds of insurance, travel included, so you will have a better idea about what travel insurance to get. Another advantage is that you can book insurance right on their website Netfinancie.sk.
If you are from outside of Slovakia, then World Nomads would be a good pick. They cover many adventure activities too, and you can buy travel insurance online so no need to go to any office. I give my thumbs up to World Nomads also for supporting global community development programs trying to change lives of poor people. Here you can check your World Nomads travel insurance. I can recommend you another website as well. Consumers Advocate has a page devoted to comparing travel insurance companies so you may want to check there also.
I prefer to book accommodation for my first days on the trip ahead of time so I don’t need to worry. I also like to check it on the map to know how to get there. What’s the best or the cheapest way to get to your accommodation? Walking? Public bus or train? Taxi? Uber? I usually take a photo of the hotel on the map and also a screenshot of how to get there. Just in case because GPS might not always work, or you might not find wifi exactly when you need it to check your way to the hotel. Also take a screenshot/print your accommodation confirmation if necessary.
TIP: Before booking your accommodation, do read Tripadvisor hotel reviews to be sure it’s a good choice 😉
8. paying by card or cash
Finding out in advance about how easy it is to pay by card in your next destination would be very helpful, trust me. In the Western world we are used to pay by card but in many other countries it is not that common at all. Not having any cash with you would not be a good idea when you are just about to pay for food or accommodation but you find out they don’t accept cards. Do your search if you need cash or you can widely pay by card. In many Asian, African and Latin American countries I never count on credit card payments but prefer to carry some cash with me. Always.
9. credit card/debit card charges
Check for three main things, i.e. if your credit card will work in the country you are visiting (you might need to call your bank to inform them about your destination so they won’t block your card), what card has the lowest ATM withdrawal fees and what withdrawal limits the card has. Your credit card withdrawals might have limits in some countries so make sure your credit card will work in the country you are visiting. For free card withdrawals and payments, you can use Revolut MasterCard. It’s also possible to transfer money globally or get paid via RevolutCard.
To be honest, if I didn’t need to get vaccines, I would not because they are usually full of chemicals and simply not natural to our body. Although as a healthy lifestyle consultant I do not support vaccinations, they won’t let you into some countries without them. Personally, I was vaccinated Hepatitis A and B, tetanus, yellow fever and typhoid fever. You should always carry an International certificate of vaccination in which your doctor had written all the vaccinations you got and when.
11. flights and airports
If you are traveling on plane and changing flights, make sure there is enough time between the flights. The bigger the airport, the more time you need but minimum should be 2 hours. Double check if the flights are leaving from the same airport. Many cities have more than 1 airport and it would not be fun to miss your connecting flight just because you didn’t know it was leaving from the airport on the side of the city. Each airport has a different 3 letter airport code which will help you to know right away if your flights are from the same airport (e.g. London Luton is LTN, London Heathrow is LHR, London Stansted is STN).
12. transportation tickets
You need to check if it’s necessary to print out tickets or it’s enough just to have the screenshots/confirmation emails in your phone. I’m talking of boarding passes and other transportation tickets. Some airlines require printed boarding passes (especially Low cost airlines, such as Ryanair) and not having them would cost you a lot at the airport. As we want to avoid all the unnecessary payments, check the airline rules before our trip.
13. scams and traps
Do a Google search if the destination is famous for any scams so you can avoid them. When I was planning a trip from Thailand to Cambodia with my best girl friend in 2011, we read online that sometimes they can take you to a fake border where you pay for the visa but then you need to pay at the real border again and no one cares. So definitely check out if anything like that happens in the destination you are going to visit to save yourself money, nerves and time.
14. advanced payments
If you are going to travel for longer, make sure you set up all the advance payments you need to take care of at home (accommodation, phone, car etc.). Believe me, once you hit the open road you will completely lose track of time and probably forget about the payments. You definitely don’t want to end up in check systems because you didn’t plan ahead. To avoid all those problems, simply schedule automatic payments if possible.
Search for activities you will do in your destination. For sure there will be loads of them so just pick some you definitely need to do, and leave the rest for ”if I get free time”. The best websites to check for tours abroad are Tripadvisor, Viator or GetYourGuide. The one I use the most is obviously TripAdvisor, and not just for activities, but also to check hotel and choose based on reviews they have.
Backpack or suitcase? What do you prefer? What will be better for your trip? If you are planning on hiking to places such as the Andes in Argentina or Chile, don’t even think about carrying a suitcase. Even I had a backpack there. Although I personally prefer a 4-wheel suitcase on some European and North American trips, I reconsider its pros and cons in the rest of the world.
17. culture rules
Read about the culture to know what not to do once you get there. For example, in Thailand it is not nice to show the soles of your feet towards other people but on the other hand you should take off your shoes once entering some temples/shops/spas etc. Because for the Thais the head is the most sacred part of the body, you should never touch anyone’s head in Thailand. Please do your Google search about the culture of the country you are visiting so you don’t get ashamed then not knowing what to do.
18. document copies
Making copies of your documents can save your ass if your passport got lost or stolen. Just copy the passport page with your photo, personal and demographic details. It’s recommended to send the electronic copies to your email and have them in your phone/laptop as well. Also print some copies to put in each bag you will carry with you on your trip. It wouldn’t hurt to send copies to your partner/parents/kids so they will have them ready in their email if something happened. I always carry a copy of my passport in my camera bag, suitcase and handbag, and have electronic copies in my two emails, and also downloaded in my laptop. I have also copies of other IDs, certificate of vaccinations, driver’s license and travel insurance in my laptop and emails.
There is a number of different plugs and voltage around the world so don’t forget to check what plugs they use in the country you are visiting. Carrying an extra multifunctional adapter will never hurt when traveling overseas. You wouldn’t be able to buy an adapter easily in a smaller town so bring one with you.
It’s a good idea to have small photos with you if they were needed for visa etc. I always carry 4 passport-size photos in my wallet, just in case.
Do you want the ultimate travel checklist in your phone/laptop?
Here you can DOWNLOAD the 20 things to do before travel in pdf so you can check it before your next trip.
Now when you know all the things to do before travel, you can read my article about ultimate travel packing list where you can download the whole packing list. Very useful to check if you haven’t forgotten about anything important, right?
Coco makes me nuts
Very good and useful tips! I wonder in which country I can stay forever (right away), except my homecountry 😀 21. Find out where to get some coconuts 🙂
Thanks 🙂 Haha well they have coconuts in all exotic countries, we know that 😀 O:)
Thanks a lot for great tips Alex, I would never think about extra photos..merci :-*
Yes, you never know when you could need extra photos 😉
It is really very helpful and to the point checklist. Every traveler should read this before planning any trip. Well done Alex.
Many thanks, I tried to remember and write down in this article all the things I check before my trips 🙂
Nice blog, thanks for sharing the pre-planing for the travel, visa is one of most important things to do on time.
Yes, checking out visa is very important and yet many people tend to forget about it until very last minute.