Updated: July 2019
You’ve got your flights booked and you’re counting down the days until you leave on your next adventure. You can feel the excitement building…and maybe those pre-travel jitters are setting in.
I know the feeling!
However, don’t pack your to-do list away just yet. There are a number of things you can do before your trip to make the most of your adventure. Do you need a visa? Did you get travel insurance? Do you know what you’re allowed to bring in your carry-on?
Here are 10 important things you should do before your next trip!
Get Travel Insurance
Travel Insurance is one of those things you don’t realize you need..until you do. There’s always a chance that you may cancel or cut your trip short, and you don’t want to be paying outrageous cancellation fees.
Plus, travel insurance will save your booty when it comes to any unpredictable medical expenses! Most health insurance plans won’t cover treatment abroad, so it’s vital to get travel insurance that covers all of the health issues—big and small—that can come up on the road.
On top of health coverage, things like lost passports, stolen laptops, misplaced prescriptions, canceled flights, and other scary situations can totally destroy your trip.
Having the right insurance can be the difference between a minor inconvenience and going into complete debt.
My general advice is when you make the first payment on your trip—whether it’s nonrefundable airplane tickets or a hotel deposit—get insurance to cover it. It’s possible you may not end up using it, but it’s so, so, so much better to have it *just in case.*
I’ve been using World Nomads insurance for years now, and it’s been a real lifesaver.
Figure Out If You Need a Visa
The sooner you can get your visa, the better. The sweetest smile won’t get you past border officials who need your documents. I learned the hard way when I waited too long to get my Brazilian visa in Los Angeles! Don’t let that be you!
It’s essential to research your destination and be 100% sure you’ve got everything you need.
Contact consulates, work with visa agencies and do whatever you need to do to make sure you are ready well in advance. Never leave visas to the last minute! Paperwork delays can pop up at any time…and I doubt anyone would want to be sent home after the flight there.
Know before you go and save yourself the stress!
Make the Most of Your Money
First of all, make sure your credit card has an electronic chip on it because most European shops don’t accept cards with just the strip.
If your card doesn’t, ask your bank to issue you one—though most major cards are now making it a standard practice.
Second, tell your bank where and when you’re going or set a ‘Travel Notice’ online.
If you don’t, they might flag your card when you try to use it and deactivate it while you’re overseas! While you can make an international call or sometimes fix this online, it’s no fun to deal with.
Third, don’t exchange your money!
Currency exchange centers usually charge a hefty fee. Instead, use an ATM upon arrival or get a card with a 0% foreign transaction fee. This will cut down costs in the long run!
Consider getting a travel reward credit card before your trip so you can rack up points for your flights and bookings ahead of time, and for all the purchases on your trip.
Most travel reward credit cards offer 0% fees on international purchases PLUS you earn extra points on travel, so you can book free flights and hotels on your next adventure!
Make Copies of All Your Documents
I would suggest printing out one or two copies for yourself, leaving a set of your details with a friend or family back at home, and making a specific folder in your email or Google Docs to store all of your info.
Make copies of your travel documents, including your passport, itinerary, travel insurance policy, emergency phone numbers, and any tour confirmations.
It’s always good to have a backup of EVERYTHING just in case you lose a tangible copy, or your phone or laptop gets stolen.
Do Your Research
Read up on the destination! Top places to go, day trips, local dishes, historic attractions, everyday phrases, and even the exchange rate.
Figure out what things are most important to you and your musts!
Familiarize yourself with the layout of the city and the public transportation—knowing this stuff beforehand can reduce the stress and help you be as present in the moment to soak up all the details of the city…rather than focusing on the map.
I suggest making a list of your must-sees and plotting them out on a map, so you have an idea of how far away things are in relation to others, and you are the most efficient with your time! I find it’s better to go in with a plan so you don’t spend all day in the hotel figuring out what to do.
Plans may change along the way, but at least you have a general idea!
Emily Moon River Lodge, South Africa
Book Your Accommodations
I’ve seen so many whimsical dreams turn into nightmares when important details aren’t planned. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of seeing where the day will take me but it’s important to know where I am going to lay my head at night!
There are countless things that can affect your ability to get a room—sporting events, local holidays, business conferences. If you end up just taking whatever is available, you might find yourself paying way too much money to stay somewhere you don’t like.
For the Photographers
Looking to get some epic travel photos while you’re out exploring? If you’re really into travel photography, learn a few tips and tricks beforehand! If you can learn how to shoot in manual mode, you can really take your photos to the next level!
If you’re a seasoned photographer, you probably already know how the time of day will impact lighting and how many people are in your shot. If you’re wanting to take the dreamiest photos, I’d suggest creating a Pinterest board on the location before you go to get an idea of the shots you want.
Try to pinpoint where those locations are on the map, look up sunrise and sunset times, and plan accordingly.
Get a VPN!
Having a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is more important than you might think. If you want to keep your data safe and have uncensored internet access, get a VPN before you go abroad.
By setting up a VPN, you’re able to encrypt your data. This is incredibly important when you’re accessing public or semi-public Wi-Fi networks in places like airports, cafés, and hotels. Without this encryption, you are leaving your usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers at risk.
Knowing that many countries block sites like Netflix, Facebook, and BBC, I signed up for ExpressVPN a few years ago and have used it ever since. Imagine being on a dream vacation and not being able to update your Instagram 😉 Get a VPN and stay connected.
Prep Your Carry-On
It’s easy to procrastinate when it comes to packing…I know. To save yourself some stress, start prepping your carry-on early!
Read up on airport and airline regulations while you’re packing for your trip. So many items are now prohibited and you don’t want to have to toss your brand-new facewash!
I’ve written up a guide to help you plan which travel beauty products to Check vs. Carry On.
Use a clear plastic bag to contain any liquids or gels—and remember, the limit for each bottle is 3 oz!
Find Your Ideal Bag + Luggage
Having great luggage is more important than you might think! When you are living out of a suitcase, it’s essential to have the perfect bag.
It’s also important to remember that a big suitcase means—guess what—a heavy suitcase. Big surprise there, right? Don’t try to stuff your suitcase but rather pack well—bring things you can mix and match to get more versatility out of your wardrobe!
One carry-on suitcase is the optimal size if you can manage, but larger suitcases can be necessary for longer trips.
Whether you’re backpacking around Europe, spending the weekend in New York, or have a business trip to Bangkok—finding the right bag is essential!
Take Care of Yourself
I know this might seem like I’m playing mom, but this is seriously important! You’re going to want to make sure to stay hydrated and eating vegetables along the way. I’m guessing you’ll be imbibing more alcohol than usual and loading up on foods that aren’t in your normal diet…
So make sure to drink water and eat veggies whenever possible!
On long flights, I try to avoid alcohol and coffee, which can both dehydrate you. Buy bottled water once you clear security or bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up at the fountains near the gate.
Pack any medications you need and if you’re traveling in third world countries—you might want to snag some Imodium for travelers indigestion.
Make time to exercise, too—whether this is going for a walk, jog, or hiking in the new location—this can also help you combat jet-lag and keep you feeling energized while traveling.
Check the CDC for any required or recommended vaccinations for your destination!
Lastly, I’d suggest planning out your first day. I know, I know—you want to be spontaneous. I’m right with ya! But that first day can be a real pain: arriving in an unfamiliar country with heavy luggage, you’re jet-lagged and trying to reorient yourself.
Do yourself a favor and have a plan for the first day.
Ask your hotel to pick you up at the airport, so you can check-in and dump your bags right away. Once you have time to freshen up and get settled, you can hit the streets and get exploring the terrain!