Travel - Pre-Trip Planning
last update: 14 March 2020
This small group of webpages cover issues about travelling in general, i.e. vaccinations, medication and first-aid, travel insurance, security checks, packing lists (check-in and carry-on), hand washing clothes, buying suitcases, …
Below we have a series of lists. They are not to be looked at as a cascade of topics to be dealt with one after another. Some things are important to do immediately, e.g. check if your passport is valid. Some will take time to finalise, but that should not stop you doing other things, e.g. you can check the rental car situation whilst waiting for a hotel confirmation. And sometimes you need to delve into the details quite quickly. For example, you may have booked the tickets but not the seats. You need to check which are the best seats and which ones to avoid, and then reserve them early.
There are a number of planning issues that are destination specific, and there are some 'basics' that are common to almost any type of trip.
Where, When, What, Why?
But firstly you need to decide where to go:-
Travelling alone, as a couple, with friends, or as a family?
What do you want (relaxation, culture, adventure, or beach, city, country, …)?
Domestic or overseas?
How much are you prepared to spend?
For how long, and what about dates, are you flexible?
Go somewhere you know, or somewhere new, or even somewhere outside your comfort zone?
How to get there (this could be quite important since it can substantially impact costs)?
How to get around, e.g. public transport, city passes, train, rental car, …?
Define your mobility issues, e.g. do you want to avoid lots of steps or steep slopes, can you walk long distances inside a resort hotel, do you want a lift in the hotel, do you want to stay on the ground floor, do you need a special bathroom, do you have special food requirements, …?
Now's the time to check social media, reviews, etc.
Think about what will really make your holiday enjoyable, and trust your instincts.
Are there plenty of things you what to see and do, and are there ways to do things 'differently'?
Now go for an in-depth analysis of on-line travel reports, guides, reviews, etc. (I like to start with the 3-star reviews rather than the 1-star or 5-star ones).
Chat with family, friends, colleagues, because they may have been there or have an idea about something you had not thought of.
Analyse risks (cost, weather, health risks, etc.).
Now think again about why do you want to go there?
Go back to your original idea, and check that it is what you wanted all along.
Finalise you planning options, write down all the pro's and con's.
Now that you have a destination (or two), there are destination specific issues to consider:-
What are the hotel and travel/airline options?
Remembering some destinations fill up rapidly over periods such a Christmas and New Year, so do you book early, or last-minute?
Check out specific hotels and travel routes on social media, etc.
Decide to use a travel agent, or take a package tour, or even book piece-by-piece
Determine final package, with flights, hotels, rental car,…
Print out and annotate travel itinerary
Decide what to pack and what to leave at home, including check-in and carry-on lists
Update a one-page list of all phone numbers, etc, that you might need (e.g. travel and health insurances, consulates, etc.).
Start with the basics
Then we have some absolutely essential 'basics', such as:-
Is your passport valid (usually they must be valid for at least 6 months before travelling)?
Are there visa requirements?
Are there vaccination requirements?
Do you need an international driving licence?
Check conditions of your health insurance, and take out travel insurance (including cancelation insurance).
Remember to notify your bank and card providers of your travel arrangements, and ask if they have special arrangements or partnerships with local banks. Ask if credit/debit cards are accepted, and are ATM's easy to find. Find out if it is better to take travellers cheques, or take local currency from an ATM, or pay by card, or take local currency with you, … What are the exchange rates? Is it best to take a few larger withdrawals during the visit? This sounds easy, but there is a lot of contradictory information out there.
Remember you may need to pay a porter, a taxi, or tip at the hotel, so you will need some low denomination local cash (or you can change a small amount at the airport but at a poor exchange rate). You may need to order a specific currency from your bank. In my bank I can get $'s from the ATM with no overheads, but if I request it from my local branch I have to pay a fee and wait two days!
Other issues you might want to consider:-
Checkout the best options for public transport, rental cars.
Checkout the best options for local SIM cards, etc.
Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Find out about local tipping conventions.
Remember to check for power socket and plug requirements.
Read up on local dress codes (and other social norms that should be respected).
Read up on local crime, so as to be forewarned.
Make a list and pre-book visits, entrance tickets, restaurants, seats at concerts, etc.
Block you post, prepare automated payments, etc., and then pack…
You can Google a lot of advice, lists, etc. on planning, and compose your own list. There are a lot of packing lists on the Web, but I have used the following:-
"Don't forget me" list
I also have a little list of things that I need to remember, because I have forgotten them in the past. My list includes my electric shaver and charger cable, phone charger, local currency coins, …, and for my wife, eye makeup remover. I stick the list on the front door, so I see it as I leave…
And now, COVID oblige, plenty of face masks and hand sanitisers.