Don’t forget these 18 important things to do before you travel
Travelling, in any form, can be full of unexpected surprises. Whether it is for a short holiday, a weekend getaway, or a one-way backpacking trip. We want to help you be as prepared as possible for anything life might throw your way. That’s why we created this Travel checklist of all the things you need to consider before you go.
While there can be challenges, travelling is honestly the best thing you can do for yourself.
Many of the points I will mention are things that we have learnt the hard way through our travels and now know better. Passing on the knowledge to you is the least we can do.
So I’m glad you’re here. Keep reading and we will share our 18 most important things to do before you travel. All you need to do is make sure you’ve got each one covered before you go. Giving yourself the best possible chance of a super chill trip with no dramas.
Let’s get stuck in…
18 Things To Do Before You Travel
All the points on this travel preparation checklist are equally important and listed here in no particular order;
1 – Travel Insurance
This is arguably the most important thing on this list. So it had to go first. Of all of the things to do before you travel, getting travel insurance can quite literally save your life. Not only if you need medical help but also when you’re carrying your whole world in a backpack, it’s nice to know that should it go missing you can get it replaced.
Trust me I have learnt the hard way in the past when the weather cancelled my flight and I didn’t have insurance. It can be an expensive lesson to learn.
We are now both insured with True Traveller. Just make sure when picking a company that they cover everything you want them to. Often not all activities are covered and expensive electronics are often extras that need to be added on.
2 – Offline Maps
This is something that can come in so handy, especially when you first arrive in a new country or city.
By either using the Maps.Me app or downloading the area you need on Google Maps for offline use can save you so much hassle.
Don’t be like me when I first arrived in India and was at the mercy of the locals. Taking me where they wanted and I had no way to know otherwise. Lesson learnt.
To download an area of Google Maps, start by having the app on your phone. Click on your profile icon in the top right-hand corner, then click on offline maps. Choose ‘select your own map’ and then draw the square over the area you need it on.
Once ready click download. Just make sure you do this before you leave whilst still connected to wifi.
Once done, you will be able to use google maps like normal when you arrive at your destination.
3 – Book Accommodation
I always recommend when travelling to book accommodation for the first night or 2. This way when you arrive you know exactly where to go and don’t have the added stress of then trying to find somewhere to sleep. Especially if you are arriving at night.
We always use Booking.com to find the best deals and book all of our accommodation. Why not have a look now to get started?
For more information check out our post on how to find and book cheap accommodation.
Another great tip is to save the location of your accommodation in Google Maps so you can easily locate it or show it to a taxi driver if needed.
Are you headed to Central America? Then let us save you some planning time and take a look at these top hostels.
4 – Know the Language
Don’t worry, I don’t mean literally learning the language. But a great tip that can ease a lot of stress in a new place is to download the Google Translate app. Then in the app select the language you need and next to it, you can click the arrow to download the entire language.
This means that even without data or wifi you can still use Google Translate to read signs and communicate etc.
For example, when we arrived in Mexico we had to complete an immigration form. The entire thing was in Spanish and there was no WIFI and our sim cards didn’t work. Having the language already downloaded would’ve made what took us 20 minutes to work out, a 5-minute job.
5 – Vaccines
Vaccines can be a sensitive subject but for us, it was a no-brainer. There are some pretty nasty diseases out there that are so easily prevented. If you plan to travel it is always wise to speak to a doctor about what they recommend you have before you go.
Some countries even require you to have certain vaccines in order to enter. For example, many places will need you to have a yellow fever vaccine certificate if you have previously been to a high-risk country.
You can see which countries are on the WHO website here.
It is important to start this discussion with them at least 6 months before you plan to leave. Some vaccines require multiple doses, spread out over a few months.
They can also discuss other things with you, such as malaria medications and even altitude medications depending on your trip.
We personally think it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Also, these days it is necessary to also have digital proof of your Covid Vaccines if you have them. Many countries around the world still require to see proof of these upon entering the country. It always helps to check before you go what their entry requirements are.
6 – Documents
A good tip that can save you some trouble is to have photos of your passport and bank cards on your phone.
There are a lot of times while travelling when you may be asked to show your passport. The last thing you want is to be carrying it around with you all the time (keep that bad boy locked away, nice and safe).
Some examples of when I have been asked to show my passport are when buying sim cards when booking tours when checking into accommodations and when boarding buses. Just to name a few. All of these have been totally fine with seeing a photo instead of the real thing.
Having images of your bank cards can be useful in case they are lost or stolen. These things can happen and it’s best to be prepared.
7 – Emergency contacts
Every time I have travelled I have the numbers of my parents or emergency contact written down somewhere. This is again in case I ever lose my phone or if it gets stolen.
I don’t know about you but these days there isn’t a single phone number I can remember off the top of my head. So having them written down in a couple of places is reassuring.
If you want to feel even more supported then add to the list, the numbers of the embassy in the country you are going to and the code for their emergency services.
This is something that felt really important when I was travelling solo before Guido and I met. For more tips check out my post on tips for solo female travellers.
8 – Back up copies
Similarly to the previous point, it can be really useful to give a family member or trusted friend copies of your passport and bank details. This way if you need help from afar they have access to your information.
9 – Multiple Bank Cards
Having Multiple bank cards will give you peace of mind. Should you lose your wallet then you can still access your money through your other cards.
Along the same lines as this, also having more than one bank account can come in handy. It is not uncommon, all over the world for scam artists and dodgy folk to skim your card as they walk by.
The next thing you know your account is empty. Having only a small amount on the card you carry with you, can really reduce the risk of a loss and set your mind at ease.
10 – Travel Cards
Having multiple cards and accounts is great. What is even better is choosing accounts that are meant for travellers.
Some examples are Wise, Revolute and Monzo if you’re from Europe. Have a look at where you are from to see which accounts benefit travellers. Some of the perks can be no fees to withdraw money abroad, better exchange rates or no fees on international transactions.
The fewer fees you can have the better because when travelling they can quickly add up.
Some accounts even include travel insurance, it’s a WIN-WIN.
11 – Restricted Items
Besides the obvious drugs and weapons, it’s a good idea to do a quick search and see if the places you plan to visit restrict any other items.
For example, we started our trip with our drone. Only to realise that most of the countries we planned to visit, actually banned them. Sending it back to the UK was a very expensive lesson learnt. Hopefully, our mistake can save you some hassle.
There are some other crazy rules out there, that we as travellers have to abide by. Such as, Nicaragua has banned anyone from bringing binoculars into the country. Who knows how long this will last? If bird watching is your thing and you have your favourite pair of binoculars with you. It would be pretty disappointing to have them confiscated.
You never know these things until you check.
12 – Currency
Before arriving in a new country it is a good idea to know the currency and exchange rate. This way when you need to get a taxi for example you can know if the price they are telling you is fair or not.
If possible it can really help to have some cash on you before you arrive as well. Many airports have ATMs. However, I have been in a situation before, where all of them were empty! And of course, taxis don’t usually take cards.
Having some cash ready, just to get you from the airport to your accommodation can make things a lot easier.
13 – Mobile Data
Can you use your mobile data plan where you are going or will you need a sim card?
If you’re European a lot of the time you can use your mobile data all over Europe. It is always a good idea to have a quick Google search first to see if you will need to find a local sim card or not when you arrive.
14 – Visas
Another really important thing to do before you travel is to find out if you need a visa in advance or not. This will massively vary depending on the country you are visiting and the country where you come from.
Some places need you to visit an embassy and apply months in advance for a visa. Others do visas on arrival. You will need to know this before you go.
It is also nice to know if the visa will cost anything or not so you don’t have any nasty surprises.
15 – Entry & Exit fees
Some countries also have entry and/or exit fees. It is good to be aware of these in advance because they often require them to be paid in cash. Especially when leaving a country, we tend to try and make sure we don’t have any of the currency left.
In this case, it can be really handy to know if you need to set some aside for an exit fee.
Most borders don’t have ATMs so you really could end up in a stressful situation if not prepared.
This was a lesson we learnt at the border between Mexico and Belize. We knew there was an exit fee for Mexico but read that this could be paid online. Great. We paid it online, but once at the border, they wouldn’t accept our receipt.
They demanded the payment again in cash and there wasn’t an ATM on site. Of course, we had no cash left because we were leaving Mexico and thought we had paid the fee already. We had to get a taxi back to the nearest town to get cash and come back again.
What a nightmare!
16 – Weather
This may seem a little strange on a list like this but many countries are subject to some pretty extreme weather conditions. The last thing you want is to book your holiday right in the middle of hurricane season.
17 – Current events
A very important one, because it changes so frequently, is to check the current events in your destination. Will there be an election soon? Are there any political issues happening right now? Is it a national holiday? All of these things can increase risk or just make travel in that destination more difficult than it normally would be.
Checking your government’s website and its travel advice is always a good place to start.
18 – Onward Travel
One final thing to do before you travel on to your next adventure. Does your destination require you to show proof of onward travel?
Normally this isn’t a show-stopper. But having to find WIFI, to quickly book a random onward flight. Just to be allowed to enter, could potentially get pretty stressful.
If, like us, you have no solid plans. You want to just grab a bus to the next country when you are ready. There are websites that for a small fee will book a flight for you so you have proof. Then they cancel it within 24 hours. You’ll be able to show an actual flight ticket, without having to pay for the flight itself. We haven’t tried these yet but have heard they are pretty good.
Things To Do Before You Travel – Final Thoughts
I realise that when writing a post like this, it is very easy to make the world sound like a scary place, full of bad guys. Of course that isn’t true. Travel is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your life and the chances of anything unpleasant happening are very small.
By checking off each of these 18 important things to do before you travel, you put yourself in the absolute best position should the worst happen. If nothing ever does, then GREAT! No harm done.