There’s a lot to remember to do before you go off on your travels – particularly if you’re leaving indefinitely – and that’s after you’ve tackled one of the hardest tasks: packing! Then there’s researching accommodation, activities, restaurants, what food you should eat, the currency rates… but there are other things you need to remember too.
Make sure you’ve got everything
This sounds a bit obvious, but are you sure you’ve got everything? By this, I don’t mean that essential dress you want to bring, or those shoes-to-die-for that you can’t leave without. I’m going to hazard a guess and say that you’re going somewhere that you’ll be able to buy things if you forget them.
But have you got insurance? All your visas sorted? Have you taken a picture of your passport and sent it to your mum as a back up? Got emergency numbers to call if your cards get stolen?
Check through your bank account
One thing I’ve learned since I left the UK is that although I’ve cancelled my home bills and I have nothing coming into the account, money still manages to sift through the gaps. I found that I was paying a charity £5 a month, and a domain name I don’t even use any more got renewed and charged for.
ALWAYS look through your statement to see what regular payments are coming out. Even if you’re NOT going away, I recommend doing this, because you really never know if you cancelled that payment.
Cancel your post / change your address
It’s very likely that you’ll need an address for a few things, and this could mean putting your parents’ address down for important documents – remember to update it on your bank account etc. If you already live with your parents (or whoever’s address you’re going to use while you’re away), do them a favour and cancel your subscription to ASOS magazine. They won’t want your clutter and you won’t come back wanting to read it.
It’s quite likely you’ll have a few things like this, so in the couple of months coming up to your departure date, keep an eye on what post is coming in and cancel it. (I do this every time I move too because let’s face it, it’s annoying receiving other people’s bills)
Buy travel insurance
I have met tons of travellers who haven’t got it – but for me, it’s huge peace of mind. If you have a biking accident in Asia, or need to go to hospital in Australia or the USA, the bills you can rack up are phenomenal.
A friend of mine crashed her bike in Asia, and not only did she have to pay a $600 medical bill, but the fees for the bike damage were horrendous. “Thank God I had insurance,” she said. Another friend was hospitalised in Australia and had to pay an ambulance call-out fee of $1000 twice – both covered by her insurance.
And of course it doesn’t just cover medical expenses – if you lose your luggage, have items stolen, lose your passport, miss a flight or a natural disaster occurs, you’re covered. (always check the details of any policy before purchasing – all insurers have different levels of cover)
Sell your stuff
I am a hoarder. I’m not superficial and I don’t buy expensive things, but I have spent years accumulating cute homeware, there are clothes I love but would never bring away with me, and my personal circumstances dictated that I have a LOT of paperwork to keep.
But when we moved out, I realised just how much stuff I have. And the thing is, we had nowhere to put it (partly why I overpacked). So while I could never sell all my CDs or my collector edition Lost box set, I did ruthlessly clear out a lot of my DVDs, CDs, clothes and home stuff. It wasn’t just for money (I ended up giving some of it to charity); it was so that we wouldn’t take up too much space at Ash’s parents’.
This is something you may need to consider too – if you’re going away for an extended amount of time, where are you going to leave your things?
Use eBay, go to boot fairs, send your DVDs and CDs to MusicMagpie. Use Facebook buy/sell groups and the Amazon marketplace. Cut down on what you have!
And of course, everything you sell will contribute towards your travel funds. It’s a win/win!
Write out an itinerary & make notes
You might not know exactly where you’re going or when you’re going to be in a place, but there were so many little things I wanted to do in certain places that I would have forgotten if I hadn’t written them down. It’s also a good idea to have a rough guide of dates and places to give to your parents just so they know where you’re going to be if something happens.
I literally wrote something like ‘March 1st – Hong Kong, 1 week. March 8th – Vietnam (Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Saigon), 3 weeks. End March – mid April – Cambodia’ etc etc for my Mum. It’s also worth writing down everything you have booked.
Look up currency and check your card rates
Everyone sorts out their currency in different ways. Some people get no cash at all and withdraw money once they’re there; others take the whole lot with them and hide it in various places. Always look up your card fees for withdrawing and making payments abroad. You’ll find that most charge a fee plus commission on exchange rates at ATMs, and some of the exchange rates on card payments will be unfavourable.
Luckily, in the UK you can get a Halifax Clarity credit card. While I don’t always condone credit cards, this great card has been a lifesaver on our trip – there are NO FEES on payments abroad, and I’ve found that the exchange rate is consistently brilliant. Not only this, but if you pay some money into it straight away, you don’t get charged for ATM withdrawals either! (just make sure you do pay it off straight away; I made this mistake and got charged interest!)
Where I’ve been extremely reluctant to ever use my cards in a foreign currency, I’m happy to use this one. (though we did take a lot of cash too)
And I always recommend keeping an eye on currency rates on xe.com when you book your trip. It could well be that the currency you need is going down in value coming up to your trip and you should buy it now before it rises again. When I worked in America, I bought all of my money beforehand in dinosaur money (travellers cheques!) at the ridiculous rate of $2 per £1. By the time I finished working and was using this money for travel, my travelmates were withdrawing cash at a rate of $1.6 to £1. I’m definitely glad I did it my way round!
Remember that Forex is always a risk (like stock trading, that’s why it’s such a lucrative but unpredictable market!) but stay savvy and you could actually save a ton of money on your trip.
Remember that you are going to have the time of your life!
Planning a holiday can be stressful, and planning a trip that’s going to keep you on the road for months is even more so.
But the second you step on that plane, you know it’s all been worth it! And that’s the most important thing.