I wanted to share some important things you should consider doing before leaving for your trip. As most of my trips are on the longer side, some of my advice will be more apt for long-term travellers, expats and other people looking to spend a long time overseas there is, however, some useful for advice for all travellers within this post.
1. Go for a medical checkup and ensure your vaccinations are up to date
Get a full check-up with your GP
- Regardless of your age and how healthy you think you may be this is always a good idea. It is common to become ill while travelling overseas (happened to me twice on my last trip) and the risk can be reduced by being properly prepared. You want to be in your best possible shape for your trip, so asking your doctor to run some tests to check you are in ship shape is a good idea. It would be better to address any problems before leaving, so try to do this at least a month before leaving.
- While at the GP be sure to stock up on your regular prescription medication as this could be difficult to obtain while travelling. Also, make sure to obtain a doctors letter outlining the medication/s you are taking.
Visit a travel doctor for vaccinations
- Please do this as far as possible in advance before leaving to travel, ideally leaving multiple months especially if you are heading to particularly exotic destinations. The doctor will discuss with you the risks you may be facing, how to address them and help you decide which vaccinations to get. I was unable to get some vaccinations before heading off on my last trip because I left it too late and didn’t have time to do the full rounds – so don’t leave it too late!
- Travel doctors normally sell small medical kits and preventative medication/items for your travels.
- If you are in Australia I recommend using Travel Clinics Australia to find your nearest clinic. If you live in the Outer Eastern Suburbs of Victoria I highly recommend the North Ringwood Medical Centre which has a travel clinic.
- Just a warning: vaccinations can be VERY expensive, so be prepared for that and set extra money aside if you think you will be needing them.
2. Go to the dentist
- Leading from the last tip – you want to leave with the healthiest body possible, this includes your dental health! Make sure you have a full checkup and a clean and make sure you have any outstanding treatment done before leaving – you don’t want to wake up in a foreign land with a full-blown a toothache because you never got around to having your tooth filled.
3. Sort out your car situation
- If you are going really long-term you probably want to sell your car or take it to the wreckers if it is unsellable especially if no one else will be utilising it while you are gone. When you de-register your car in Victoria you will be entitled to a refund pro-rata, I got a few hundred dollars from this.
- If you sell your car make sure you cancel your car insurance.
- If your license is set to expire while you are away, contact your license provider and ask them what you can do to ensure it is renewed. I forgot to sort this out before leaving and my mum had to waste a lot of her time sorting it out for me (sorry mum!).
4. Setup banking for overseas spending
- I recommend having at least two banking providers in case anything goes wrong, I actually have 3. This is mainly important in the event you are temporarily restricted from accessing your account if there is a security breach or theft.
- When you are overseas, to get the most bang for your buck you will want to be able to withdraw money and make foreign in-store and foreign online transactions while being charged minimal to 0 fees. Spend some time doing some research on what card is best for you.
- I also looked into points cards for Australian’s and found that a lot of them either charge high fees and/or you have to pay to sign up so I never got into that but perhaps in your country that might be worthwhile to look into. If you are Australian and can prove me wrong on this please let me know as I would be happy to be wrong on this point haha pardon the pun.
- Safety tip: have at least 2 cards and keep them in different places. Be aware of what your bank’s policy is in the event of your card being lost or stolen – also check what your travel insurance’s policy is on this as some of them provide assistance in this event.
- Notify your bank/s: It is a good idea to notify your bank providers of your travels otherwise you could end up in a sticky situation (eg. they might suspend your account leaving you with no access to your money) depending on their policies.
- I use a 28 Degrees credit card which has 0 fees, interest-free for most transactions as long as I payback my card within 55 days of the transaction (I think the only exception is for cash advances/withdrawing cash) – I use this for instore and online transactions.
- I also have a Citibank plus account which allows me to withdraw cash and make in-store and online transactions for no fee at most ATM’s that you use (I wasn’t charged a fee once while in Europe but this depends on which country you travel in apparently).
- For my last line of defence, I keep most of my funds in my Westpac account that cannot be accessed by card as Westpac has excellent security and fraud policies. I very occasionally withdrew money using my Westpac card at a flat rate fee of $5AUD, normally when was disorganised with transferring money to withdraw to my other bank account. Westpac also has connections with other world banks which allow you to withdraw for free but they don’t have connections in every country in the world.
5. Be aware of your visa conditions and be prepared for potential applications
All different countries have different visa conditions depending on your passport nationality/nationalities, be aware of how much time you can spend in each country and of the visa conditions eg. do you need to apply before visiting, can you apply at the airport, is it automatic upon arrival etc.
- If you plan to apply for long-term visas like a working holiday visa in a Germany for example, I would recommend looking into the requirements before you leave and you could even fill out the form before you leave or apply in advance. I had trouble getting my working holiday visa as I didn’t have a permanent address (you need to register a permanent address and the owner of the home needs to sign the form) and German bureaucracy is horrendous. I have read you can bypass that step by applying in advance, so that is a good idea. Be prepared and save yourself time.
- Tip: Bring recent passport photos of yourself for visa applications and just in case anything happens to your passport.
6. Organise your travel insurance
I wrote a blog post on how to choose your travel insurance and why this is an important thing to do, I highly recommend giving that a read. Even if you are on the fence about getting travel insurance at all I urge you to at least read my blog post on this. I choose to be insured with Itrek and I was very happy with that decision as I actually needed to use them when I went to a hospital in Portugal and I was fully reimbursed swiftly after lodging my claim and they continued to provide me support after that.
- Tip: Keep your travel insurance international contact number and your insurance details (policy type, policy number etc.) stored on your phone and print out a copy of these details to store somewhere safe.
7. Get clued up on safety information and local scams specific to where you are visiting
Before my first ever Eurotrip I did a lot of research about everything, including safety information and local scams. When I came to Europe and came across situations I already read about I was prepared with how to deal with them and did so with ease. Smart traveller has a lot of information available about every country relating to safety and some information about scams. They do write about every single potential safety issue in a lot of detail, don’t let that scare you – use this information to your advantage, in this case, knowledge is power.
8. Download app to track expenses and set a daily spending limit
This is particularly important for the budget conscious people out there – if you want to go for longer you need to be smarter with your money. Work out how much you can afford to spend every day and then plug all your expenses into an app. The app I used (Travel Money) kept statistics of what percentage of my money I was spending on X, Y and Z – this was helpful because if I noticed I spent a large amount on one particular thing I worked specifically on reducing that. It is also just kept my spending in check by entering every single expense every day because I was hyperaware of my spending.
I am not even saying you have to stick to your budget every day – I used to spend under my daily spending limit ($50AUD) and then on the odd occasion I would spend double that on things that I deemed important.
9. Watch videos and read blog posts about packing smart
It can be very easy to overpack – research what to pack specifically for your trip eg. winter Eurotrip or Summer in South East Asia. Try not to pack too many ‘just in case’ type of things and focus on bringing essentials. Most of the things you may need you can pick up on the road anyway and as long as you have your phone, wallet and passport you will be able to handle most situations. You really don’t want to break your back with a heavy backpack or suitcase – trust me it becomes a burden after a while.
- I like to make a checklist for my carry-on and baggage and go through it twice with someone assisting me as I pack things away.
- Be aware of your airline’s weight restrictions and be aware that they vary between airliners.
- I like to keep a small easily foldable, securable bag in my backpack to take on day trips, for when I go food shopping and also to keep under the chair in front of me on the plane (I store in it things I will need throughout the flight).
10. Prepare for flight
- Plan how you will get to the airport, can a friend or family member drop you off? Can you take a shuttle bus or some other mode of transport?
- Look at the check-in requirements for your airline. Check in online as soon as you can so you can select your seat (if you didn’t do that already).
- Prepare for stopovers. If you are aware that you will have a longer stopover make sure you have some reading material and maybe some Netflix TV shows or movies downloaded to your phone. A lot of airports offer free Wi-Fi – some however only give you a restricted amount of time. Some airports even have resting areas that you can utilise for example: at Doha airport, they have gender divided sleeping areas which is super nice when you have a long stopover.
Food and water
- If you have special meal requirements as I do, make sure you airliner is aware of this and organise this in advance.
- I like to bring along some snacks for longer haul flights for stopovers or in case they fail to give me my special meal (this happened to me last time – luckily Etihad always has vegetarian meals as a part of their selections for all passengers). My snacks of choice include protein or muesli bars and rice crackers.
- Bring an empty drink bottle on the flight for the flight attendant to top up – at some airports (Abu Dhabi for example) they make you throw your drinks in the rubbish before entering the boarding area.
I hope you found this blog post helpful in preparing for your travels and you found at least one new tip that will improve your future travels. If there are any tips you would like to add please share it below in the comments :)!