Avoid that pre-travel panic by being well planned and having everything in order timeously. Use our ’Things to do before you travel’ checklist to make sure you enjoy each and every moment leading up to you trip.
Make sure your passport is up to date
Most countries require that a passport be valid for six months after your return date. Additionally make sure that you have at least two blank pages for entry stamps, and if you’re requiring visas, you will need a blank page per visa.
Pay for flights, accommodation, and activities by credit cards
This is always a good idea when travelling as it leaves a legitimate paper trail in event of a payment query. When paying for flights using a credit card there are often insurance benefits included – this could be a huge saving on your travel insurance requirements.
Get the relevant visas
This may seem fairly obvious, but make sure you leave sufficient time for the process as some countries require you to have an interview.
Order any necessary forex from your bank
Sometimes it may take a few days for your bank to have the relevant currency available, especially if you aren’t in a big city. It is always advisable to have some cash on you -US dollars are usually a safe bet as they’re generally universally accepted. Most airports have an ATM where you can draw local cash, so this is also an option – make sure you memorise your numeric PIN as some ATMs in foreign countries have different keypads to the one you may be familiar with.
Notify your bank of the country you are travelling to
This is necessary if you’re planning to use your credit card, as a new transaction from some random foreign country may be refused as a precaution against fraudulent purchases.
Set up a VPN service
This is important, especially if you’re going to be needing to do banking transactions online while travelling as local WIFI networks may be susceptible to hacking resulting in your details and, at worst, banking details and pin numbers being used fraudulently.
Check health advisories and travel warnings
This is not to put you off your travels to a potential country, but rather to make you aware of what precautions may be necessary.
Get necessary vaccinations
Many destinations in Africa require mandatory yellow fever vaccinations, as well as other recommended vaccinations such as hepatitis A and typhoid – making sure all your childhood vaccinations are up to date is also a good idea. Visit your local travel doctor o check on these requirements.
Fill your prescriptions
This may also seem obvious, but in the excitement to travel is easily forgotten – make sure you have an adequate supply for the duration of your trip as well as at least an extra week in case of unforeseen delays returning home. It is also a good idea to have a copy of your prescription with you just in case a border official queries your medication or if you need more meds while travelling.
Order a spare pair of prescription sunglasses
If the use of prescription glasses is critical, it is worth ordering a spare set or taking an old pair, just in case you lose or break a pair.
Buy travel insurance
It’s likely that you won’t need it, but in the event of any incident – whether it be lost luggage, stolen electronics, or health, it is always worth having for your own peace of mind. If you bought your tickets using a credit card, check what free cover is offered. Check what your local health insurance will cover when travelling – be sure to ask about specific destinations, and then buy emergency medical insurance and medical evacuation to cover the rest. Consider cover for Covid-19 too, as having to recover or isolate in a foreign country could work out very costly.
Apply for an international driver’s licence
This is only necessary if you are likely to be driving in your destination – even if there is the vaguest possibility it is worth having one with you. And always have your current driver’s licence with you just in case.
Make copies of your passport
Leave a copy of your passport and any relevant visa pages with a family member or friend and have a few copies with you when you travel as well – keep them separate to where your passport is. The idea is that in the event of your passport going missing you do at least have a copy to show officials. Some accommodation establishments (such as small guest houses or Airbnb’s) require a copy of your passport but don’t always have the facilities to make a copy.
Print out copies of your tickets and any reservations
Not everywhere accepts the digital copy on your smartphone or laptop, especially in more out of the way places. Besides being frustrating, not having a hard copy of a reservation, whether it be accommodation, train ticket, or adventure experience, can be expensive if you are required to purchase another.
Have a digital copy of all documents, including passport and visas
It is a good idea to have a folder on your smartphone with all these documents – or just email them to yourself so that you can easily find them (just make sure that you have downloaded the attached file beforehand as you may not have access to Wi-Fi to download it when you need it).
Double check all reservation dates
Sounds silly, right? But errors do occur and its much easier to fix them while still at home than when you’re at the airport and find that the date on your ticket is for the following day.
Leave a copy of your itinerary with a family member or close friend
It is always a good idea to leave a detailed itinerary with a friend or family member – with contact details, if possible, in the event of an emergency, whether it be at home or at your destination.
Check luggage restrictions on all flights
Whilst the weight restrictions on your international flight might be more than enough, remember to consider any other restrictions on other flights, boat rides etc. Especially if you’re doing a fly-in safari as small bush planes generally limit you to smaller luggage (sometimes soft bags) and often with a maximum weight of 15kg – be sure to check in advance what the requirements are. And with all flights, the restricted weight is generally enforced, and if you’re over this weight are forced to either pay more, or worse case, leave some stuff behind! An option is to wear some of the extra weight, such as heavy jeans, jackets and hiking shoes.
Check the predicted weather at your destination
Weather predictions aren’t always correct but at least they give you an idea of whether you need extra rain protection or warm weather clothing – this is often where layering is beneficial. As is packing raincoats and jackets that roll up into small bags, which makes them easy to pack into your day packs too.
Remember that all electronics and other essential valuables (don’t travel with unnecessary valuables as this could make you a target for theft) need to be in your carry-on luggage.
Plan to pack lightly
It is always advisable to pack clothing that can be worn in layers, and preferably items that are comfortable and quick drying – pack a couple of coat hangers so that it is easy to rinse garments out and hang up to dry overnight.
Choose the right day pack or handbag
Try and find a day pack or handbag with slash-proof straps and concealed, or lockable zippers. And a cross-body handbag is less likely to be snatched than a shoulder bag.
Don’t forget the travel locks
These can be useful when leaving luggage in a locker and for attaching your bag to your chair when in transit. It’s always easier having your own than having to find one when you’re travelling.
Check your electronics before you leave
Make sure everything is in good working order as its likely that some things may not have been used since your last holiday.
Make sure all batteries are charged
Ensure that your mobile phone, and any battery packs are fully charged before you leave and have your phone charger handy for recharging either on the plane or at airports – this includes your laptop. And make sure your camera batteries are fully charged and ready for use when you arrive at your destination. And it is always advisable to have two batteries, as nothing is worse than a dead battery when on the back of a game drive vehicle or on a special excursion.
Don’t forget the extra memory cards
It’s always easier to just pop in a new memory card to your camera than having to delete images before they have been downloaded, and it isn’t always convenient to download your photos to your laptop when travelling. Having an extra micro-SD for your smartphone too is advisable if changing it is a possibility.
Remember to pack all necessary cables and chargers, including a travel adapter
There’s nothing worse than suddenly discovering that you have left your laptop or phone charger at home!
Don’t forget a travel adapter
Make sure that you have the appropriate travel adapters – not everywhere has USB charging points and universal plug points.
Don’t forget a first aid kit
It’s always good to plan ahead for potential health issues, such as tummy bugs, nausea, headaches, colds and flu as well as blisters with all the extra walking. Include insect repellent and an inti-itch cream for potential bug bites. As much as most places would have facilities to find medication, you don’t want to have to waste precious holiday time looking for a pharmacy. Useful things to include are plasters, antibacterial cream, ibuprofen (for headaches and muscle spasms), anti-nausea for boat or light aircraft trips, gastro meds (including a couple of rehydrate sachets), flu meds, and possible even an antibiotic. These are just suggestions, so be sure to check with your doctor for a definitive list.
Check out the local culture in your destination
Do your research and be prepared. Know the local customs, especially around appropriate dress code – many conservative countries disapprove of bare shoulders, uncovered legs etc.
Learn a few phrases in the local language
Nothing beats a greeting in the local language, and please and thank you also go a long way. Even if you get it wrong, the fact that you try will always bring a smile and break any cultural barriers. Body language is a great way to communicate but be aware that in certain countries hand gestures may be interpreted differently to how you intended.
Research which local transport to use
It is always good to know what to expect when you get there – and easier to download the necessary APP at home that using valuable data when travelling.
Google common travel scams
It is a good idea to do a quick search on Google for known scams in your destination so that you are aware of what to look out for.
Make a note of any emergency numbers
Your hosts will likely have all the local emergency numbers you need, but it may be worth Googling them in advance. It would be a good idea however to know the location of your country’s embassy, and maybe saving a map of how to get there on your phone. Both will be useful if you need to get a taxi to the embassy, or if in a real jam, how to get there on foot.
Images – bigstockphoto.com, Shutterstock