Its the final countdown!
Cue dramatic music and your best most embarrassing happy dance. Months of planning and saving have paid off and you are in the final weeks leading up to your big trip abroad. It can be hard to stay focused as the date of your flight gets closer. And with so much to do before take off it can be hard to keep it all straight. Not to worry! I have broken down your Ultimate Pre-Trip Checklist by week leading up to your trip. Use these this checklist to keep you on track and take all the guess work out of departure.
One Month Out
#1: Buy your tickets!
Flight prices hit their lowest about 4-6 weeks out from departure. Look at flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday to help save money, as these are proven to be the cheapest days to fly. Shop around on discount flight sites like Skyscanner or Kayak to find the lowest price. Pay close attention to layover times. You don’t want one that is too short incase you need to change terminals or go through customs and you don’t want one too long.
If you find yourself with a long overnight layover or having missed your flight, think about spending the night at the airport. My mate Jeff from Lifestyle Over Luxury wrote an awesome guide to spending a night in an airport. Check it out here!
#2: Book an appointment with a travel doctor
Getting sick while abroad is no fun. Make sure you book in to see a travel doctor at LEAST a month before your departure date. They will take a look at your itinerary and recommend vaccinations and medications based on the risks in the countries you are visiting. Some vaccinations require multiple shots a few weeks apart, so don’t leave this too late if this is your first big trip abroad!
#3: Look up the visa requirements for each country
Look up the visa requirements for your home country for each country you intend to visit. While you will be able to get tourist visas for most places on arrival. Some countries will require you to get visas in advance at an embassy. Be sure to leave extra time if your are travelling to multiple countries as some embassy’s can take up to 10 days to process a tourist visa. Make a list of all the countries for which visas in advance are required, and start ticking them off. Also be sure to check passport photo size requirements for the visa because some countries will differ.
A great site to check out if you’re Canadian is the Government of Canada Travel and Tourism site. You can search by country and find out information such as travel advisories, health, safety and visa requirements.
Three Weeks Out
#4: Organize Prescriptions
Take a look at your regular prescriptions. Book in with your doctor to get a prescription to cover you for the time you are away plus 1 or 2 extra incase anything gets lost. Same with things like contacts. While you can get most drugs and toiletries while on the road, make sure you have your daily prescriptions covered. Also have a quick look at the availability of products like tampons or condoms in your destination. The availability of some of these types of products can be very limited, so don’t count on being able to find them everywhere!
#5: Make a Pre-trip shopping list and start ticking things off!
Take an inventory of what you have. Does any of your gear need to be replaced? Do you need a new bathing suit? Raincoat? What toiletries do you need? Doing this a few weeks out will mean that you won’t be stressed or rushing around when your departure date gets closer. It also gives you ample time to have things shipped if necessary. This can be an incredibly annoying step, so getting it over and done with is worth it.
Two Weeks Out
#6: Buy Travel Insurance
Often a big expense, I like to split this one into two instalments for longer term trips. Buying travel insurance is one of the most important aspects of travel safety in my opinion. It is the easiest way to protect yourself and your belongings. Buying with a company like World Nomads is a great option for those on longer term trips. They allow you to renew your policy from the road, and send you reminders as the expiry date comes closer. The also cover many of the higher risk activities that backpackers like to do, and cover your technology better than most standard insurance companies.
#7: Take a full inventory of what you have
While you already made your shopping list and ticked off those items, I find this step super helpful in ensuring my last week at home is an enjoyable one. I lay out everything I think I want to take and double check that there is nothing I have over looked. I also like to do a test pack to make sure everything fits, and that its not crazy overweight.
This is where my OCD really shines, and you may not want to do this step but I find it helps me. I’ll leave what I’m taking in piles in my room. This way I can see what I have and I can start eliminating things I don’t ACTUALLY need to take with me. As a serial over packer this is a vital step in ensuring my pack doesn’t weigh 20kg because “maybe I’ll need those two extra dresses if I go somewhere nice…” You will want to buy things on your trip so its always wise to leave about a quarter of your bag empty. Again, I am a major weirdo, and collect blankets while travelling. Ridiculous I know. But it means that I have to make sure my pack is only 2/3 of the way full so I have space for my favourite collectors item.
#8 Order currency for your first destination
This step may seem unnecessary can help with ease of arrival. Get a couple hundred dollars from the bank in the local currency to get you through your first few days. This means you eliminate the stress of trying to find a working ATM in the airport, and get to your destination that much quicker.
I also highly recommend travelling with some US currency in case of emergency. Accepted in most countries, it is always good to have about $100 US on you. I recommend: a $50 note to help you get out of sticky situations or in case of an emergency, 2 x $20 for exchanging if your atm card doesn’t work. That $40 will hold you over till you can get your card sorted. And get the rest in $1 notes, these will be widely accepted and can help you out if you only have big bills in local currency.
Also while at the bank, let them know you will be travelling and make sure they put a note on your account. You don’t want to get stuck with a frozen account. It can be a nightmare especially when travelling alone. Make sure you can call toll free over Skype if you do have trouble with your card, and check what the banks insurance policy is on stolen cards. Most will protect your money, but its always good to know for sure.
Now that its all done an organized, all thats left is enjoying your last week at home and spending time with friends and family!
One Week Out
#9 Book your first two nights accommodation
If you’re like me and like keeping your trip as open as possible, all you will need to book before departure is your first two nights accommodation. I have been known to do this at their airport while sitting at the gate, but booking this a few days out is definitely a better idea. Do your research on which area you want to be in and see if the hostel does airport pick ups. This will help with the stress of an airport. It takes the guess work out of trying to find your way to your hostel, and it will save you a ton of money! If they don’t do airport pick ups, ask them how much you should expect to pay for a taxi, or how to get there by public transport so you don’t get ripped off straight out the gate.
#10 Final Check
Departure day can be a bit stressful. But because you did some organizing leading up to the big day, it should be a breeze. Today the only thing you will be worried about is putting the last few valuables in your bags. The majority of your packing and planning is done.
Over the years I have developed a bit of a habit in the specific order for how I pack my things on the day I leave. This is the same for when I check out of a hostel. By putting them in my bag in the same order, I always know I’ve got them. And in 10 years of backpacking I’ve never left anything behind! Your list may vary slightly, but mine goes a little like this.
- Toiletries, toothbrush, make up and towel (if its drying) into big pack
- Close and lock bag
- Big valuables: Camera, go pro and computer into day bag
- Accessories: Adaptor, chargers, headphones into day bag
- Contacts and glasses into day bag
- Passport and wallet into day bag
- Double check safes, drawers, under and on the bed, bathrooms and outlets.
- Phone in front pocket for easy access
- Close and lock day bag
And that’s it!
For me, the weeks leading to departure are incredibly stressful. I get very overwhelmed when things are uncertain or unorganized. But by following these steps I take a lot of the stress out of the weeks leading up to departure.
It is all worth it once you walk through security towards your gate. A huge sigh of relief will flood over you. At this point everything that is in your control is done. You’ve saved and budgeted. Your planning is complete. Everything you need is packed, and anything you forgot can be purchased if it’s that important.
Now all that is left is to sit back, relax and enjoy your trip!
Thanks for reading!
Anything you think I missed? Leave me a comment below!
Have anymore questions? Send me a message, I’d love to hear from you!
Planning a big trip abroad? check out my travel tips here!