To everyone who is going backpacking or travelling for an extended period of time, there is so much to do beforehand:
1. You need backup plans if things go wrong (touch wood!). This involves providing someone at home with all the information they require to speak on your behalf.
2. You need to start looking for flights, visas, vaccinations, travel gear and get this all ready before you depart. Some things you thought would be an easy process but in reality had a lot of little complications that you didn’t know about. Leaving it last minute is also not the best when you want to enjoy the last few days before you travel stress free.
3. Everything you own from your car, home and personal belongings, what will you do with them whilst you are away?
If you start early you have room for error and time to make amendments.
This exercise is all about being ORGANISED. If you aren’t and have a bit of a goldfish memory like me then follow my plan below:
3 months beforehand
Book your flights
– Start looking and book that outward/return journey home. Look at Google to get a feel of how much flights will cost. Once you have your flights booked you have a starting platform from where you can start doing some rough planning if you wish. If you wish to wander aimlessly that is fine by me.
– In Asia multiple low cost carrier airlines exist that offer cheap flights from one country to another. If you much prefer to enjoy the scenic route there are buses, trains and ferries for example there is a ferry that departs from South Korea to Japan but time to time that flight might be a quicker, more convenient option.
Ones to look out for are AirAsia, Tigerair, Cebu Pacific Air, Peach Airlines, Vanilla Air, VietJet Air and Dragon Air. Keep a close key with them as they often do promotions, and occasionally free flights (Airasia) and 2for1 flights (Tigerair). Make sure you check all the small print before making a booking.
Check Your Passport!
– Ensure your passport has 6 months validity from your point of departure, which is a requirement for most countries.
– Ensure you have lots of bank pages for those nice stamps and visas you will be getting.
– If you don’t then start applying for a new passport as early as possible. This will avoid those big waiting lists during summer when everyone is getting their passports renewed. You will also save money by not having to fast-track your application, which will incur a higher cost.
– Start thinking about what you need for your travels. Do you have a backpack? What type of rucksack should you take? What about shoes and clothes? Is cotton better than polyester? You can read/watch my What’s in My Backpack → here. I didn’t just magically have everything. It took me time to research exactly what I needed to buy, what was recommend by other travellers and to take advantage of any sales so I could save some money. Start making that list even if it is rough you can amend it later.
2 months beforehand
Travel Bank Account
– If you are travelling to lots of different countries get yourself a debit card that is designed for travel. This saves you carrying copious amounts of cash and attracting attention you don’t want. I have the Norwich & Peterborough Building Society Gold Classic current account. It’s a brilliant debit card because there is no fees if you wish you withdraw cash abroad. They also use the VISA exchange rate, which I have checked and it is a good exchange rate.
– Check out this ‘Travel Credit Cards’ article by Martin Lewis (moneysavingexpert.com).
– Get applying!
– Have you considered moving back home or staying with a friend temporarily before you go travelling? It might be worthwhile to do this if you are travelling for an extended period of time. If you are, now is the time to start thinking about your current situation and reading your contract regarding notice periods that you need to serve. When will you move out? Where will you put all your belongings?
– Type up your itinerary. This is important because:
- It will give you a snapshot of every flight, flight number, flight times in one document. Simple to refer too when you are in a rush.
- Great for families who need to know where you are and if they need to know important information it is all there for them (they didn’t book all the flights, so make their life easier).
- This will help the nurse or GP work out what travel vaccinations you require, how much anti-malarial tablets you need and when to take them.
- If you don’t have one then just make a rough plan.
– Ensure you have all your travel vaccinations that you need. Check out my 3 easy steps to getting all your travel vaccinations → here.
– Buy your anti-malarials while you are having your vaccinations.
– Get the travel nurse and/or doctor to write down in a booklet what vaccinations you have received, how long it offers protection for, and what type of vaccine you have been given.
– Take the booklet on your trip. Make a backup cover by typing and copying the information and sending it to yourself as an email so you can assess it anywhere you have internet.
– Start by looking on the UK government website → here (last updated on 20th March 2015) to see which countries require you to have a visa before entry.
– Some countries only allow you to get a visa on arrival. If you want to be more organised then apply for it online beforehand (Note some countries only allow you to apply for a visa 3 months before you enter the country so look at your itinerary you have just made). Read how we applied for our Vietnam visa application process.
– Apply for those visas and put a reminder on your phone which visas you will need for which country if you aren’t getting them in the UK beforehand.
– If you pay your own bills (water, gas, electric, council tax, tv license, internet), sign up to view your utility account online. This will allow you to manage your account online whilst you are away. Instead of getting paper bills I would recommend converting to a Direct Debit so you do not miss any payments. Ensure that your bank account does have enough money to pay your bills whilst travelling.
1 month beforehand
Travel Gear – Ensure you have bought everything you need for your travels.
Insurance Documents – Ensure you have bought all the insurance you require such as backpacking and specialist diving etc.
Banking apps – Whoever you bank with, they most likely will have a mobile banking app. Download it and start practise using it. This is useful to keep an eye on your other bank accounts you aren’t taking abroad.
2 weeks beforehand
Do a Test Pack
– Do a test pack. See my ‘What Is In My Backpack?’ blog post and video to get some hints and tips on your travel packing.
– Write on a piece of paper all the banks and building societies that need to be notified that you are going abroad. Some may allow you to do this online like Nationwide. Others may require you to ring them up to tell them. Do this or risk your card transaction being blocked because the bank thinks it is a fraudulent transaction.
– Download a password app if you have a lot of logins and different passwords. I have 1Password and all my credit card/debit card, user logins and passwords, secure notes, identity notes that I have created are all stored in that app. It is secure as you either need my fingerprint or password to get access into it.
In your last week:
– Make a handover pack to all your family members or friends who will be your point of contact when you are out of the country. Include copies of your insurance certificates, insurance terms booklet, passports, driving license, itinerary and information about your home (if you own one) or your landlord if you are renting. Make a note of anything they need to be aware of.
– After giving them the handover pack, email it to them and yourself so they have electronic copies to refer to if they loose them.
– If you are leaving your car with your family or friend, now is the time to do this. Make sure you have a spare set of keys yourself.
– Make sure you know when your car tax disc renewal is due. Put a reminder on your phone to notify you when it is due.
– Does your car insurance expire whilst you are abroad? Check when yours expire and ring your provider to see what options are available.
Ring your travel insurance company
– Give them a contact (parent, siblings, close friend) who can discuss your policy when you are away. This way they can bypass the ‘sorry we cannot discuss this policy as you are not the named policyholder due to confidentiality’ conversation.
Make copies of everything
– Passports, visas, driving licenses, insurance certificates and store them as a backup if you loose your documentation whilst travelling.
– Ask your housemate/family/friend to put all your post aside for you until you come back to the UK. Another option is to get ring Royal Mail and get all your post re-directed.
Print this checklist off and start ticking things you have completed.
Check, check and check the list again to ensure everything is correct and accurate.
Happy travels 🙂