Booking an overseas trip is always an exciting time, with that excitement only set to grow stronger over time, culminating in a fit of unprepared joy roughly one week from departure. In this state of jittery anticipation, it’s far easier to concentrate on chucking your work responsibilities in the trash than it is to organise the things you actually need.
Rather than forget, here are a few important things you should tick off before you flip your office desk and jet-set the hell outta here.
Before you go anywhere, you should check the Smart Traveller website for any current travel warnings in place for your destination. The last thing you want is to land in a foreign country only for public transport and landmarks to be disrupted by something like protests or an active war zone.
Even if there aren’t any specific warnings in place, it’s worth checking out all of the information the page has on where you’re going, particularly stuff on any local laws and customs that could land you in hot water if you’re not careful.
Foreign money can be a real pain in the ass, particularly when it comes to sneaky fees and charges associated with converting it from Australian dollars. You’ll want to do some research before you head out to make sure you’re not giving up a fortune.
You’ve essentially got two options: get a travel card or stick with whatever the banks offer. When it comes to the former, use a comparisons site to find the card with the lowest loading, ATM and conversion fees. If you decide to go with whatever your bank offers, find out what exchange rate they use, whether they add a little extra on top of it and if there are any conversion or ATM fees.
If you’re lucky, your bank will be light on this stuff, like Xinja, which charges no international transaction fees when you use its Debit Mastercard abroad. That means no ATM fees, no currency conversion fees and no markups on the exchange rate (it uses Mastercard’s daily standard FX rate).
You’ll also be able to lock and unlock your card via the Xinja app, which is great peace of mind in the event it gets lost or stolen abroad. On top of that, it’ll show you international transactions in both the local currency and Aussie dollars, making it way easier to track your spending.
Check your passport’s expiry
It sounds obvious, but being overseas with an expired passport isn’t a fun time. Well, I can’t speak from experience here, but you can certainly imagine how much it would suck.
Make sure your passport is valid for your whole trip and if it isn’t, take steps to have it renewed before you leave. It’s better and way cheaper (you’re looking at an additional $218 fee for a priority service) if you sort this out sooner rather than later.
If you’re caught out with an expired or lost passport abroad, check out the article below for how to deal with it.
Some destinations require you to apply for a visa and if you rock up without one, there’s a chance you won’t be let into the country at all. In other words, don’t fuck this one up if you actually want a holiday.
Most visas are pretty straightforward and can be completed online, like the one required for entry into the United States, but others are a little gnarlier and require more work. What I’m getting at here is that you should look into visas before you even book flights.
Take a minute to consider any health concerns, not just in terms of your destination, but also for yourself in general. Do you get motion sickness? Pack some tablets to help. Got a sensitive stomach? Be careful of dodgy street food. Being prepared in this regard can save you a lot of pain (literally) on your trip.
You should also check things like whether the tap water at your destination(s) is safe to drink or if you require any specific vaccinations. The more you know, the less chance you have of ending up in a hospital, which brings us to the next point…
Get it. No excuses.
Not only will travel insurance cover any medical mishaps you may find yourself in, but it’ll also cover stolen goods, which is great if you plan on taking laptops or fancy cameras with you.
It’s not even expensive. Cover for a month in Europe will only cost you between $100 and $150 depending on what you’re getting up to over there. Trust me, you’d rather fork that out than end up with a six-figure hospital bill for breaking your leg in America where healthcare can be absurdly expensive.
These days, it’s definitely worth spending the money to have a working phone while travelling, whether it’s buying a local SIM card or jumping on a decent roaming plan. Not only will it make things like getting around and researching destinations way easier, but it can be potentially lifesaving in emergency situations. Plus you can upload some sick pics to the ‘Gram on the go. Very important.
What you definitely don’t want to do, however, is just wing it with your current provider. Some telcos charge up to $1 per megabyte to use data overseas without a roaming plan, which can lead to a pretty nasty shock when you return home.
It’s all well and good to pack the chargers needed for your various devices, but they’ll do you no good if you can’t plug them into a foreign power outlet. Make sure you grab an adapter for the country you’re going to. Luckily for you, these are everywhere at airports, so you can quite literally leave it to the last minute.
You should also check the power output of outlets at your destination, as differences can affect certain appliances. For example, some hairdryers and straighteners may not work in other countries if the output is too different.
I couldn’t use the picture up top if I didn’t take a moment to remember Kevin, could I? Do NOT forget Kevin.
Image: Home Alone 2