International Travel Planning Tips
There’s a big, beautiful world out there so if you have a bad case of wanderlust, then now’s a good a time as any to pack your travel backpack and head off on an awesome adventure.
Planning an international trip can be a little daunting, especially if you’ve never been on a multi-destination vacation or flown long-haul. But with a little prep and insider know-how, you’ll soon be jetting off like a pro on that trip of a lifetime. To help, we’ve tapped into the experiences of the well-traveled team here at Gear Hungry to come up with what we think are the essential travel planning tips for the global nomad.
1. Decide where you want to go!
OK, it’s an obvious one to start with, but our first top tip for the budding global traveler is to plan where you are going. We’re not expecting you to put a minute-by-minute itinerary together – the beauty of travel is to have the free spirit of a nomad, after all – but at the very least a ‘start, middle and end’ for your trip should be your goal.
To have a clear idea of where you are heading, where you then intend to travel on to (if it’s a longer, multi-destination international trip) and when you plan to come back, means you can book your trip ‘safety nets’ (your outbound and return flights, your first few nights’ accommodation) and also more accurately plan the duration of your trip and how much money you need to get you through.
Nailing down your main destinations also means you can get planning and researching to make sure you have the right clothes, luggage, travel kit etc needed to make the most of your trip. Then the real fun starts….
2. Be savvy with your cash
Once you know your total trip plans, you’ll want to make sure you have enough money when on your international travel adventure. If you’ve paid for your flights, transport and main accommodation up front, then you’ll need to work on a daily budget, with a reserve in place for those extra treats or unexpected expenses. Know the local value of your daily budget, especially if you are on a multi-destination trip – a budget for Paris will be totally different for a daily spend in India – and work from there. Planning ahead and then keeping to your budget will mean you are less likely to run out of cash before the end of your dream trip.
But you’re on a trip of a lifetime and so you also want to be able to enjoy it to the max. The trick is to make your travel cash work for you. Here are a few more tips to ensure the money train doesn’t unexpectedly come off the rails:
- Let your bank and credit card companies know you are traveling abroad before you leave so you don’t suddenly have a frozen account, and try to avoid bank fees while you are outside of the country.
- Make sure you take a credit card – some venues and accommodation will only accept payment with one – plus, they are a great back up in an emergency. If you have a credit card that comes with rewards, even better – it will help towards your next trip!
- Cash can be king when it comes to travel – so make sure you have paper currency as an emergency supply. A few hundred dollars stashed in separate places in your travel backpack can really save the day. Make sure you are prepared and know what to do if your wallet is lost or stolen.
3. Make sure you are covered
This is a no-brainer – don’t travel without insurance, it’s simply not worth it. Particularly if you are traveling on a budget, it may be tempting to cut this corner – hey, you won’t get sick right? – but travel insurance has to be at the top of your priority list if you want a worry-free trip, especially if you are traveling to a dangerous place. It’s not just about medical protection, a good travel insurance package covers you for so much more – a stolen camera, a canceled flight, a lost wallet, damaged property.
For just a few dollars a day, this is money well spent and with a little web search savvy, you should be able to get a good deal, whether you are on a two-week vacation or a six-month trip of a lifetime. Or check out specialist travel companies such as www.worldnomads.com or www.travelguard.com. One final point though – make sure the policy matches your travel plans and all those adrenalin activities you may have on your to-do list.
4. Get your papers sorted
Spend a little time being sensible on this one means you can cut loose as you travel, knowing you have a totally sorted back up plan. The most obvious item is your passport so check it is up-to-date before you book your flight as you may not have enough time to renew if it’s heading rapidly towards its expiry date. If that’s sorted, get a nice passport holder and move on. Next, make sure you are fully up to speed on the visa entry requirements of all the destinations on your awesome travel itinerary and organize well in advance – if in any doubt, check the website of the relevant embassy’s website.
Once you’ve got all your documentation in place, now is the time for a little admin (yes, you did read that right). Channel your inner secretary and make copies of all your important travel documents – we’re talking passports, visas, flight tickets, hotel reservations, driving license, even your birth certificate…anything that if there was an issue with the original documentation, could hold up or even derail your dream travel plans. Put in a folder and tuck away safely in your hand luggage or travel backpack. For extra security – especially if you are off on an extended international trip – leave a second copy with a friend or family.
5. Pack like a travel pro
Now, this is the one experienced travelers like to wax lyrical on – most likely because they’ve learned the hard way! Resist the urge to overpack and go as light as you can. Seasoned travelers suggest 30 pounds max in weight, especially if you are carrying it all around in your travel backpack for a longer trip.
But packing light also needs careful thought, as you need to ensure you’re actually taking the right things. We’ve all packed an ‘I can’t live without this’ item that never actually gets out of your luggage. As a start, use the following packing mantra – you don’t need to pack more than a week’s worth of clothes and let’s be honest, you can do your laundry anywhere.
Then decide what are the other things you simply can’t do without on the road – the items that will make travel easier. Think about where you are going and how long for and how useful or versatile your essential items are – a sarong or scarf (you’ll use this in a multitude of ways), earplugs, headtorch, medicines and essential toiletries, flip flops, travel shoes, sunglasses, hat, tech, phone charger, and plug adaptors…. Everything else, if you really need it, you can buy when on the road. Oh, and if you are really going traveling for a while, don’t skimp on the quality of your underwear as you’ll want it to last the distance.
The final tip to pack the suitcase like a pro is to buy the best luggage your budget allows as it’s certainly going to be put through its travel paces. We like the current range of Patagonia backpacks and North Face backpacks as a larger travel rucksack is more versatile and robust than suitcases and often have a zip-off front that doubles up as a handy daysack.
6. Be travel safety smart
There’s nothing like a stolen passport or wallet to instantly take the shine off your trip, so don’t let thieves rain on your traveling parade and go safety ready. This doesn’t mean traveling with enough bag security to impress Fort Knox, but a few sensible measures and insider traveler know-how will make all the difference to your trip.
Here are some top travel safety tips:
- Know your luggage: lost or stolen luggage can be a total trip-ender so go prepared. Put your basic contact details inside your baggage (name, country and cell phone number) and use an external luggage tag if you can. Personalize the outside of your bag or travel backpack but don’t make it over the top – a sticker or colored band should do, enough for you to be able to spot your luggage quickly on the airport carousel or in a crowd.
- Secure your essentials: Passport, documents, money, cards, gadgets, travel cameras – don’t pack them all in one bag and most definitely not in any outside pockets for unwelcome hands to get at. Spread them across your luggage and keep your essential travel documents, bank cards and money close to you in your hand baggage at all times.
- Protect your cell phone: not only is your smartphone a potential lifeline on your trip but you are also most likely carrying around a lot of personal data on it too. Casually popping your phone in your jeans back pocket is a no-no; make sure it’s safely zipped away in your travel backpack when not being used. A good tip is to make sure you can lock your phone and also make a note of your mobile service provider’s contact number in case you need to freeze its use.
- Don’t make it easy: yes, we know you are on holiday and enjoying a welcome laid-back vibe but don’t leave your wits at home. Keep savvy with your belongings and be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowds – don’t leave your bag or travel backpack out of your sight or hooked over the back of a chair and don’t look too flash with your or cards.
7. Look after your health
A little pre-planning will help to keep you fit and healthy while out on the road and enjoying your dream trip to the full. Depending on where you plan to travel, you will need to get the right health advice for any necessary vaccinations before you travel. Do your research in plenty of time and be clear about your final travel itinerary.
Visit your doctor at least two months before your planned departure as some vaccinations will need to be started up to two months before you travel and may need several shots over a period of time. Take proof of vaccination with you when you travel and if you take prescription meds at home, you should also plan for sufficient supplies to cover your trip.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on your health while you are away – you’re on holiday and plan to totally enjoy yourself but don’t get reckless as ill-health could well curtail your travel plans. Keep hydrated, take a small medical kit with you in your travel backpack and take precautions when in the sun. Oh, and adhere to any guidance on safe drinking water in the destinations you visit.
8. Embrace tech travel
Pack some tech for your trip and you can totally add to the experience – not only by keeping connected to those at home but by using your gadgets to make your international adventure totally unforgettable.
Your smartphone and/or tablet will be your best traveling companion, especially if you’re traveling alone, so pack smart to ensure your tech doesn’t run out of juice. Solar powered phone chargers are a cool way to go, especially if you’re going off the beaten track, or consider a power bank for all your other USB-charged devices.
To keep your tech safe and protected, travel laptop bags are a good way to go: these can be tucked away inside your main travel backpack for security and can then double-up as a day bag when out in the city.
With a smartphone or tablet, you can connect with other travelers and what is going on around you. It’s your sat nav, your translator (download apps such as Google Translate before you go) your activity and travel planner as well as your trouble-shooter, should any best-laid plans go awry.
Don’t forget to be security conscious with tech when you travel – not only in keeping it safe but also managing the cost of your connection – try to only use free Wi-Fi where available in cafes, hotels and airports and research the data plans and SIM card options for your destination (if your phone is unlocked you may be able to use a local SIM card for cheaper data). One final word about taking tech on your travels – make sure you back up your files and photos into the Cloud if you can.
9. Think like a local
Travel broadens the mind which is why our 9th international travel planning tip for the global nomad is to get off the beaten track and think like a local. Even on a short city break you can move off the tourist path and discover so much more about your destination. Leave your travel backpack at the hostel, grab your travel wallet and your smartphone and head out to discover local life.
Be safe-savvy of course, but also be prepared to go with the flow and you’ll get a taste of more than the tourist sights on the main drag. Taxi drivers are a mine of insider info, including great places to eat that won’t break the bank and the best haunts where the locals hang out.
Start conversations with locals: basic English is spoken widely around the world or tap into your smartphone translator app and have a go – making the effort with the language always goes down well. Ask for recommendations for authentic places to eat and get adventurous with your taste buds. And don’t shy away from street food vendors, just go for the sellers with big spaces out in front or have a good crowd buying their food.
10. Make memories
Whether it’s a short overseas city break or a bucket list grand world tour – wherever you travel you’ll be making memories and having experiences that will last you a lifetime. That’s the point of travel, right? Of course, it is, but with all your planning, tick-list itineraries and must-do detours, you can get lost in the detail of traveling and not always take it all on board.
Our final piece of advice? Take too many photos and you’ll always have your travel memories close to hand. It’s ok to look like a tourist at times, so make sure you whip out your travel camera or smartphone and click away as your photos will be your ultimate travel souvenir.
And to really stop your adventure whizzing past as a blur, make time to slow down and smell the coffee, quietly literally, dude. Pavement or roadside cafes are a great place to stop and take stock, soak up the local atmosphere and catch your breath before packing up your travel backpack and move on your next destination. Make like Mark Twain and keep a journal of your travels, even if it’s short observations and cartoon drawings – you’ll look back after your trip and be so glad that you did.