Essential Preparation for Your Trip
How should you prepare for your trip? That is almost an impossible question to answer because every trip is different. Long term travelling or short-term trip? Harbin in winter or India in summer? France in the high season or Liberia which I don’t think has a season. Every trip requires something different.
Some things are universal though, and others are almost universal.
I’ve prepared for many trips with varying degrees of success. I tend to over plan if anything. I see lots, but spontaneous travel is cut down if you over plan. I’d advise some planning, but I also advise leaving space to be spontaneous. Maybe one day I’ll even manage to listen to the latter advice myself. 🙂
Some universal things to include in your planning are:
Always check the weather while you’re planning. Take into account day time temperatures, night-time temperatures, wind chill and humidity.
The weather can make a big impact on your plans. Snow fall predicted? Take the coast route to be safe and avoid the mountain route (in other words the opposite of what I did in Southern Italy), really hot day time temperatures? Remember to schedule time spent indoors in the middle of the day when estimating how much time you need in a place.
It can also have a tremendous effect on flight and accommodation prices. If you go when conditions aren’t considered ideal then you can avoid most of the crowds. Out of peak season can be great.
In general I’ve been fairly lucky; I was pre-warned by another backpacker about how cold Mt Sinai was as night so I did not actually freeze, and when travelling through Italy I started in the north and went south as the winter progressed. This was luck, I only realised how lucky I was afterwards. The Cinque Terre was lovely, but I wouldn’t have fancied walking it in snow bitingly cold wind. Two girls I met in Naples were heading up as I was heading down and I did not envy them.
Check out this link to get an idea of good times to visit different areas of the world.
Check out the Weather Underground for weather reports closer to the time you are going.
If you have a smartphone then the Weather Channel app might be useful.
Don’t forget the holidays celebrated by the country you plan to go to.
The Spring Festival in China for example – is a time that you should probably spend in one particular interesting place because all types of transportation (especially train travel) are expensive and overflowing with people.
The same goes for attractions. I had planed to see several things on my last day in Rome – only to realise that (of course) everything was shut and the market empty as in was the 1st of January.
Visa’s can be the most annoying thing on the planet. They dictate how long you can spend in many places and add an extra cost. Don’t plan your whole trip and then realise you need to change it because of the visa regulations.
Do you need them in advance? (Tibet visas required 20 days to be processed for example) Or do can you get them at the airport/border crossing?
Is the number of days you are allowed on a visa restricted if you travel overland? (It is restricted to 15 days instead of 30 if you want a Thai visa) Are scams common along that particular border? (The Thai/Cambodian border for example).
Make sure that you either don’t need to book ‘must see’ things or that you know how to book them and how far in advance you need to book them.
The Colosseum (peak season or not) is a good example of something that needs a ticket and a 10 min wait or no ticket and a 3 hour wait.
When I was in Milan, a whole family came in to get tickets for seeing the Last Supper painting. They couldn’t, all the tickets were sold out for that day and the next five. I have never been so happy that I had done my research and booked online.
The Vatican city is another place that I recommend tickets for.
Vaccinations and other Medication
These can seem to be completely useless, but if you don’t get them you will REALLY wish you had.
General ones good for travel almost everywhere include: MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Meningitis (I don’t have this one, Oops), Tetanus, Typhoid and Diphtheria and Polio.
If you are going to Africa, or South America – get a Yellow Fever vaccination. I don’t have this one yet.
I also have Rabies as I love the outdoors and I love animals, so although I can’t see Rabies outbreaks in Harbin ever becoming an issue I do love hiking.
Depending on where you are going talk to your doctor about others like Cholera, Japanese Encephalitis and Tick-borne Encephalitis. I have non of them.
Check if you are going into a Malaria zone and decide if you want to take medication with you.
Also check if other diseases such as Dengue Fever, the Hanta Virus, the Chikungunya virus, Schistosomiasis and others are found in the areas you are planning to travel in.
For more information check out:
At the moment I don’t actually have this. The provider I gotten had quite a good rate, but I let it slip and did not renew it before it ended. The idiot insurance company would not let me start a new policy without coming home – so to hell with that.
Make sure you get one that doesn’t have this issue.
Check out Bootsnall’s comparison chart of several well-known companies medical insurance plans.
Also check out How to Buy Good Travel Insurance
Make copies of your passport, visa’s you’ve gotten in advance, driver’s licence and anything else important.
Send them to yourself in a PDF attached an email, so even if your computer is stolen – you can still have access from another.
Also consider getting some copies certified by a Justice of the Peace (JP). It is easy to find them in the Yellow pages if you are in New Zealand. If not, then I am sure other countries will have an equivalent. Take some copies with you and leave some with family members to send to you in a squeeze.
Also get extra passport photos and put them on your computer.
Back up your Laptop
Don’t get caught out with a fried computer and no photos and no documents. Consider taking an external hard drive or using cloud storage (great if the external hard drive is stolen or damaged too).
For extra security, consider Prey. If your laptop is stolen then you can track it and watch them through the camera.
Check out this post for how to install it correctly.
Choosing a backpack
Choosing a backpack is one of the most important things you can do. You will be carrying it around most of the time and if you’ve chosen a bad one it can be a killer. To see my guide to choosing a backpack click here.
What to pack in a backpack?
Again this is a very important pre trip decision that travellers (especially first timers) often agonise over. I sincerely recommend taking as little a possible. See my backpack list and packing tips click here.
If you have a smartphone then My TSA could be a useful app. It has information about security check guidelines and delayed flights.
Where ever you are heading to, I recommend saying in the first city several days to acclimatize.