Travel Tips Part I – Before You Go

As fun and rewarding as travel is it can also be tiring and hectic. Maneuvering around bustling airports, cramped airplane seats, rushing for trains, and learning currency rates alongside the excitement of a new locale can be downright overwhelming! Some things can not be avoided as its the nature of the travel beast, yet there are some hacks and tips that may save you some time, money, and lessen stress.

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.

Susan Heller

The Boring Stuff Before You Go

Organizing may not always be fun yet it may help things run smooth and aid in dealing with hiccups. I’ve listed some boring and not fun items here along with some links at the bottom so you can move on to the fun part – exploring your destination!

  • Check the country’s entry requirements
    • Entry Considerations:
      • Will your valid passport suffice or is a visa required? Is the visa available on arrival or do you have to go through an embassy?
      • Check your passport’s expiration date – many countries require that your passport is valid for 6 months beyond the date of your trip
      • Do you require other documents such as travel authorizations or proof of vaccination?
    • Make sure the name on your airline booking is the same name on your passport. This may seem like a no-brainer but it happens enough to warrant mentioning. If you commonly use a nickname or middle name you can not have this on your airline ticket – the name on your booking must match your valid passport
  • Carry some local currency with you
    • Although many places accept credit cards and ATMs are basically worldwide it is a good idea to have some local cash in smaller bills for those times when a card won’t work. Some developing countries may not accept credit cards as often or ATMs may be sparse
    • Currency Exchanges generally have better rates than banks since that is what they specialize in. Avoid airport money exchange vendors as rates are often higher than city locations.
  • ATM, Debit, & Credit Card Tips
    • ATM Machines:
      • If an ATM machine asks if you want the exchange rate in your own country’s currency decline it and select the local currency exchange rate as you may otherwise be charged two exchange rates.
      • See if your bank is part of Global ATM Alliance as they may offer lower or no cash withdrawal fees at member banks worldwide.
    • Debit Cards:
      • Check with your bank if your debit card will work in another country (aside from ATM machines). Some do and some don’t. It may need to be a Visa Debit card to work elsewhere.
    • Credit Cards:
      • Check what your credit card’s foreign exchange fees are. If you travel often it may be worth shopping around for one with better rates.
      • Read the fine print of your credit card’s coverage if you use it for car rental, airline bookings, and accommodations.
  • Documents
    • Keep both mobile and paper copies – both types of copies can be lost; phones can break or run out of battery life
    • Leave a copy of important documents with a trusted family member or friend. Include itinerary with contact info, passport numbers, medical information, travel insurance policies, etc.
    • If you are a parent travelling with your child, make sure you have the legal documents showing you have permission to travel with the child. This will show if you have permission from the other parent or that you have sole custody.
  • Accommodation, Transport, Car Rental,
    • Accommodations:
      • Know the cancellation policy so you aren’t left hanging if you need to cancel or change.
      • If booking with a tour company, check to see if they offer discounts for families with children. Some packages offer “kids stay free” or other discounts.
    • Transportation:
      • Many destinations have trains or buses from airports that can cost much less than a taxi or ride share program. Prices and hours of operation can be found online.
      • Public transportation can be a great way to get around by way of bus, subway, or light rail and many cities have passes for a day or multi-day.
      • Using regional trains may be a cost-effective and great way to get from one part of a country to another. Many regions offer passes for tourists that must be purchased before arriving while others can be bought on-site.
    • Car Rental:
      • Do you require an International Driver’s License to rent a car or will your valid Driver’s License suffice? What type of insurance is required?
      • What is the default transmission of the car you are renting? For example, in North America it is typically an automatic transmission and manual transmission in Europe. Remember to select the correct one for you.
  • Staying Connected
    • Local SIM cards:
      • Buying a local SIM card for your unlocked phone may be a way to save some money and stay connected. Various plans can include data, local and country-wide texts, and/or local and international calling minutes. They are often significantly less expensive than daily travel plans through your provider at home (at least in Canada).
      • Buying SIM cards in town as opposed to the airport may be less expensive.
    • Wi-Fi:
      • Many hotels/vacation rentals/hostels offer free Wi-Fi with your accommodations.
      • Buying a VPN (Virtual Private Network) may help your Wi-Fi connection remain secure.
  • Insurance
    • Something I strongly recommend, both Out-of-Country Medical Insurance and Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance.
    • There are many companies and credit cards that offer insurance – know the details and what you are and aren’t covered for.

Below are some links I’ve found useful. I hope they may be of use to you too. Some are specific to Canada, other are worldwide.

This post is intended to provide general information based on my own experiences at time of posting. Since information changes continually, this post is in no way a replacement for current information from official governments or a comment on the practices of businesses. Product and website suggestions are strictly my own opinions and I am not receiving any compensation for listing them.

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