Planning a Trip? Don’t forget…
Everyone knows how to plan a trip. Book the flights, book your hotel, pack, hop on a jet plane and be on your merry way. But along the way, the excitement sometimes gets the best of you and little things slip your mind. Sure, forgetting your toothbrush isn’t the end of the world, you can just buy one there. But when you don’t realize you need a visa to enter the country or you don’t have the right vaccines to protect you against whatever kinds of foreign diseases are lurking around those parts of the world, it’s less of a “little thing” and more of a big deal. So I’ve put together a list of things that are essential to planning and packing for every trip.
Check Lonely Planet and Nomadic Matt
If you’ve got a specific destination in mind and you know what you want to do when you’re there, then you can skip this step. But if you’re deciding on a destination and you’re not quite sure if it’ll float your boat, then head on over to lonelyplanet.com and check out their summary video of the country or city in mind. These videos are a good starting point if you don’t know anything about the country and need a quick run down - you’ll get a gist of the main things people like to go there to see or do. This step helped me cross Laos off my list as a high priority destination. I knew nothing about Laos and learned a few tidbits of info that helped me put it on the back burner for now. Sure, I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but there’s a whole world to explore and a list of places I’m urging to see first.
I don’t typically like to use Lonely Planet for anything aside from their videos because they don’t provide much information on the specific sights and attractions, which is why I like to turn to nomadicmatt.com next. Once you have a rough idea of what your destination has to offer, Nomadic Matt will give you more detailed information, like average pricing on meals and transportation, money saving tips, more extensive articles on the sights, the whole shebang!
Check Google Flights
Did you know Google is in the Oxford English Dictionary now? Yeah. Because it’s so damn nifty. Google Flights is no exception. Flights are more expensive on some days and cheaper on others, and fiddling around on google.com/flights can help you figure that out. If you’re not booking an all-inclusive trip through a package, then Google Flights is your friend and with a bit of playing around on dates and times, it’ll tell you when you should book your flights and with whom.
Next up: Accommodations. I’m not a 1, 2, or 3 star hotel kinda gal. I like my rooms clean, my beds bug-free, and my towels fresh. However, I’ve been a big fan of Airbnb lately and have booked all my recent (and near future) stays with them. You can get some stunning 5-star places for 1 star prices. Just make sure you look for:
- High star ratings: I don’t like to book anything below 5 stars - but remember, you’re not paying 5 star prices on Airbnb!
- A high number of reviews: 100+ reviews means travellers likely haven’t been murdered since they made it home before writing the reviews. I’M KIDDING. Sort of.
- Read through comments: Although a listing might have a high number of reviews and a 5 star rating, it might just not be the place for you. Maybe it’s a house located behind a pond with an orchestra of frogs who like to sing to you every morning (Ps. This is a real listing). This might be super cool to some, but an annoyance to others.
Research Foreign Currency
It’s pretty easy to just Google “What Currency is Used in Thailand”, but sometimes foreign currency requires a bit more digging. Like Cuba for instance. Cuba has the Cuban Peso and the Cuban Convertible Peso. The Cuban Convertible Peso is a made-up currency the Cuban government created strictly for tourists. And it’s not something you can get anywhere outside of Cuba, so your currency has to be exchanged in Cuba. And before returning home, you’ll have to change it back to USD because you’re not getting your money back otherwise! Oh and one Cuban Convertible Peso equals to $1 USD. But another point you should also know is that they accept USD there. So for all my American friends, you don’t even need to exchange your money before heading to Cuba, but this isn’t something you’d know unless you researched a bit first.
Research Plug and Voltage
Plug: Easy peasy, just buy a plug converter. They normally come with a whole bunch of international plug adapters so you can use it for a variety of destinations. However, make sure you buy it before you depart. The plug converters they sell overseas adapt to their plug, not yours.
Voltage: If you’re not sure your electronics, chargers, hair tools, or whatever you’re plugging into the wall are dual voltage, DO NOT plug it in! Outlets (and anything you plug into the wall) in North America typically have a standard voltage of 110-120V, but in Asia for example, the voltage is 220-240V. If you plug one into the other, something will fry. I made that mistake once, and I won’t let it happen again because it was not a cheap mistake! RIP Babyliss Pro Curling Iron.
Sometimes your electronics and tools are made with dual voltage. Like your iPhone charger. If you read the tiny text printed on the charger, you’ll see something like “100-240V”. This range covers all voltages so you can plug it in safely overseas without anything exploding. If you’re shopping for anything for your trip (like a new curling iron for example 😭), just play it safe and be sure you get a dual voltage version. If the things you’re bringing aren’t dual voltage, go buy a voltage converter. But buy it before you leave, same rules apply as the plug converter.
Check visa requirements
Funny story: Up until 3 years ago, I thought visas were credit cards and I hadn’t even heard about travel visas (I lived under a rock obviously). I planned an entire trip to Rio de Janeiro, booked my flight, accommodations, started packing and was ready to go. But one week before my flight, the host at my accommodations asked for my visa info. I didn’t have a visa. As a Canadian, we need a tourist visa to enter the country, but little did I know! Long story short, I cancelled my trip and postponed it for over an entire year. And you know the best part? I ironically worked as a visa agent the following year and obtained my own visa to finally take the trip.
So moral of the story: Do your research. All it takes is a quick Googling. For all my Canadian babes, go here.
When you dive into your visa research, make sure to find out:
- The type of visa you’ll need,
- How long you’ll be granted a stay,
- And when you should start the visa application process.
For example, as a Canadian residing in Ottawa, I would require a Tourist Visa to visit Vietnam. Vietnamese Visas can be obtained for a single or multiple entry (how many times you’ll go in and out of the country), for a period of 30 or 90 days, and will take 2-5 business days to process. Vietnam is one of the easier countries to obtain a visa for, especially because you can give them your travel dates and they’ll follow your itinerary. But other countries aren’t like this. If you wanted to apply for a Cambodian Visa for instance, applications are only accepted 90 days prior to arrival and are processed at the embassy in Washington since we don’t have one in Canada.
All that jargon to say: visas are confusing AF. Lemme tell you. There’s A LOT of information to know and as a previous travel visa agent, it’s next to impossible to know all the requirements, especially because they’re constantly changing. So just be sure to check the updated visa requirements for the country you’re visiting long before you plan on departing.
Note: Some countries require a transit visa depending on your country of origin too. A transit visa is a temporary short period visa that allows you to pass through a country (like for a layover). So not only should you be looking into the destination country’s requirements, but you should also research layover countries as well.
*Disclaimer: These visa requirements are solely provided as an example and may not be accurate past the date this post was published. Be sure to look into updated visa requirements based on your country of origin and destination on an official government website.
Check entry/exit requirements
I’d also suggest you look at entry and exit requirements, which can typically be found on the same government official page that lists visa requirements.
Often times, customs and immigration will ask to see proof of exit flights and health insurance - things you need to have before you land!
Check health requirements:
No one likes needles. Coming from the girl with four tattoos. I mean, tattoo needles and medical needles are totally different. I never leave the doctor’s office with sweet new ink!
But whether you like them or not, you may have to get some. I’m sure you don’t want to have to cut off a limb or get severely ill all because you didn’t get poked by that needle before travelling!
So find out what vaccines you’ll need and also when to get them. More often than not, you need to get the shots a certain number of weeks before departure. This info is also typically found on the same government websites where they list visa and entry/exit requirements.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the horror stories some travellers have gone through when they get caught up in a foreign city with zero health insurance and a broken leg, or they go into unexpected labour, or caught some sort of awful bed-ridding flu. Medical bills upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes even in the millions. I couldn’t even imagine.
I can’t stress this enough: get health insurance. Health is #1 and if it’s the only type of travel insurance you buy, make sure it’s that one.
And if you wanna go all out, you can get cancellation and baggage insurance too.
Traveller Registration with the Department of Foreign and International Affairs
This is a shoutout to all my Canadian travel babes: the real EH team! 😂
I have absolutely no clue if other countries have something similar to what our Canadian gov’t has set up for us, so you’re on your own. But for us toque-wearing, dog sled-riding, igloo-residing northerners, we can register our travel plans with the Canadian government.
It’s meant as a safety and security thing and I mean, it could just be a way for them to track our every move, but iPhones scan our faces now so it’s not like there’s much more you can keep private anyway!
It’s a way for them to be able to contact you should there be an emergency (hurricane, terrorist attack, whatever awful thing is happening in the world). You’re basically giving the gov’t your emergency contact info so the guys upstairs can find you if they need to. The registration page says “Registration of Canadians Abroad is a free service that allows the Government of Canada to notify you in case of an emergency abroad or a personal emergency at home. The service also enables you to receive important information before or during a natural disaster or civil unrest.”
With all the evil happening in the world right now, it’s not a bad idea to have some extra info laying around in case anything does happen. You can register here, by putting in your travel destinations, dates, and contact info. It takes like 5 minutes (not even) and once you’ve registered the first time, your account is saved for future entries using your email address. You can also register for multiple people, so if you’re travelling with your fam or your BF or BFF, you can add them onto your trip so it’s a one time registration for the whole group.
Bonus: It’s FREE.
Got more questions? There’s an FAQ here.
Make arrangements for your fur babies
Although I don't like to admit I'm THAT person who likes to dress up their dog in trendy knit sweaters and bow-tie collars, I am. I just can't help it. I love my little Rocky too much and treat him like my human child. Well, aside from leaving him at home unattended during the work day. But when I go away for a trip, I obviously can't just leave him at home (duh) and looking for care for him has always been a struggle. He's never been to a kennel and I don't really intend on changing that. He has anxiety about new people and thinking about him having anxiety gives me anxiety. Yes, both myself and my dog are high-maintenance.
Typically, a friend or family will look after him while I'm away exploring the world, and knowing he's with people he loves puts my heart at ease. Whatever works for you and your fur babies, just make sure you remember to make arrangements!
Packing essentials for every trip
Is anyone else just as excited as me when it comes to packing? The trip’s planned and I’m not leaving for say, another 3 months, but I can’t hold in the excitement and want to pack NOW. Every. Time. I wanna throw on all my outfit ideas, pull out all my shoes, pack away my beach towel and GoPro and just wait at the door until travel time. But there’s the not-so-fun things you have to think about when packing. And typically, the not-so-fun things are the most important. Here’s a list of the things you should bring with you on EVERY trip.
What to pack:
- Copy of passport: Keep this separate from your passport, in case your passport is lost or stolen.
- Travel and health insurance: Sometimes you need proof of this when entering a country (check entry/exit requirements).
- Foreign currency
- Black pen: For filling out paperwork on flights.
- Hand sanitizer
- Plug/voltage converter
- Bug spray
- Meds: Benadryl, Tylenol/Advil, Gravol, Imodium
- Flashlight: In case you’re walking down a dark alleyway. Keep this on you in your carry on bag or day pack.
If you have any other ideas, I'd love to hear them below!
*Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Lonely Planet, Nomadic Matt, GoPro or Kleenex (I just think the word “tissue” sounds prissy). This information is provided to you strictly based on my own opinions, and in no way am I receiving compensation from these companies. I am however, affiliated with Airbnb and will be compensated by them should you choose to accept my $50 credit offer, but this is at no additional expense to you.