Planning a trip can be so much fun! Seeing where you want to go, what you want to do, then finally pressing that “book” button for your flights. However sometimes we get so caught up in planning the fun stuff, we forget about the logistical necessities we also need organise.
Over the past 7 years of travel I’ve learned some of these lessons the hard way. Paying ridiculous fees for cards is never fun, nor is missing out on a good flight deal because you didn’t do your research! In order to have a hassle free trip, do your research and ensure you’ve got the following 7 things in place before you leave.
A quick note – I am Australian, so a lot of the advice I mention below may not be relevant if you’re not Australian!
Before you go booking anything, it’s worth checking what the visa requirements are for that country. You don’t want to book a 6 week trip to a country you can only get a 4 week visa for! It’s always best to check out the specific countries embassy website for Visa requirements as this will be the most up to date, however if you want a more general outline Project Visa is reasonably reliable. Remember, some countries do require you to get a visa in advance and this can take a couple of months, so make sure you check out the visa requirements well before you leave.
Once you know where you want to go and for how long it’s time for the exciting part – booking flights. Make sure you check both directly with the airline as well as travel agents as I’ve found that sometimes one will have a sale that the other doesn’t!
To find the truly cheapest airfares, I always search my flight path on Skyscanner as they search through multitudes of airlines and include airlines that agents such as Flight Centre do not. If I’m going somewhere new, I’ll also look up the destination airport in Wikipedia to see there’s a local airline the search engines have missed (there’s a list of airlines that fly in and out of that airport). I end up just booking through whoever is cheaper, whether that’s Skyscanner, directly with the airline or through somewhere like Student Flights!
Most of my travel has been to Asia, and I fly with either Air Asia or Jetstar depending on who is cheaper at the time of booking. I’ve never had an issue with either that wasn’t out of their control. There is an airline called Scoot that also flies Australia to Asia however they have never been cheaper when I’ve gone to book – I always check them though. I flew to Southern Africa with South African Airways and when looking up flights to Europe for friends I’ve found Qatar Airways and Royal Brunei to be the cheapest to London.
3. Travel insurance
Ah, the old travel insurance debate! I’m a very clumsy person and also have a real “she be right” attitude. So given those two points, chances are whilst overseas something is going to happen! It’s really not that expensive and the one time I don’t get it, I just know I’ll break my leg or something so I always just play it safe and buy it!
TIP 1: Buy travel insurance when you buy your flights. It’s a great habit to get into as if you buy it at the same time, most policies will cover you for any unexpected changes from the date of purchase.
TIP 2: To make the insurance cheaper, I always choose the highest excess which is usually $250. This means that if something happens and I need to claim, I effectively lose $250 from the claim amount. In other words, whatever I claim must exceed that $250. I figure if it’s less than $250 it’s not worth the hullabaloo of claiming anyway!
Even though we’ve done our fair share of “dangerous” things other countries (such as motorbiking through the middle of nowhere in Laos), luckily I’ve never actually had to make a claim. I always re-research travel insurance before each trip as the policies change all the time as do the prices. In the past I’ve used Covermore, 1cover, Medibank Private, Southern Cross Travel Insurance, Travel Insurance Direct and Insure4less. All were easy to purchase, had good reviews at the time and had what I needed in their policies, however as I said I’ve never had to actually claim anything so I can’t review them on that basis. World Nomads is also supposed to be good especially for adventure and nomad travel however I’ve always found them to be slightly more expensive whenever I’ve needed insurance, therefore I am yet to use one of their policies.
4. Vaccination requirements
Another debated topic – do you need to get vaccinations? I’m going to say yes. Again, my “she be right” attitude can leave me in a bit of strife and between James and I we’ve had quite the impressive list of illnesses (Cholera, Malaria, Typhoid, Worms, food poisoning, the list goes on…). I guess you could argue that we shouldn’t have become sick because we’d had the vaccinations, but at the same time I would have been far sicker had I not had them. For example Malaria – I didn’t even know I’d had it until I came home and went to give blood to the blood bank. Apparently the Malaria tablets had dulled the effect!
The general recommendation is to see your local travel doctor 3 months before you leave, especially if you haven’t been to that area of the world before. Some vaccinations require boosters and you want to ensure you leave enough time to get the boosters or to get over any reactions you may have (I once reacted to the Typhoid vaccination – not fun!). Travelvax is a good resource for checking out the requirements before your appointment, to be honest most doctor’s I’ve been to look on the internet when you arrive anyway!
Money is an important thing to think about. Is the country a cash or card society? Do the ATMs accept foreign cards? How much money will you need while there?
The market is saturated with different types of travel cards and it is so hard to know what to use. I can’t comment on credit cards, I’ve never had one and don’t plan on getting one anytime soon. I know some say there’s lots of benefits but it’s just not my thing. In Australia you’ve basically got 4 options if your looking for debit cards.
1 – You can buy a specific travel card from places like Travelex or Australia Post. These are super expensive and not worth the money anymore. They used to be the go to, but there are many much better options now;
2 – You can get a specific travel card from your bank. Depending on your bank this can be a good or bad deal! Just make sure you read the fine print for fees etc;
3 – Use your normal card. Depending on your card this could also be a good or bad deal. Make sure you don’t get slugged with fees and let your bank know your going overseas so they don’t block your card;
4 – Get a Citibank Plus card. I did a lot of research before my trip in 2014 and settled with a Citibank Plus card. There may be other options now, but it was an amazing deal at the time and has never let me down. It’s a standard Visa debit card that I can use at home, however when overseas I don’t get charged any international withdrawal fees or currency exchange fees, only the fee from the local bank for using their ATM (average $4 AUD) which you get charged regardless of what card your using.
6. Driver’s license
This will depend on whether you plan on hiring any sort of transport – cars, motorbikes, motorhomes etc. In Australia you get them from your state’s automobile association – in Victoria you just go to a RACV shop with your current license and a passport photo and it takes about 10 minutes for them to get the international license sorted for you. When overseas you just need to carry around your Australian license and International Driver’s License together and show them together when hiring the vehicle, then if your pulled over at all.
7. Create a “next of kin” card
I saw this written on a blog a few years ago and thought it was such a great idea! All it is, is a piece of paper that I keep in my wallet and with me at all times with my travel insurance policy number, blood type, allergies, my travel companion’s name (if I have one) and an emergency contact on it just in case anything happens. Generally if you have an accident people will look for some sort of ID, so I keep it in the same pocket as my ID so it can be easily found. This is especially important for me as I have a rare blood type and an allergy to a common pain medication!
A quick disclaimer – none of this content is sponsored in any way and I do not receive a commission on any of the links in this post. It’s all my honest advice and what has worked best for me!
If you liked this post and would like to receive more tips, tricks and stories from our travels, please like our Facebook page and subscribe below!
Happy travels 🙂