Contrary to what many Hollywood films would have you believe, international travel is an adventure best planned in advance. No matter if you’re taking a long-awaited escape, your first business trip abroad, or heading overseas for college, you’ll need to ensure that your health, safety, and finances are covered. Ideally, you should have a travel checklist that impasses every detail of your trip to ensure that it runs smoothly. To save you some prep time, we’ve compiled the ultimate travel checklist for travelling abroad. It’ll help you make sure you've thought of everything you might want to pack, the visas and vaccines that you’ll need to secure in advance, and the bookings you’ll want to make before you leave.
There’s probably nothing more disastrous than overlooking the validity date of your passport when you turn up at the check-in desk. Not only do you need to ensure that your travel documents are securely packed in your carry-in, but they’re also up-to-date. Your passport should be valid for at least six months, but ideally longer if you’re planning on travelling for a few weeks or more. Make sure that you check visa requirements ahead of time, and whether you need to obtain your visa(s) before departure or if you can purchase them upon arrival.
Bring along a copy of your International Certificate of Vaccination where applicable, and your doctor’s prescription if you’re taking any medications. If you plan to hire a vehicle for a road trip, consider getting an International Driver License before you leave home. And be ready to show your return flight bookings, hotel reservations, itineraries, travel insurance, and so forth, at passport control. There are plenty of countries that won’t grant you entry if you can’t prove that you’re visiting for the purpose of tourism, and that you have enough money to support yourself. Don’t forget to bring a pen to fill out forms!
It’s a good idea to save both digital and printed copies of your travel documents and have a list of contact numbers of friends and family that you can call in case of emergency. You should also inform your bank and credit card company about your trip to avoid problems with purchases and ATM withdrawals. Learning a little about the currency used in the place that you’re visiting can also help you to avoid overspending on tips and taxi fares.
Take note that not all areas accept electronic payments as readily as major Australian cities, so it’s useful to have cash in hand. You can usually exchange currency at an ATM for lower fees and better rates; however, this service isn’t available in every country. If you’re visiting somewhere a little more off the beaten track, such as Cuba or a tier three city in China, try to acquire your bank notes in advance.
Depending on your destination, you may wish to ensure that you enjoy a safe and healthy vacation away by getting all the recommended vaccinations. Your GP will be able to advise you, just bear in mind that most vaccines will need to be issued four to six weeks before your trip, and some require several doses.
Vaccination guidelines differ by country, so a visit to your doctor or to a travel clinic can help ascertain which shots you need, and answer any questions that you may have. And don’t just assume that one vaccination will carry over to another country - some diseases have different strains. For instance, the yellow fever vaccination required for travel to Uganda is not the same as the one needed for a trip to India. Passport control or customs agents usually ask travellers to present their vaccination certificate upon entering the country, so keep yours in your carry-on for easy and quick access.
One of the most common travel dilemmas is choosing which clothes to pack. Are you heading to the balmy tropics or the windy Alps? Aside from checking the weather in your destination, you’ll need to be sure that you pack appropriately for the season. Bringing the right mix of classic, versatile, and practical clothing, ensures that you’ll still look stylish without sacrificing comfort.
There are also plenty of ways that you can save space, and still ensure that you’ll have enough to wear. Instead of squashing in bulky sweaters for cold places, focus on temperature-regulating shirts, multi-purpose scarves, long-sleeve shirts that you can layer on top of one another, and thermals if you need extra protection from the cold. For warmer places, light clothing will often do, but be sure to bring a shawl or a similar item to cover your shoulders or knees if you’re planning on going somewhere conservative. A laundry bag or kit would come in handy in case you need to wash your clothes while away.
Remember to bring all the necessary chargers for your mobile, tablet, or laptop, and a travel adapter with multiple international ports. If you’re thinking about going on long walks or hikes, why not take a collapsible water bottle, or a water purifier for places that don’t have access to clean drinking water, plus a hat and sunglasses - it’ll save you from having to buy these things once you get there. And don’t forget to throw in some snacks, especially for long flights.
When you’re packing for long haul travel, and you need to make use of every inch of space within your suitcase, it helps to roll your clothes to maximise room and minimise creases. You can stuff your shoes with socks, then lay them heel to toe along the corners of your case or the bottom of a duffle bag. It’s a good idea to keep your toiletries in a separate, waterproof bag and place it on top of the suitcase for easy access.
Try to get rid of the 'just in case I need it' mentality when packing toiletries. We suggest taking only the essentials that are unavailable or irreplaceable during travel, such as contact lenses and solutions, and prescription medications. You may need things such as insect repellent, pain relievers, tablets for allergies, anti-bacterial wipes, tweezers, bandages, cotton balls, and so forth, but many things can be purchased within overseas chemists and supermarkets.
You can help avoid leakage by purchasing non-liquid options like dry shampoo and deodorant, or use sellotape to seal lids. If you can, bring along ‘travel size minis', such as a foldable toothbrush, small toothpaste tube, and a miniature bottle of body wash. In terms of make-up, you could consider packing items that serve a double purpose, such as BB creams that also work as foundation, or a lipstick that serves as a lip balm or as a cheek tint.
Whether you’re looking for the best local restaurant or booking your next flight, you can count on technology to make things easier. Gone are the days when people carried around a heavy guide book from place to place. You’ll find everything you need on your mobile phone. Think about downloading offline maps via Google Maps or CityMaps2Go before leaving home, so you can use your GPS without Wi-Fi; saving on battery life and roaming data at the same time.
For help with foreign languages, from conversations to road signs, you can download language apps such as Duolingo and Google Translate. It won’t cost you a cent! For public transport ease, consider getting a taxi-booking app like Uber, or use Citymapper to help you navigate around foreign cities. And to keep you entertained while travelling on long plane or train rides, you can download movies, TV shows, music, or eBooks, to enjoy on the go.
Booking your flight and accommodation in advance not only saves you money, but a lot of stress! You won’t have to worry about finding an affordable place to stay, a car to rent, or waiting too long to enter major tourist attractions. Whenever possible, search online for cheap airfares and hotel packages, and for discount codes. You’ll never know what sort of special offers are out there if you don’t look. Booking your accommodation in advance also allows you to check the reviews left by previous customers, familiarise yourself with the location, and check the hotel’s amenities.
Using public transport to and from the airport is often inconvenient, especially if you’re hauling bulky luggage along unfamiliar streets and up and down flights of stairs on the subway. To avoid this sort of hassle, you could inquire whether your hotel offers an airport shuttle service. If not, it’s easy to book an airport transfer service online. In the long run, the comfort and convenience of such a service is well worth the money.
This article was written by Find Transfers, a comparison website designed to help you find the cheapest taxi companies and airport transfers. Not only have the Find Transfer’s team travelled all around the globe in recent years, they also enjoy sharing their best travel tips, advice, and shortcuts.