If you feel like your round the world ticket planning has become a furry beast running amok in your living room, you’re not alone. The best thing to remember is to approach it with little steps – take care of things piece by piece and you’ll put a collar on that monster before it bears its claws.
As reinforcement, and because the more times you hear something the better chance you have of remembering it, here’s a list of six things smart traveling cats do before they reach their departure day.
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Get their visas
The first thing to do is list out the countries you’re even remotely interested in visiting and see which ones require visas. It may be different from what you expect. Remember that regulations change so even if you’ve been there before, it may not be the same when the day comes to go back. VisaHQ.com has a good cursory list (for US passport holders) of visa requirements, or else think about picking up Christine Gilbert’s The Visa Book for comprehensive go-to reference. It’s $10 well-spent.
Fish out their passports
For God’s sake, this takes like five seconds – a minor task but one easy to forget about if you aren’t on point with your planning schedule. If you overlook your most important travel document until a week before you leave, rest assured you’ll feel that ghostly hand of panic when you discover it’s misplaced, lost or that it expires a month before you plan to return. Go get it, right now, and check for these three things:
- The expiration date – it must still have at least 6 months of validity on the day your trip ends.
- The number of blank visa pages – passport control officers must be able to fit a stamp into your book. If your trip swings through a number of countries there’s a very real danger of running out of pages. The US government will add new pages into an old passport if you don’t want to get a new one.
- The name – be sure to book your tickets with your name as it appears here.
Here’s where you go online to get, renew or add pages to your United States passport. You know that heart-skipping realization that you’ve just jeopardized something extremely important to you? Look at your passport and don’t be a victim.
Research their destinations
Whether you’re the type of traveler that feasts on serendipity or else plots meticulously, should really have an idea of what you’re going to do once you get there. Not being prepared with a purpose funnels you to every ordinary tourist trap in the country, it takes away objectivity and, whether you like it or not, unnecessarily saddles your trip with routine.
Listen to Benjamin Franklin: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Before you leave, make a list of things you really want to do in every place you’ll be and revel in your forthrightness.
Scratch out their budgets
This will keep you sane one the road, inasmuch as money, or the lack thereof, drives you insane. If you prepare a budget beforehand and promise yourself you’ll keep it come hell or high water, you’ll find yourself with cash even in the final weeks of your trip. Things can get a bit dodgy with money when you’re on the road, so a well-prepared budget may be the most essential thing you pack.
Compile their vitals
Put your most important info in a place you, and others, have easy access to. A Google account (or some other web-based document account) works wonders because the cloud is accessible pretty much everywhere these days.
Here’s a list of important items to scan and store:
- Passport info page
- Vaccination card
- Work visa
- Personal contacts
- Booking reference codes
- Medicine prescriptions
- Airline phone numbers
- Tour contacts and confirmation codes
- Hotel or hostel addresses and phone numbers
- Luggage inventory
- Scans of receipts and photos of personal items (in case of theft)
Don’t forget to send around the (unique) password. The info’s not much good if people can’t get to it.
Test out their equipment
Simply buying a backpack does not guarantee you’ve outfitted yourself best. Consider this scenario: you get off the plane in Bangkok, throw on your finally fully packed pack and it kills your hips to carry the thing around. Prepacking is an essential part of testing your equipment. The Traveldudes have put together a nice short lesson on packing light. Or else turn to One Bag for an encyclopedic packing education.
Also perhaps handwash your travel clothes ahead of time and see how that goes. It’s revealing to find out how long it takes to wash and dry jeans, which just might lead you to reconsider taking those jeans.
Practice using your camera. You don’t want to miss that Atget-quality shot the first day of your trip because you didn’t know how to use your new SLR.
Being prepared in the weeks and months before you leave is the most important thing you can do. If you’re an informationophile and just want more, take a look at my 101 Things To Do Before Your Trip. And don’t forget there’s more to leaving than just leaving. A smart travel cat puts their toys together before ever going to bed.
If you have other essential tips feel free to leave them in the comments, or if you need help finding out how to plan an around the world trip just click the banner below and get the ball rolling.