Getting ready to hit the road on your next adventure is one of the most exciting feelings, and sometimes that excitement can lead to certain pre-travel necessities being overlooked or rushed. It’s easy to do if you don’t travel often, or even if you do. It’s even more likely you might overlook something if you are travelling with kids, because let’s face it, kids are distracting. A wonderful distraction though.
So to help you ensure your next trip is a complete success, whether it be solo, couple or family travel, we have put together an extensive before you travel guide to help you hit the road without a hitch.
BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
Planning and Researching
The first step before you travel anywhere is usually the planning and researching stage. Depending on whether you are travelling close to home or further abroad, you may want to kick this stage off quite a while before you plan to travel.
For overseas trips, we tend to start planning 6-12 months in advance, however it depends on the destination and your travel style. When travelling with kids, more time is certainly beneficial.
Start by deciding where you want to go, your budget, the time of year and who you plan to travel with. These are the building blocks to the rest of your travel planning.
Research your preferred destinations, including transport, accommodation, attractions and all the associated costs. If you are a seasoned traveller, most of this you may do yourself, however a travel agent can help you plan your trip by doing most of the hard work for you.
Before you lock anything in, you want to ensure the destinations you have chosen are suitable for your type of travel. For example, travelling with kids means places that allow kids, as some resorts are adult only, as one example. Or if you have special needs such as travelling in a wheelchair, you will need to ensure you are not booking accommodation or transport that does not cater for your needs.
Make sure the trip suits your budget too. You need to have money left over for when you arrive on your holiday… so you can eat and stuff! Kind of important!
If you plan far enough ahead, you may also benefit from early bird specials for parts of your travel. This is always an added bonus for saving money on travel.
Once all your travel plans and research is done, you have decided on your destination including where you plan to stay, how you will get there and some of what you plan to do, the time has come to lock that in and start booking.
Booking can be done through a travel agent, online or over the phone with booking services, or direct with the travel provider. How you choose to book is up to you, but make sure it is a secure, official booking system in use to keep your finances safe.
Booking early can help you save money on flights and accommodation.
Once you book, you should receive confirmations for each booking segment. Keep these in a safe place, either in a folder if they are in physical form or set up a new email folder if they are digital confirmations. Both systems are good for keeping everything together.
If you paid deposits on any parts of your travel, set yourself reminders at least a week in advance before the final payment is due to ensure you do not forget.
The important part is to have all the main parts of your trip locked in early, such as accommodation, flights, other transport, and special events you wish to be involved in. The day to day activities can be organised closer to your travel time.
Health and Vaccinations
At least a month before you travel, make sure you attend to your health. Many travel destinations have recommended vaccinations to help prevent illness or disease being contracted during your trip. In some cases these vaccinations are mandatory or you will not be allowed entry.
While in most cases you can get your vaccinations a month or so before you leave, the best option is to visit your doctor several months before you leave to ensure your vaccinations have time to take effect before your travel. This also gives you time to have any other potential health concerns addressed before you travel too.
A visit to the dentist a month before you leave is also highly recommended. Your teeth may feel fine now but the last thing you want is an agonising toothache when you are travelling overseas, especially if it happens to be a country not known for their health care facilities. Prevention is the best medicine.
If travelling with kids, make sure you take them for doctor and dentist check ups before you leave also. Also be mindful that certain vaccinations are not suitable for babies or young children, which may increase their risks while travelling. Malaria is one such consideration, so you may need to invest in alternative options to keep your children safe from illness if they cannot be vaccinated.
Insurance, Visas and Passports
Before you travel, you need to ensure you have all the appropriate approvals and documents that will allow you to travel. If you are travelling domestically, you will unlikely need to worry about this, however travelling overseas always requires a current in date passport.
Many countries will require you have a minimum period before expiry on your passport before accepting you into the country also, so be sure to check this if you have less than 6 months remaining on your passport.
Before you travel you will also need to confirm if Visas are required and arrange these. Some destinations allow this to occur upon arrival, however your best option is to organise as much as you can before you leave to minimise potential disruptions.
Travel insurance is something you should always invest in before you travel. This covers you for overseas health and medical care, loss or damage of property or other potential emergencies that may occur while you are travelling.
The level of cover is up to you, but make sure you read the fine print before you travel so you know you are covered for everything you want, which includes travelling with kids and ensuring they are covered also.
A week or two before you travel, confirm each part of your trip to ensure there have been no changes or potential cancellations. This can be done via phone or often email these days.
Confirm the following before you leave:
- Flight times
- Accommodation bookings
- Transport bookings
- Special requests i.e. dietary requirements, cot, wheelchair access
Once you have booked and confirmed all your accommodation and transport, as well as any extra activities you have arranged, make sure you print any necessary travel documentation. This may include booking confirmations, addresses, dates and times for each segment of your trip. You may also have pre-printed tickets for travel that you will need to take with you, so ensure you have the travel documentation for each part of your trip.
As an added precaution, it is a good option to leave a copy of your travel documents with someone back home, such as a family member or close friend. At the very least, ensure someone close to you has a copy of your travel itinerary, including where you will be on what dates, with addresses and contact details of your accommodation.
This can be very useful if something goes wrong during your trip. While we prefer to think this won’t happen, it helps to be prepared.
As an extra step, consider scanning the most important travel documents and sending them to yourself via email so they can be accessed anywhere in the world. Documents to scan may include the following:
- Travel insurance
- Birth certificates
- Vaccination certificates
- Medical certificates
- Medication scripts
Before you travel you will need to plan how you will be managing money if you are travelling overseas. There are many different options, depending on where you are travelling to and what options are available.
One of the easiest ways is to convert cash into local currency. This can be done through most banks, currency exchange outlets or at the airport, however if travelling for more than a few days, this may mean more currency than you want to carry. And it pays to have a backup option.
Credit cards are a simple option and light to carry in your wallet or purse, but that can usually mean fees and high exchange rates. Consider taking a credit card for emergencies.
These days a popular and secure alternative is a travel card. They work like a credit card or bank card, but are designed for the purpose of travel and can be loaded with local currency. You can transfer more funds across from your bank account, with the added security of credit cards.
Travel cards can be arranged through travel agents, banks and through some frequent flyer services, such as Virgin or Qantas here in Australia.
Preparing Your Kids
If you are travelling with kids, there may be extra considerations, such as special needs of your child to cater for, or if they are school aged children and will be missing more than a couple of days of school during your family travel, you will need to alert the school.
Often teachers are happy to provide you with school work for while you travel, to ensure your kids do not fall too far behind while they are away. This also doubles as something they can do during transit times to keep busy when they may otherwise be bored. Don’t be surprised if they protest at the suggestion though!
Some kids become anxious at the thought of being away from their home or their friends, so make sure to involve your kids as early as possible in the planning and preparing stages of your trip to help ease their anxieties. Family travel is a wonderful experience for most kids, but it is not surprising it can be a little scary if it’s the first time.
Preparing Your Home and Pets
Before you head off on your trip, you need to ensure everything is organised back home. This may seem as simple as locking everything up and walking out the door, but taking extra precautions and steps can make a big difference to your time away.
If you have pets, you need to arrange for their care. Depending on the type of pets you have, whether they are indoor pets such as cats, dogs, birds, fish, etc, or outdoor pets like horses or chickens, you will need to make different considerations. Indoor pets mean someone needs access to your home and you want this to be someone you trust, like a family member or close friend. Or have your pet stay with someone so there is no need to visit your house every day. You can also pay for pet sitting services if you are comfortable doing so.
We recommend you organise your pet care arrangements at least a month in advance so you can ensure someone is available to feed and clean up after your pet for the duration of your trip. Having a back up plan is always a good option too in case something happens while you are away.
Provide the person caring for your pet with keys if needed, enough food for the length of your trip plus an extra week or two just in case, plus an abundance of any other necessities such as kitty litter if your pet happens to be a cat. You need to make it easy for them. Also provide them with your contact details, and the pets vet details just in case something does go wrong.
If you don’t have pets, it’s a lot easier. You may still decide you want someone to stay in your home if you are away a long time, and can consider asking someone you know and trust, to keep your house lived in and maintained. This is a deterrent for potential property crime but also maintains your home upkeep, such as watering plants, mowing lawns and collecting mail.
If no one will be staying in your home, arrange to have your mail held. This is usually inexpensive to arrange through your postal service. You will either be required to pick it up once you return, or it will be delivered on day you specify once you are home.
Just before you leave, be sure to do the following:
- Dispose of perishable goods from fridge and pantry
- Empty rubbish into outdoor bin
- Clean and dry dirty dishes – leaving them in the dishwasher will attract mould over long periods
- Switch non-essential appliances and electronics off at the wall
- Make sure nothing is left on by mistake
- Check every window and door to ensure they are locked
By taking each of these steps, you are minimising the risk of something going wrong with your home while you are away, as well as cutting costs on unnecessary electricity use since you aren’t there to benefit.
When preparing to travel, this is the part most travellers dread. Packing can be tedious and challenging, especially when trying to keep your excess baggage down for a long trip. There is also that potential risk of forgetting something important if you are unprepared before you travel.
Packing checklists are a great way to organise your travel packing. Having a checklist helps you remember all the basics you need for your trip, but also add some of your own extra additions to the list that you want to take along.
Alternatively you can make your own packing list to help you out, listing all the necessities you wish to take. You may also want to have a last minute list designed to remind you to add in those items you use until just before you leave, such as your toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbrush, phone chargers, mobile phones, wallets and keys.
To be super organised before you travel, consider starting a couple of days early instead of the last minute travel packing rush. This gives you a better chance of remembering everything you need to take, and can make the task feel less overwhelming if you are adding items gradually over a couple of days instead of rushing to put everything in just before you leave.
When travelling with kids, you need to consider extra items they will require, especially if you are travelling with babies or toddlers who may still be in nappies or requiring formula. Even breastfed babies can require some special items, such as a breast pump and bottles. You will also need to consider items for sterilising if this is part of your routine, or baby food sachets, wet wipes, nappy disposal bags, bibs, nappy rash cream or anything else that is required for the care of your child or baby.
Before you travel, check the luggage limits with your transport carriers. If you are flying internationally and have domestic flights in between, the luggage allowance may be different between flights so work on the lower allowance to reduce your risk of excess luggage charges. There will also be different allowances for children travelling as well, with some children tickets having baggage allowance and others not, or with the allowances differing from that of an adult ticket. This will impact on how you pack for family travel.
Transport even before your travel begins is something that needs consideration also. While you may be flying or catching a train or cruiseliner for your holiday, you will need to arrange a way of getting there first. This may be a simple as jumping in your car and driving to the departure location, however in most cases long term parking will accrue a cost. You don’t want any nasty surprises coming home to an unexpected expensive parking ticket.
Do your research on transport options to and from your departure locations, such as airport parking costs, public transport to and from that caters for luggage, private transfers, taxi or other alternatives. Each will come with their own costs and may or may not suit you depending on the amount of luggage or the distance you are travelling.
Another alternative is having someone you know drive you, but you will need to know your luggage and the number of passengers plus a driver will fit in the car. The last thing you want is to be running late because you realised at the last minute that your arrangement was not suitable.
If you are travelling via your own private transport for the duration of your trip, such as part of a road trip, be sure to have your car serviced at least a couple of weeks before you travel. This gives you time to repair any necessary parts of your car, or replace tyres and other things that may be suffering the impact of frequent use. You want to make sure you have reliable transport to help your trip run as smoothly as possible.
There is a lot to organise and plan before you travel, however taking the time to work through these areas will take away a lot of the potential stress a disorganised trip may cause you. And if you are travelling with kids, the last thing you want is to be unprepared.