- When you first start to plan for your trip, check the expiration date of your passport and, if necessary, send it in for renewal. Check for any advance-application visas for countries you are planning to visit. Usually, you have to send your passport in with the visa application. I have seen people turned away at the airport check-in desk with expired or soon-to-expire passports. Many countries will not let you enter if your passport is within a few months of the expiry date.
Just a Little Research Goes a Long Way
- Before going abroad, it's worth doing some research on what to do once there. Each city you visit will have a lot of options and there is nothing worse than spending most of your time deciding on how to spend your days. The Internet provides us with so much information, that it would be a crime not to use it. Simply go to Google and type in queries such as (using Dublin as an example) 'Dublin + Travel Tips'. This will give you some ideas on what to do once there.
Be Organized with the Paperwork
- Hole-punch all of your information for your trip (and make copies of anything you'll need), organize it by what you'll need chronologically, and place it in a slim, bright, lightweight soft-side plastic binder. It's very easy to find in your carry bag, and you can easily flip through to find your itinerary, the address of the hotel you're going to, the phone number of the person you're supposed to hook up with, etc.
Be Prepared for Conversations
- Take a dictionary and notes phrase book. It can be useful.
Bring Dollar Bills
- Bring lots of single dollar bills for tips during endless airport transfers, hotels, and courtesy busses.
Buy Your Film at Home
- If you're going to a popular tourist attraction, buy your film at home! It usually costs a lot less than say, Disneyland, or Washington, D.C. or any other big vacation spot.
- Always carry lots of quarters and dimes. A used film canister works very well. You never know when you will need to catch the bus or train or make a pay phone phonecall.
Caution re Travellers' Cheques
- Be cautious about buying travellers' cheques, as the issuers are increasingly refusing refunds for 'lost or stolen' checks.
Cell Phones Do Not Work Overseas
- If you are heading to a place and have not planned for your communication needs you might want to think about it well before you travel. US cell phones do not work overseas, and many remote areas may need a handheld satellite phones.
Check with your Medical Insurance Carrier
- Check with your medical insurance carrier. Some will not cover you, and some have limitations or are cumbersome to use - for example: you will have to pay for everything and then wait to be reimbursed.
Confirm Your Reservation
- Be sure your reservation is confirmed, otherwise you may not have a reservation at all. Especially now that everything is so instant with the Internet, it's very possible that you could call or email an establishment about availability, send in your information, dates, etc. only to check back to find your room, or suite was booked to someone else. If you don't make up your mind on the spot, the lodging establishment is NOT obligated to book the reservation with you. Just because you called or sent an email indicating you want to place a reservation does not mean you HAVE a reservation. Someone else could call or email 10 seconds later and book the vacancy with a CONFIRMATION (while you're still on the fence, or just delayed in your response).
Duplicate Important Documents and Cards
- Go to a copy machine, take everything out of your wallet, put it on the copy machine, and copy it (front and back) twice. Leave one set home and store the second in a secret place in your suitcase. If your wallet is ever stolen, you will know exactly what you have lost and will have all the telephone numbers to call to cancel credit cards and the credit card numbers, etc. at your fingertips.
EVERYTHING Should Go on a Packing Checklist
- Of course, you would never forget important items like passport, plane tickets, etc. when you travel - right? WRONG! It is best to make a checklist of everything days in advance. When you are in a rush it is easy to forget your carry-on or passport wallet on the kitchen table as you rush out the door.
Get a Cash Card
- If you're planning a longer stay overseas it might be a good idea to get a cash card from a bank. Once overseas you can withdraw money from your account periodically. You won't have to carry lots of money around, and you'll also save on the exchange rates that change all the time.