My favourite thing to do is to go where I’ve never been – Diane Arbus.
As you read this, I’ll be in Prague – a city I’ve never seen with my own eyes, in a country I’ve never visited. Excitement is an understatement as I write these words in the midst of getting organised before I jet off for a few days of much needed TLC and adventure. Whether you’re going on a mini trip away, a fortnight holiday or a longer excursion, excitement gets in the way of getting things sorted, because all you can think about is the new architecture you will appreciate, the new foods you’ll taste, the new memories you’ll make, and so the need to do gets shoved to the back of your mind, until a couple of days before, and that’s when a last minute panic sets in. Very quickly. This is how it ends up happening for me, as exemplified by this very moment: I still have a to do list as long as half my arm which ideally will be completed before tea time. And so, I thought I’d share my tips and tricks on what you need to do before you leave for the airport.
You have your passport: that is the most obvious document you need when you are leaving the UK. You also have your boarding cards printed and ready, and have checked in at least two hours before your flight. I tend to check in at least 24 hours before because I like to make sure I am definitely, 100% getting on that plane the next day.
For some countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and the USA, you need a specific visa regarding the length and type of stay you intend to have. Working holiday visas are different to short term stay visas; some of which you have to apply for in advance before your flight, whereas other countries, such as Bali and Singapore, you receive a visa stamp in your passport upon arrival. It is always best to check what criteria your destination falls under. STA Travel have a full listing of visas on their website.
What about travel insurance? Are you covered for the year? Or, do you pay for it on a trip by trip basis? The Post Office is the first port of call that I tend to go to, unless it is a long-haul, backpacking trip in which I’d head to STA Travel as they cover everything from walking to cage diving with sharks. If you’re not a last minute person, like me, it is an idea to shop around online and compare prices for your unique holiday and needs. Travel insurance varies depending on disabilities, mental health and the kind of activities you will be taking part in.
Yes, travel insurance can cover your entire holiday, but it’s always best to be safe and get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which is super quick and easy to apply for through the government website. This is only for trips to Europe; sometimes you can receive free medical treatment, should you need it, with this card. Hopefully everything will go as smooth as with no hospital hiccups!
I made the mistake of assuming that Prague’s currency was euros. I believe you can use them on occasion i.e. hotel transfers, but it is better to use the Czech Crown. Always be 110% sure what currency you need, and have a rough idea of how much it equates in pound sterling to keep track of your outgoings.
Another thing to have an idea of is how much you will need for your trip. Have you paid for your accommodation already, or are you paying there? What type of holiday is it? If it is a week of partying in Ibiza, you will need way more money than if it is a few days exploring a European city. Alternatively, are you heading further afield for a longer stay? Dependent on where you are heading, the amount of money you take is detrimental to what excursions, places and foods you can have. For example, an extravagant month in Bali can equate a fortnight of budgeting in Australia or New Zealand.
Again, an ideal situation would be to shop around for the best price for you. I tend to head to my local The Money Shop. However, virtually every supermarket and even department stores as well as travel agents have their own money exchange, not forgetting the Post Office. Alternatively, in some countries it works out cheaper to change currency at your destination, but be careful of where you go and be sure to check the country’s official website for the best and safest information.
For city breaks, only take a carry on. You won’t need much, if you pack correctly – unless you are a fashion extravaganza who needs multiple outfits a day. For Prague, I’m taking a mix and match of wardrobe pieces that will guard me from the cold winter weather and look fab in photos too because blogger.
Obviously, it isn’t just the clothes that we need to pack for our trips away: we need chargers, makeup, toiletries, medicines, cameras, and notebooks. I am an avid note-taker.
I love this check list by Kate at House Mix Blog
Of course, depending on the type of trip you are embarking on means that you can mix and match with the items on this packing checklist or create your own!
Preparation comes in all forms when it is time to head to that new – sometimes exotic – location. We all like to look and feel our best on holiday and so that, too, comes with a hefty check list: nails, hair, waxing, tanning, lashes, brows and more. Some things you can get away with if it is winter, such as the latest leg or bikini wax. However, chipped, outgrown shellac (the current state of my nails) is an absolute no go. Personally, I’m the girl who is least-likely to update their hair or get their lashes extended and I definitely wouldn’t get my tan done before the holiday. However, a lot of us women do do that and so it is best to book your appointments early! Last minute does not work when it comes to beauty treatments as salons get booked up, leaving you rushing around like a headless chicken in near tears because you absolutely do not want to be the one looking slightly dishevelled on holiday. I type this the day before I plan to travel with my chipped nails; don’t be like me. Be organised.
Sometimes, it is the best thing to go to a new place completely unaware of what is there and go with the flow. Finding tiny restaurants tucked away on a street corner or a small but significant piece of history down a cobbled alley can make the trip so much better, because it was unexpected. Sometimes it is good to have an idea of what there is to do, where is the best place for wine; an insider’s knowledge is perfect for this. I contacted the tourism office for Prague and was warned about some delicacies that tourist’s always fall for!
Nevertheless, depending on the country you are flying to, more important research is needed in order to avoid any confusion, health concerns and sometimes even imprisonment. For example, in any Islamic countries such as Iran, Morocco or United Arab Emirates, women must cover up in many of the public places such as shopping malls and high streets. In many places of Asia, you cannot drink tap water or even have ice in your drinks to avoid becoming seriously ill. For parts of Africa, vaccinations must be taken beforehand to prevent any diseases. Be sure to check what culture and health precautions to take before you fly. As tourists and travellers, it is our job to take in all the beauty the country has to offer whilst being respectful of it and safe.
If you live alone or the entire household is jetting off with you, you must make sure your home is as safe as it can be whilst you are away. Invest in timers for your lights, ask a family member or neighbour to check in every couple of days, make sure all appliances are switched off by the machine and at the plug socket too. I have a tendency to check all windows are shut at least twice, check the oven is off three times, and the door I have to check six or seven times by pulling the handle. And even then, I second guess myself.
The day has finally arrived! You are off on that break, holiday or trip of a lifetime. How are you getting to the airport? Is a family member taking you? Are you getting a taxi or Uber? Is public transport your option? Be sure to map out the exact route you are taking and commit it to memory, whilst having it tracked on Maps. Leave early. There is nothing worse than feeling as though you are going to be late for a flight.
Previous to leaving your home, make sure your cabin luggage is locked (this changes after you become lax in your travels but is important!) and your hand luggage is organised. Your passport and tickets have to be handy. Ideally, all of your liquids are already in a square plastic bag in a separate part of the bag or suitcase. Rushing through security is the most stressful part of the airport. Don’t have excess jewellery on that you then need to take off, apart from maybe your watch. Knowing you have packed in line with the airline’s conditions, you can stroll on through like a breeze. Take a look at the government website if you’re unsure about what to take in your carry on.
What kind of traveller are you? Are you organised, or do you try to be? Let me know what kind of things you like to check off your to do list before heading on a trip away. I hope this has helped any travellers get a little more organised!
Love, Faye xo