Regardless of how you travel, what your budget is, and where you are going, there are several practical things you will likely need to do before heading out the door. Here is our checklist.
Written by Mette / Photo by Martin
Translated from Danish
Preparing for a trip can be a big task. We imagine we’re not the only ones forgetting a thing or two along the way and therefore must fix it at the last minute, or even on the go. So, we have made a checklist that we use before embarking on a new trip.
Some aspects are mandatory for even getting going. Other things you may not need at all. Having said that, our experience is that good preliminary work is never wasted. This makes it both easier and more fun to make impulsive decisions when exciting opportunities suddenly appear. Simply put, great preparation gives great freedom.
#1 – ENTRY AND EXIT RULES
Before you book your trip, you should research the entry and exit regulations for the country. The domestic authorities set the rules, and it is your responsibility to comply with them. If you are in doubt, you can contact the country’s embassy before the trip.
#2 – NOTIFY EMBASSY OR MINISTRY
The entry and exit rules may change at short notice. Therefore it’s a good idea to sign up for an enrollment program in your country. For example, as an american citizen you can sign up for STEP and in Denmark we have Danskerlisten. If you register for this type of list, the Embassy or Ministry of Foreign Affairs can contact you if there are changes or serious crises in the country where you are located.
#3 – DO YOU NEED A VISA
You should always check the visa regulations. Some countries allow you to purchase a tourist visa when you arrive at the airport (Visa on Arrival / VOA). Other countries require you to purchase a visa from home. It can be a somewhat slow process, so please check the embassy’s recommendations for how and when it should be initiated at the latest.
#4 – EXTEND YOUR STAY
Check in advance how many days your visa will be valid, as it varies from country to country. If you want to stay longer than your visa allows, many countries offer you to buy a special visa for an extended stay. Often you can order it online, at the country’s embassy, or the local immigration office. In most cases, you can hire a visa agency and simply pay them to fix all the formalities.
#5 – WHICH COUNTRIES YOU CAN VISIT
As an EU and US citizen you can, fortunately, travel visa-free in many countries. You can check the number of countries in the world you passport give you access to on The Henley Passport Index. The site is the front-runner in the ranking of all the world’s passports and annually makes a list of which countries grant visa-free access to most countries.
#6 – IS YOUR PASSPORT READY TO TRAVEL
It probably goes without saying, but please check the expiry date on your passport. We have tried being very close to the limits, and the border officer actually started counting days. Some countries require your passport to be valid for six months beyond the duration of your trip. Depending on how much you travel, you must also check whether you have enough blank pages, for the number of border stamps and visas your journey requires.
#7 – SAVE A COPY
Just in case, bring a couple of copies of your passport and send a photo of it to your email. This way, you are fully protected if you lose it or if a hotel or tour operator demands to keep it. Except for when ordering a visa at the embassy, we never give our passports to others.
#8 – BRING AN EXTRA PASSPORT PHOTO
If you are planning to cross national borders, some authorities require a physical passport photo, to issue a visa. And do not expect a nearby photo booth, so good idea to bring one.
#9 – VACCINATIONS
If you travel to exotic countries, vaccinations can quickly become expensive. But it’s an expense you don’t want to skimp on. In addition, you must be aware of whether your previous vaccines have expired and whether your destination has special vaccination requirements.
Nomad Travel has a good page with information about which vaccinations you should get before departure. As Danish travelers, we always adhere to the guidelines of The Institute of Serums for travel vaccinations and are vaccinated by their doctors at the Foreign Vaccination Clinic in Copenhagen.
#10 – TRAVEL INSURANCE
Depending on what insurance you already have, we recommend that you at least purchase travel insurance that covers illness and transport home. If your phone or camera is stolen, you know the price for a new one. But if you suddenly fall ill, it can be a very costly affair.
We have tried several insurance companies over the years but have (knock on wood) not needed them. A recommendation without personal experience seems a bit unsound. Our best advice is to get one, but research well. Having said that, it is our experience that international travelers often recommend True Traveller, World Nomads, and Safty Wing. The two most recommended companies in Denmark are Gouda and Europæiske.
#11 – ORDER AN INTERNATIONAL DRIVER’S LICENSE
If you plan to rent a car, scooter, or motorbike, check beforehand if you must bring an international driving license. The Danish version is valid for one year and costs 3 USD (2022). The international driving license only works as a translation, so you must always use it together with your national license.
#12 – CHECK THE BAGGAGE RULES – BEFORE YOU PACK
All airlines have their own rules for how much baggage you can check-in. The low-cost airlines entice with cheap tickets – and add extra costs for luggage. It can quickly become expensive if you haven’t bought enough luggage kilos in advance and have to pay at the counter at the airport. So better to do it beforehand.
#13 – NOTIFY THE BANK
It is always safer to use a credit card than to carry cash for the entire vacation. Let the bank know where you are going and for how long, so you are sure that the card is usable. We have tried to have our card blocked as the bank registered “suspicious behaviour in India”. It was a rough and unnecessary start to our journey. Fortunately, today we can easily report trips abroad via our online bank.
#14 – CASH ON ARRIVAL
To avoid unnecessary hassles on arrival (speaking of our trip to India), it’s always good to have some local cash handy. We usually exchange money from home. Enough to cover the expenses for the first couple of days. Depending on the country we’re traveling in, we’ll also withdraw a handful of brand-new US dollars as a backup. They can be exchanged virtually anywhere.
#15 – COPY OF BOOKING
Although almost all hotels and tour operators will approve your booking when you show your passport, it’s a good idea to bring a copy or save a photo of the booking on your phone. If you are standing somewhere without internet, or if you have to show the taxi driver the address of the hotel, you always have the contact information at hand.
#16 – THE FIRST NIGHT
Depending on how adventurous you are, and how many hours you have been on the road, we recommend that you book the first night from home. We have a few stories where our jet lag was a lucrative advantage to the awaiting sharks.
#17 – CHECK TRANSPORT OPTIONS
If you arrive very early or late in the evening, it is a good idea to research the transport options beforehand. Are airport buses or trains running at that time of day? Or are you going by taxi, and if so, which companies can you trust? If the taxi driver runs without a meter, arrange a price before stepping into the car. It is nice to have control over what you approx. can expect the price to be so that you can negotiate the right price.
#18 – FROM A TO B … WITHOUT WIFI
Our travel tips are mainly derived from our own (sometimes embarrassingly stupid) experiences. Including our experience with a taxi driver who drove us around Kuala Lumpur for 10 minutes when we unknowingly got into the taxi 50 meters from where we were going (haha, our excuse is lack of wifi, as it was years ago). We, therefore, recommend that you download the maps.me app. It’s a GPS that works without the internet, so you can always see where you are. And whether you’re driving the direct route from A to B.
#19 – EMERGENCY CONTACTS
If there is an accident, you don’t want to waste precious time trying to figure out whom to contact first. Make a list with the most important contact information – e.g. the country’s emergency center, the 24-hour doctor at your travel insurance company, your embassy, your closest travel companion, and/or family member at home. Keep the list in your backpack and on your phone.
#20 – IS YOUR MOBILE TRAVEL READY
Several telecommunications companies offer the same tariff in many countries for a maximum of 30 days. Check your subscription and turn off roaming, if you extend the days of free-roaming, or if the specific country is not included, to avoid a crazy expensive bill.
We always download music, movies, and books from home, so we have entertainment at hand offline. In addition, these apps are indispensable: Google Translate, Valuta, and maps.me. We are currently preparing a more extensive list of useful apps for the journey.
What are your travel tips before departure?
If you have good travel tips that you think are missing from the list, please write them in the comment box below. Thank you for reading along and sharing the joy of travel with us. Happy planning & Godspeed.