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Bren’s Pre-Travel Checklist

Are you travelling soon? Make sure you have a stress-free trip by running through the checklist below.

1. Travel Insurance

This is listed first because I always recommend that people buy travel insurance first.

If you book a flight today and break your leg tomorrow, you’re going to lose that flight. You can’t suddenly buy travel insurance afterwards and then try and make a claim. That’s like trying to insure your house after it’s already burned down. If you have started booking things for your trip already and haven’t got insurance, STOP. Get insured.

If you’ve never bought insurance before and want to know what it is/how it works/why you need it, you can check out my guide here. I always buy my insurance with World Nomads who I recommend highly – you can get a free quote using their quick calculator below:

2. Finding your accommodation

Finding accommodation has a lot of variables and it’s largely going to depend on your budget and your travel style. I like to use Agoda.com for most of my bookings, as you can pay for your stay in full on their website using your credit card, and in your own currency too! This saves me a lot on credit card fees, and also helps me save my cash for other things. You can do a quick search for the available properties in your destination using the search box below.

Another option is Airbnb, a very popular peer to peer site which lists private rooms and apartments for cheaper than most hotels. If you haven’t used them before, you can get $25 off your first stay using my referral link.

Lastly, you can try Couchsurfing. This is a rather unconventional option and gives you the opportunity to stay with a local “stranger” from the Couchsurfing community. This is a hospitality exchange and no money changes hands. You stay for free in the spirit of travellers helping travellers. If you’re new to Couchsurfing you can read my beginner’s guide here.

90% of my accommodation while travelling is arranged through the above three sites.

3. Do you need a visa?

Visa requirements will change for each person and will depend on your country of citizenship and a few other factors, such as your employment status, criminal record etc.

The most reliable source will be your own government travel advisory, which should have a website if you Google it. Another great resource is the website iVisa, which lists all visa requriements for all citizenships, and can also help you with the visa application process where necessary.

4. Vaccinations and medications

Vaccinations

Getting vaccinated is important, especially if you’re travelling to developing countries. In fact there are some countries that will deny you entry without a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate.

Other vaccinations you should be thinking about are typhoid, hepatitis, and other vaccines you probably already have such as tetanus and polio.

Some which are common but not completely necessary are rabies, cholera and a flu shot. Getting these is just personal preference and I’d get advice from a doctor if you are unsure.

For a full breakdown on health risks in your destination, check out the travel section of the CDC website.

Medications

Some people travel with a first aid kit, which is a good idea, but if you don’t want a full kit just the essentials should keep you out of trouble. Make sure you have an antiseptic (tea tree oil is great), bandages and/or band aids and sterile wipes. Also, make sure you have insect repellant and lots of long sleeve clothes to sleep in to prevent bites. Most serious diseases you will be exposed to when travelling are transmitted via mosquito bites. Keep yourself safe from them and 80% of the hard work is done. I’ve written before about mosquito risk and how to keep yourself safe – you can check out that article here.

Supplements

I also like to travel with various supplements, as your immune system is usually a little battered after long weeks on the road. My favourite is Onnit’s Immune Tech, which contains various natural ingredients like ginger, turmeric, chaga mushroom and lemon peel. I also travel with their Spirulina/Chlorella supplement and take it daily. On particularly long or gruelling trips, I take one or two tubs of their Earth Grown Nutrients to keep my vegetable intake up. The tubs are small which makes them easy to pack. Diet and exercise usually suffers on the road, so this helps to mitigate some of the damage!

5. Get currency

Handling your money overseas can be quite confusing for some, especially the more inexperienced travellers. Here are a few tips to save you both stress and money:

  • Try and use an ATM within the Global ATM Alliance. This is a worldwide network of banks that allow travellers to use their ATMs free of charge. You can see the list of banks included in the alliance here. Chances are you already have an account with one.
  • If you are from the USA, get an account with Charles Schwab. Their traveller’s account allows you to use any ATM in the world, free of charge. This will save you a lot of fees.
  • If your trip is short (say 1-2 weeks) just take the maximum amount from the ATM on your first day (or maybe less if your budget says so) and use cash for your trip. If you’re not with one of the alliance banks mentioned above you might take a hit on the ATM fee, probably between $10 and $15, but then you can forgot about any bank fees or exchange fees for the rest of your trip.
  • Always carry around $200USD with you. This is your emergency fund. USD is accepted almost everywhere and having this on me has saved my ass quite a few times.

6. Secure your devices

If you plan on using free wifi networks while overseas, such as in airports, train stations, cafes and hotels, it is important that you secure your connection! Free networks like these are the perfect hunting grounds for hackers and it isn’t uncommon for credit card details and bank logins to get swiped this way.

The best way to secure your connection is to use a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. If you work for a big corporation or work remotely it is possible you are already familiar with these. They encrypt any connection you have to the internet which makes it much more difficult for any of your information to be stolen. As I now earn almost all my money online, I use a VPN 365 days a year, even when I’m not travelling.

For more information on VPNs, how they work, and how to get one, you can check out my post on Staying Safe Using Free Wifi While Travelling.

7. Save important documents

It is not uncommon for travellers to lose documents, passports, visas, ID cards and so on. I highly recommend taking scans of your important documents and storing them digitally. That way you have a backup if anything gets lost or stolen, and will make getting replacements a much easier affair. I always keep scans in my Dropbox (get a free account here), but saving them in your email account is just as effective.

I also take photocopies of my passport and visas and keep them in separate bags, so I always have a copy in case one of them gets lost/stolen.

8. Double check your flight!

Quite a few people get caught out when flying, especially with budget airlines.

For example, with Ryanair, you need to check in online. Not doing so will land you a fee of around $60, and forgetting to print your boarding pass will cost you around $30. Always check the fine print on your ticket and booking confirmation, so you don’t get caught out at the airport. Also, even if your airline doesn’t require you to check in online it usually saves you a lot of time standing in line, so I’d recommend doing it regardless.

Other things you should remember are to not take any liquids over 100ml in your carry-on bag (it’ll get confiscated) along with any sharp objects (knives, scissors) and in some cases, battery packs and powerbanks.

Lastly, always check if your flight is running on time! This can be done from home by simply checking the airport website – there will be a schedule of all departures and arrivals and you can check the status of your flight. There’s nothing worse than rushing to the airport and then finding out your flight is delayed 3 hours.


There are always so many things to remember with travel, so hopefully this helps. For a full list of tools and resources you might find helpful during your trip, such as searching for flights, finding things to do etc, you can check out my travel resources page.

Enjoy your trip!

Bren