There are so many things to do before departure, except getting a visa (if needed) and tickets.
Below are some of the things I do, based on my or my friends’ experiences and mistakes. They’re divided into two groups: research (can be through internet, friends, or book guides) and packing. Depending on the destination, some of them might not be applicable.
- general climate and weather forecast for my stay;
- the website of my Embassy in the country I go to (must write down contact information);
- vaccines requirements, possible illnesses;
- ATMs, cards or potential money issues.
Weather, health and money-related issues are for your own well-being. Contact to Embassy is a must in case anything happens. Doesn’t matter if it’s just for a weekend, write it down. You never know.
- places of interests to you and rough travel plan
- transport inside the city and country (mainly focused on how to get to the points of interests);
- hotels for at least the first and last nights in a country if you plan to move a lot.
Counting on planning travel from inside the country can be rough if you don’t have basic knowledge of possibilities. And might waste your time. There are also sometimes special offers for tourists coming from abroad. You may not be able to get them inside that country (like JR Pass for trains in Japan).
- language (including basic phrases);
- dominating religion and info on it if it’s not something you’re used to;
- etiquette (especially what you shouldn’t do);
- get to know some modern culture (films, book, music) made by a person from that country;
- basic history of the place you go to.
Getting this much research is indeed very handy. There is no nation in the world (I think) that doesn’t appreciate you taking your time to know basics about their country. It’s a sign of respect, and trust me, it can help you greatly in your trips. Who knows what you may discover or what you can see just because of this attitude.
- Write down a list of what you must take with yourself. Medicine, glasses, universal adapter, camera, etc.
- Make a beta packing, walk with it, sleep over it and a few days later pack again. Don’t pack the night before.
- Pack lightly, don’t take more than you can handle. Don’t pack maybe-I-will-use-it things, you probably won’t if you rarely use them. You might have to carry on your luggage by yourself.
- Don’t take too many clothes – you can always wash them.
- Copy your travel documents, print out or write down hotel information, get the contact to Embassy and put all of it into travel documents holder. Protect your passport from water in documents holder too.
- Don’t pack all the money in one place, have it in several places, also outside the luggage. Have enough cash (in the destination’s currency) to get easily for the first 24 hours. That includes money for hotel, transport, food and some spare money.
- Pack notes and a pen in a place where you can easily get it from.
That’s the general tips which are useful for travels, weekend or longer. What are your tips? What do you think I should add?