Sunday, 18 February 2018
How I plan for trips to foreign countries
Greetings! I mentioned in my winter fun list update post that I'm planning a trip to Chile in March. It will be my first time visiting Chile solo. I don't have any family or friends there and the official language in Chile is Spanish. After researching and booking my flights and accommodations weeks ago, I took a break. Now I'm slowly getting back into trip planning state of mind which prompted me to share how I plan for trips to foreign countries.
How I plan for trips to foreign countries:
1. Read and inquire about potential destinations: This gives me an idea of where the country is located, its general safety level, entry requirements, how to get there, the main attractions, the official language spoken, currency used, availability of public transit, and general cost of living compared to my home city. I do most of my travel readings online by visiting the official web sites, travel web sites, and blogs. I also talk to my family and friends in case they have been to the destinations.
2. Select the destination to visit: Once I've done step 1, I select the country to visit based on my availability to travel, the weather at the destination for when I plan to visit, my interests, and travel budget. In general, I prefer to visit countries that do not require a visa to enter. I also check to see if any vaccination is necessary. If a visa or vaccinations are required, they take more preparation, more time, and incur more expenses. The local weather is important as it affects what to pack, how comfortable it is for outdoor activities, and how easy it is to get good photos. Who wants to walk in pouring rain with moisture fog on the camera lens, right?
3. Book my flights: I check various flight-booking web sites and the official web sites of the airlines to compare fares before booking.
4. Book my accommodations: I check various accommodation booking sites, and the hotel web sites to compare rates and read their cancellation policy before booking. Depends on my flight arrival and departure time, the room check-in and check-out time sometimes play a factor in my booking decision. Free WiFi is always a plus.
5. Book my train tickets or bus tickets or car rental if applicable: I prefer to visit countries where I can take trains or buses, as opposed to drive a car. I'd book my tickets in advance for popular routes, or trains that require seat reservation. Some rail companies give significant discounts for early bookings, like when I travelled by train in Ireland. I usually book directly with the rail or bus company.
6. Buy a SIM card in advance if needed: It's nice to have my mobile device working upon arrival. In some countries, it's less expensive to buy at the airport upon arrival but language may be an issue to complete the transaction, or the store is closed when I arrive.
7. Buy travel insurance: To have peace of mind and coverage should I need it. I add the insurance contact number and my insurance policy number to my mobile device and my contact list (see #10 below).
8. Buy foreign currency: To have a small amount of cash on hand upon arrival, and to be familiar with the bills in advance. I also print out a cheat sheet with Canadian dollars and the foreign currency travel exchange rates that I found here, and put it in my wallet. It's very useful to quickly figure out the exchange rates and how much I'm spending. It worked wonder when I explored Central Europe and used three foreign currencies (euro, forint, and koruna).
9. Notify my bank and credit card company: To inform them of my travel plans and when I may use my card abroad. I add their 24/7 phone numbers to my contact list in case my card is lost or stolen.
10. Have useful tools ready: I'm referring to maps, or a phrase book. I prep my mobile device for what I need for the trip, and create a contact list with key contact information. I usually keep the contact list both on my device and a hard copy (see #12 below).
11. Let someone know: I leave my itinerary, booking confirmations, and a copy of important documents with someone close and whom I can contact during my trip. I also register on Government of Canada Travel Abroad web site.
12. Have a back up: I keep a hard copy of my IDs, confirmed reservations, and key contact information separate from the originals, as well as an electronic version on my mobile device.
13. Book my airport transfers if needed: I usually take airport shuttle service or local transit to get from the airport to the city centre and vice versa. Most of the time, I can buy tickets on site. In some destinations, it's wise to book the transfer service a few days in advance.
14. Pack my carry-on and day pack: I travel light and my luggage has always been under the allowable weight. It's a good practice to pack and carry before departure date, to see how comfortable I am with the overall weight.
15. Check in my flight and get my boarding pass 24 hours in advance: Most airlines that I fly with offer this option. Having my boarding pass in advance saves me time at the airport.
That's pretty much how I plan for trips to foreign countries.
How about you? What do you do differently? Please share.