I thought I had preparing for a trip - whether big or small - down to a fine art, but on my recent month long visit to Canada in September, I forgot to pack a couple of things. This is so unlike me, I was pretty annoyed with myself. I know you can pick up most items in another Western country (and in most other countries too, although it might take you a little longer to find what you need), but I'm used to being super organised. I guess I just got complacent!
Here's an insight into my preparation checklist:
1) What does the Foreign Office Advice website say about my intended destination/s?
2) Is my passport in date?
3) Do I need visas?
4) Is my travel insurance in date? If I'm travelling to Europe, is my European Health Insurance Card in date?
5) Do I need any of my own medication? I have stand by pills for Vertigo for example.
6) Are my vaccinations up-to-date? Do I need any new jabs? Check Fit for travel website. Book in with the travel clinic if necessary. Do I need anti-malarial medication? Get private prescription for Malerone.
7) What flights are available? How will my ticket be issued? Can I check in online 24 hours before departure?
8) How am I getting to the airport? Can I book my RailAir ticket / taxi now?
9) Can I get the currency in the UK before travel? If yes, check Travelex, Post Office and Marks and Spencer to compare rates.
10) Do I need to pre book hotels?
11) Do I need to pre book any activities?
12) How should I divvy up my spending money - airport transfers, other transport, meals, excursions... Do I take a mixture of cash and cards? Are ATMs available? Do they charge a horrific percentage?
13) What apps do I need to download on my phone? Should I get a local sim card?
14) I get my luggage out at this point, lay it out in the spare bedroom and start dumping stuff in and around it as and when I think of something to pack... Does it fit the airline requirements?
15) Check on clothes / shoes / toiletries / camera gear / travel adapter / lock / money belt / any techy equipment / chargers / books / journal / credit and debit cards / travel money cards / first aid kit...
16) Take photocopies of your passport page, flight tickets, visas and travel insurance and leave with loved ones. Give them a rough idea of your itinerary too and where you'll be, when.
17) Am I making my own way to the hotel once I land at my destination? Explore transport options.
18) Start packing, going through every item - do I really need it? Have I missed anything? Am I carrying anything that could be banned?
19) Once packed, two final things I do - fill out luggage tags and attach them and lock my main suitcase
20) GO AND ENJOY MY TRIP
I never really thought about this until I had to travel on a budget, but filling up on food at these obvious opportunities will help you to keep your money in your pocket and spend it on fun experiences and activities instead. Win Win!
1) Book hotels with breakfast included and then eat until you're stuffed - and then go back for more to take away.
2) Visit local events like farmer's markets or street markets where they often have free wares to sample.
3) Wherever there's free bread at a restaurant, load up on it.
4) Grocery stores can be a great place for free samples especially in the bigger cities.
5) Check out the local magazine / paper you get in your room at the hotel to see what offers restaurants have in the area.
6) Book on tours and activities that have a free meal included. These can be really good like a beach barbecue where the food is plenty, or a buffet lunch in a restaurant - more opportunities for "takeaway"!
Would I be standing on top of an active volcano, ready to ride down it, wearing an orange jumpsuit and sitting on a piece of plywood in my everyday life? Well... No! Of course not. This is a great example of what travel does to you - it takes you outside of your comfort zone and makes you more open to new experiences.
The normal every day is routine: Eat. Sleep. Work. Repeat. There is nothing risky here. You don't take impulsive opportunities and rationality wins the day. But when you travel, it's time to be free and adventurous. I've got to the point now where the whole thing is second nature. I switch off normal me and switch on travel me. When you're globetrotting, there's no time for insecurities. You've got too many other things to think about and too many other things to enjoy and immerse yourself in.
The confidence that comes from travel gives you an edge. You'll never be short of a conversation starter. But, whilst you're travelling, you're open to meeting new people, forging friendships, taking risks, you relax into the journey and experience and stop worrying about the little things.
I've been practicing with the iPhone 6S's Live Photos feature. More work needed... I think it'd be great for action shots... but for now, here's some LPs of London's Strand and Southbank.
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.