After travelling for a while now, we have learnt often from our mistakes to always do these 12 simple things before heading off:
1. Get good insurance
Be wary of the cheapest policies, simply because you are than likely not being covered for everything you might need or the circumstances (certain sports/activities, working abroad, kidnapping, terrorism etc...) The one time an airline lost all my luggage, i went to make a claim and found out I wasn't covered because I had paid for the insurance policy in a different country rather than my home country? After a strongly worded complain they agreed to pay out. Rather than reading all the terms & conditions, (who actually reads those anyway) we always make a quick phone call to double check our specific requirements. Also double check the excess charge too. Nothing worse than needing to claim and finding out you were not properly covered.
2. Get in touch with locals
We always try to make some sort of contact before we get there. If there isn't someone we already know, there is usually a friend of a friend to be put in touch with when we arrive. Or we even just reach out to someone that has been there before. Direct local advice on where to go or not to go is the best, you wouldn't want to miss out on anything. Or you can even use couch surfing or join facebook groups for quick, direct, local advice.
3. Book the 1st nights accommodation
We are spontaneous travellers, but we always book our first night’s stay before we go. Its just one less thing to worry about when arriving in a new country, often jet lagged and sometimes immigration will ask for a local address on arrival. We even try to figure out a rough cost/the best way to get there when we arrive so that we save time & don't get ripped off in a taxi straight away. We once paid 5 times the price in a local taxi just because we didn't know any better at first.
4. Pack Right
We only ever take hand luggage because we hate carrying stuff around and never even using it. If you do this remember no liquids, knives or guns etc... Check the weather of your destinations at the time you are going. Although don't stress too much, if you have forgotten something major, you can always buy it form a market or something when you get there. Check out the 2anoo backpacker kit with all your nifty little essentials, to save yourself time and money.
6. Make Copies
Make copies of your passport, licence, visa papers, insurance, phone numbers, worldwide emergency services/embassies. Email them to yourself & print a few copies to take with you, even leave a copy with someone back home too just in case
7. Sort a phone/sim
We like the thought of not having a phone while travelling but it does make it so much easier. You can get free wifi most places these days but only recently have we discovered how convenient it is to have data access when we travel (especially for maps & fb live vloging). We sometimes just buy a cheap phone or a pay as you go sim when we get to a country. Always check that your phone is unlocked if you are planning on using it and also check the companies mobile coverage for the areas your planning on going to.
8. Check visa and passport entry requirements
Most countries allow western travellers to visit for up to 90 days visa free, but not all. Check online before you travel. Some countries you need to arrange a visa in your home country, with different documents. Give yourself enough time, it could take longer than expected with several visits to the embassy to get it right. We forgot to have our middle names put onto some documents which didn't match our passports so we were denied and had to go again. Sometimes you can just get them online in a few days or sometimes you can just get them on arrival. Tina also stupidly rocked into China a second time round and completely forgot about needing a visa, was put with police and told to choose to return home for free on the flight she arrived on or pay for a flight to Hong Kong and get a visa there. She chose to go to Hong Kong.
9. Money :)
We always find you get a better exchange rates when we get there, than our your home country. If we are going away for a while we use travel cards with a 0% foreign transaction fee & that offer the best rates. Also remember to notify your bank bank/credit card companies so that they don't deactivate your card while you are away. We also always keep a little bit of emergency cash hidden away in a sock or something at the bottom of our backpack. Once an atm at an airport swallowed our travel card, we didn't have a credit card at the time, so the little emergency cash was enough for the hostel, food & drinks for a few days until we could figure something out.
10. Get vaccinated
Always book an appointment with your doctor beforehand to check what recommended vaccines you might need for your destination/s. In the UK some are free, some you have to pay for. Also while you are there, stock up on any prescription medication for the amount of time you are away for, they can usually prescribe at least 1 years worth at a time.
Do little bit of research beforehand, always check your home countries foreign travel advice or register with your embassy. Maybe pack a decoy wallet or money belt. And let some know of your whereabouts or travel plans & keep in contact while on the road.
12. Have fun...