The Big To-Do List for the Big Trip
While Adam and I were planning our big trip, the to-do list got rewritten and added to more times than I could count. But here is the final list of everything to do before setting off on a big trip (with thanks to Rough Guides’ First Time Round the World):
6 months before you leave:
Passport: Check your passport will be valid for at least six months after the trip ends (some countries require this) and has plenty of blank pages for visas.
Itinerary: Start looking at destinations and flights. Consider packages such as round-the-world or multi-stop, but don’t discount buying individual flights. When looking at destinations, keep in mind feasibility (e.g. is there a reliable border crossing where you plan to enter overland?), safety (check the foreign office website to see if they recommend avoiding the country- if so, your insurance may be void if you enter), and cost (e.g. is it worth going to Japan for a week when you could spend a month in China for the same price?). Most important, of course, is to pick the destinations that excite you!
Vaccinations: Check what vaccinations you’ll need, as some courses of injections need to be started several months before you depart.
Budget: Draw up a rough budget and make sure you can afford the trip!
Plan: Think about what you’re going to do abroad and start applying for courses, jobs or voluntary placements if necessary (for us, this meant starting a travel writing course, studying filming, coming up with ideas for videos and stories, and making contacts).
4 months before you leave:
Flights: Book flights, either independently or through an agent.
Insurance: Get travel insurance and make sure that it covers your needs.
Visas: Look up what visas you’ll need and start applying for them if possible. While there are many visa information websites, the most reliable and up to date information will come from the websites of the specific embassy of each country.
2 months before you leave:
Banking: Check that your bank cards won’t expire while you’re away (apply for new ones if necessary). Tell your bank where you’re going and when, so that your card will not be blocked when you use it abroad. Make sure you’re not paying for services you won’t need (I downgraded my account as my travel insurance now covered the added extras I was paying for). Sign up for internet and phone banking if you haven’t already done so.
Doctor and Dentist: Go for a general check up, and make sure you have all your necessary prescriptions for your time away.
Accommodation: Decide what to do with your current home and look for someone to lease it if necessary.
Bills: Sort out the transfer of utility bills to a new tenants name, if necessary.
1 month before you leave:
Make a packing list: Check what you have and what you need to buy.
Buy stuff: Medicines, travel gear, water purification bottle, rain jacket. (Try to buy footwear a few months in advance so you’re not breaking in new shoes on the road).
Post: Get your post forwarded, or get someone to check it for you.
Mobile Phone: Check your current plan to see what roaming charges you may incur abroad, or, if you’re going for a long time, consider trying to downgrade or end your current contract.
The week before you leave:
Pack: Pack your rucksack to take with you, and pack up what you’re leaving behind, if necessary.
Confirm your flight: Check that there have been no changes to your flight, confirm dietary requirements if needed, and check in online, if possible.
Say your goodbyes!: Make plans to see the people who matter to you and make plans to keep in touch while you’re away.