Travel is one of the most rewarding and enriching things we can do for ourselves. Overseas travel gives you an opportunity where you can learn about other cultures and ways of life, and also learn about yourself by putting yourself in different situation and experiences a completely different way of life and having to rise above all the challenges thrown at you, especially if you’re somewhere where they don’t speak your native tongue. Traveling can really be one of the best things you do for yourself and will help to broaden your horizons. But what if it is your first time overseas and it all seems a bit overwhelming, where to begin? Well never fear, here are some hacks that can make planning and packing for your trip that much easier.
Planning Your Destination
If you don’t already have a destination in mind but you are itching to get out there into the big wide world. Start by thinking about what kind of experience you want to have. Are you wanting to backpack, stay in air bnb’s or in it for the more luxe adventure? Start by setting a goal.
Think about if this trip is more of a getaway and a way to unwind and just chill or if you are in it to push your boundaries and have more of a ‘local’ experience.
You can of course get inspired by other peoples pictures on social media, but always remember that their photos may not tell the full story of a place. Try instead to look at lonely planet travel guides and chat with people who have been to the places you are interested in to get more of a rounded knowledge of what a place is like first.
So you know where you want to go? What next?
When you have decided on a destination it’s great to do as much research as you can. I’m not talking about enrolling yourself in a class for the full history lesson! But it’s great to be prepared in knowing what to expect and when you are a bit more familiar with what is around it makes travel through the country a lot easier.
Reading up on guided and even trip adviser can be a great way to get some insight into what is around accommodation and attraction wise. But you should also spend a bit of time looking at maps from the area to get familiar. It’s no good wanting a seaside holiday but booking into somewhere that is actually an hour ride away from the beach!!
When you have decided what kind of accommodation you want and the area, spend a bit of time looking into the public transport or the availability and price of taxi services, the last thing you want is to be stuck in an area without an easy mode of transport. In Europe there are often a lot of good public transport options and trains for those longer journeys and in South East Asia you will usually be able to find taxi services are very cheap. So take the time to have a good look at what your options are so you know what you are getting yourself into.
Booking your flights can be an equally exciting and daunting process. First of all I would be looking at matching up your own availability with the seasons of the place you are wanting to visit. If you are desperate for a Scandinavian summer but can’t travel until Christmas time, then you should probably look at some other alternatives. A lot of places closer to the equator also have their wet and dry seasons. Usually high seasons are in the dry season so that can mean more expensive flights and more crowds but possibly better weather. Read some forums to make sure you are traveling in the dates that will suit what you are going to a place for or you could find yourself trapped indoors in the middle of monsoon season!
Now if you have specific dates you need to travel in then it is best to book your tickets as far in advance as possible to get cheaper deals. If you are booking for yourself online make sure to have a look at a few sites and airlines to try and get the cheapest dates. If your dates are a little more flexible than flight websites often have a great feature that allows you to look at the cheapest times to fly within a set month, this can really help get you a great deal. Airlines too often have last minute deals and specials, but don’t become too reliant on getting one or you may miss a good price entirely.
If you are booking your own flights online one thing to take special note of it your connecting flights. If you have a big trip planned and have to take more than one flight then take special care to look at the flight times. Some flights that may be suggested to you may only have a very small flight window for your connection and not all airlines will put you on the next available flight for free if you miss your connection. It’s good to give yourself a few hours a least to connect, especially if it is in a big airport, you’ll be surprised at how huge some can be and how long they take to navigate! It’s always better to have to wait an extra hour or too than to be completely stressed for time and running through the airport to get to your gate in time.
Some flight connections may require you to have an overnight stay. Not all airports allow you to sleep in them overnight. If they are a smaller airport it is most likely then will close after twelve at night and not open again until five in the morning. So do your homework about what is around you. Some airports do have airport hotels within the terminals if you don’t want to leave the airport, these can often be expensive but also sometimes worth it if you have an awkward time frame. Or you can usually find some hotels or accommodation between 1-3 km away. Just be sure to pre book and let them know what time you are expected to land so you don’t end up locked out!
If you are nervous about booking your fights over the internet and having to arrange your own connections then you can always go to a good old fashion travel agent. They can be great in getting you cheap deals but also tailoring your flights to suit you and the travel times you are comfortable with. Travel agents are these days not much more if at all more expensive than doing it yourself and you can rest easy knowing that if anything goes wrong you have someone to call and to help you out of a jam.
Travel insurance often seems like that annoying thing we don’t really need do we? And if you are going to stay with relatives for a few weeks in the UK and are not taking any valuable items with you then maybe it is not on your top list of priorities but I can assure you it is worthwhile looking into. Shop around to find one that suits you and be sure to read the fine print, a lot of insurance companies have certain clauses on their insurance and won’t for example cover anything that is stolen at night from what they deem and ‘insecure’ place. So take time to have a look at what you really need covered. If you are traveling with a lot of technology, laptop computers and cameras then it is worth making sure you are covered for up to as much as they are actually worth. Another thing travel insurance is great for is any kind of injuries that may occur. Injuries can often come from accidents out of your control and it’s good to know you will be able to receive medical care that you won’t have to spend the rest of your life paying off! But take not that is you are into extreme sports some insurance companies will not cover you fro accidents that happen while skiing or snowboarding, or you may have to pay extra to be covered for those things.
Travel insurance can be great for the little things too, like having delayed flights or luggage, particularly if you are flying with budget airlines and they will mostly not cover the cost of your accommodation if your flight is delayed a day or two.
Your Tickets are Booked So…
Now your accommodation and your tickets are booked and you’ve worked out your travel insurance, it’s time to start packing. Depending on how much moving around you will be doing will depend of the amount of luggage you will need. One of the biggest pitfalls of packing for an overseas holiday is over packing!! If you are going to be traveling around a lot backpacking style you are going to have to give up your dream of a different outfit for everyday and get a bit more real! You never need as much as you think you will, if you’ve near the ocean you’ll often end up spending more time in your swimwear than anything else. So it’s best to look at where you are going and think of the essentials.
If you are going somewhere relatively warm then have a good look at what you will really need. It’s always good to take at least one pair of jeans or leggings even in a tropical country as you may get those occasional cold nights, and they are great from traveling in, remember airports are often air-conditioned! Take as well a long sleeve top and if you are going to the tropics bring a light rain jacket.
The general rule is to take just enough to last you three days without having to wash anything! Most places you go you will have access to clothes washing facilities and if not, there is always the shower to wash your underwear or t-shirts.
Another thing to keep in mind is the religion of a particular country. There are some places you go where they have quite strict dress codes so make sure you have appropriate clothing so that you can be respectful and also not uncomfortable. Long pants or a long skirt and a long sleeve top is always good to have on hand if by chance you are visiting a temple or invited into locals home where it is appropriate to cover up. You don’t have to fully adapt to another countries religious dress, but it is good to show you respect their culture.
Good footwear is also something to consider, even if you are not planning to do big hikes or a lot of walking, flimsy thongs or sandals will over not do, make sure you have a sturdy sandal or shoe that is comfortable enough to walk around in all day, you never know when someone might offer to take you on a picturesque walk, or you might get lost in the city and end up wandering around for hours. Blisters can be a traveler’s worst enemy.
If you are going to a colder climate or somewhere for the winter season you really need to be prepared as much as possible. Have a look at what the locals in the region wear, and even take a look on some online forums to see if people have any suggestions. It can be hard to pack ‘light’ for winter destinations but realistically you often need only one good warm jacket for outdoor use, one nice going out jacket and then some warm undergarments as well as your usual jeans trousers and tops. It can be hard to find the right gear especially if you are coming from a country that is currently in a different season so it may pay to shop internationally online beforehand. Keep in mind also that a lot of cold countries have excellent heating inside and often you will be traveling form warm place to warm place which is why it is good to have one ultra warm jacket that allows you to wear not too many layers underneath so you don’t have to sweat while you strip off layer after later each time you walk into a warm shop or home.
Your toiletries bag can often end up weighting way too much. With all your shampoos and lotions and makeup. It’s time to take good look at what you really need and strip it back. If you will be spending a lot of time outside then sunscreen is a must and insect repellent for tropical climates. Often you don’t need your whole big bottle of shampoo and you can transfer some of it into smaller more travel friendly bottles. Also keep in mind what is available in the country you are going to and the price. If you are traveling to a country you know you can get the brands of personal items you want then you won’t really need to take that much with you but if you are going somewhere a little more remote then it may be worth taking some items you don’t think you’ll be able to get, so you don’t get caught out.
No matter where you are going it’s always a good idea to take even a small first aid kit with you, so that if anything you’ll be able to sort yourself out to a degree and not have to spend a day searching for a pharmacy to get some band aids from! It’s always best to be prepared.
Luggage and flying
Remember to pre weigh your luggage beforehand. Some airlines have very strict policies on weight and will sting you if you are even one kg over. So make sure you have allowed for ample room and weight before heading to check in. You can usually add extra bags onto your flight up to a day before you leave if you need to. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
You’re ready to go!!
So now you’re all booked and your bags are packed you’re ready to get on a plane and enjoy the amazing experiences you will have when you’re traveling overseas. Always remember to keep friends and family posted on where you are and leave them with a contact number of your hotel or at least the name of the town you are in. You can also log in your travel details to government sites so that in case of any national emergency they will be able to find you. Enjoy the sights and sounds and be safe!!