40 things to do before going overseas
Last-minute travel panic is the worst. We hope you board your plane with excitement and optimism, not with worries and regrets, such as:
“I wish I would have bought tickets for that concert. Now it’s all sold out.”
“How am I going to get from the airport to the Airbnb?”
“Did I lock the back door?”
Details like these don’t manage themselves, and a lack of forethought and preparation can prevent travellers from relaxing into their holiday. As romantic as on-the-spur-of-the-moment travel may seem, a truly restful holiday stems from thorough preparation.
If you’re worried about forgetting pre-planning essentials, this article is for you. We’ve put together some time-sensitive tasks that you can accomplish in easy steps.
Timeline: 6 months until you jet off
- Make sure you have a current passport: Many countries require that your passport is valid for at least six months after your intended return date. Make sure you research this ‘six-month rule’ on Smartraveller to avoid unwanted surprises at immigration.
- Check the visa requirements for your travel destinations: If it’s too soon to apply for your visa now, mark your calendar for the appropriate timing.
- Research vaccinations and malaria pills, and make appointments to receive pre-trip medical care, if necessary.
- If you plan on driving, apply for an international driving permit: Learn more about which countries require an IDP at the Australian Automobile Association.
- Buy your airline tickets: Familiarise yourself with the terms of your tickets, and send your itinerary to everyone in your travel party.
- Get your travel insurance as soon as you book your trip, so you’re covered for any unexpected delays or cancellations that happen ahead of travel.
- Travelling with pre-existing medical conditions? Complete our online medical assessment during the online application process to learn about additional coverage options.
Timeline: 3 months to go
- Talk to your bank about managing your money overseas. For example, will you be able to withdraw cash from a foreign ATM or use it as a form of payment in shops and restaurants? Are there any charges for using your card overseas?
- Pre-book activities for your holiday: Reserve tickets to shows, festivals or sports events. Book tables at popular restaurants to avoid lines and disappointment. Visit local tourism websites for calendars of events so you know what’s taking place during your stay.
- Plan your itinerary, including local transport: Use Google Maps to research travel options, routes and the distance of activities to your accommodation.
- Learn a few basic local phrases: Download a language app like Duolingo so you can practice common phrases and basic vocabulary in your spare time.
- Research local customs and etiquette: Read blogs and watch travel vlogs for up-close-and-personal accounts of your destination.
- Find holiday accommodation for your pet: This can book up fast during key holiday periods, so make sure you organise this well in advance of your trip. Do you need to take bedding, medication and food? Are your pet’s vaccinations, worming and flea treatments up to date? If you’ve got pet insurance, let them know you’ll be going overseas.
Timeline: Just 1 month left
- Let your bank know about your travel plans: If their systems recognise unusual charges in a foreign country, banks may put a hold on your account.
- Research options for calling home: Avoid running up substantial bills when you’re travelling due to roaming charges. Contact your phone company to learn more, and if necessary, purchase an international SIM card, so you have phone service when you’re overseas.
- Pay or schedule any bills that will be due while you’re away. This is one of the easiest ways to avoid nagging worries about home.
- Prepare to protect your health while you travel. From making sure you have enough medication for the duration of your trip, to researching location-specific health hazards, learn more about how to stay healthy overseas.
- Add your travel details to Smartraveller for updates about travel alerts and emergencies during your stay.
- Research exchange rates to get the best deal: Study up on the do’s and don’ts of exchanging money overseas.
- Pre-book an airport lounge for long layovers. If you have special dietary needs, contact your airline to order appropriate meals. Also, choose your seats on the plane, especially if you have long legs or will be travelling with children. Read up on our airport hacks for tips and tricks to breeze through check-in, security and more.
- Make sure any medication you're taking is legal at your destination. Check with the embassy, high commission or consulate in the country you’ll be visiting.
- Double-check the information in your travel policy, and call us if you have any questions.
- Put SCTI contact information in your phone in case of an emergency:
Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Call us from Australia: 1800 196 484
Call us from overseas: +61 2 9191 1180
Call Southern Cross Emergency Assistance: +61 2 9191 1180
Timeline: just 1 more week
- Print your itinerary, and hotel, car and flight confirmations and give a copy to a friend or family member in case someone needs to get in touch with you while you’re abroad.
- Scan and print two copies of your passport ID page and your visa: Give a copy to a trusted friend or family member, and keep one copy with you. If your passport is stolen, this will make it easier to get replacements and make a satisfactory police report.
- Pack a few days before your trip: If you find that some of your items need to be replaced, you’ll still have time to buy new ones. Take a look at our ultimate travel checklist for helpful tips and tricks.
- Download travel apps: And don’t forget to check the available space on your phone. If you don’t have enough room for the pictures and videos you’ll want to take, back up your current photos and delete them. Use a travel planning app to track your preparations and progress.
- Download books and movies onto your devices.
- Plan your route to the airport: Your travel insurance doesn’t cover missed flights because you’re late.
- Check Smartraveller for any government warnings at your destination.
- Check your packing limits and restrictions: These details will be in the airline booking terms. Weigh your baggage once it’s packed to avoid stressful adjustments at the airport check-in counter.
- Have a look at the weather at your destination, so you know what to pack.
- Arrange for mail to be picked up or held at the post office: A full post box and pile of newspapers may suggest the house is empty and put you at risk of being burgled. Stop your regular deliveries for the duration of your holiday.
- Tell trusted neighbours you'll be overseas: Secure your home and, if you feel comfortable, leave a key with a trusted friend or neighbour so that they can keep an eye on things while you’re away.
- Have a plan for travelling from the airport to your accommodation once you land. You’ll be tired and it’s always wise to research reputable transport companies – particularly if you’re in a new environment. Learn more about how to avoid taxi scams.
Timeline: the day before
- Get a good night’s sleep: Start your holiday off on the right foot feeling refreshed and rested. You never know if you’ll be able to sleep on the plane, so do yourself a favour and sleep well the night before.
- Secure your home: Turn off the lights - you may want to invest in a timer that schedules them to turn on and off at a set time, to give the impression that someone’s at home. Double-check window and door locks. If you are gone for more than a week, turn off the internal water valve to avoid floods from old water hoses.
- Get snacks for the trip: Avoid feeling hungry during delays and layovers by packing a few of your favourite munchies in your cabin bag. This is especially important if you have food allergies, as it can be difficult to find speciality items in airport shops.
- Charge your devices before arriving at the airport. Top up your portable chargers as well.
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