If you are planning for a gap year or a long trip away, there are certain important things you will need to sort out before you leave for travelling. Here are my top 20 things to sort out before a long trip and before you get your bum on that plane:-
1. Work- If you are employed, which is more than likely as you need dollar to travel, then you need to think about telling your bosses about your travel plans. Make sure that you read your contract and give the correct notice, to avoid any legal problems. Giving in my notice was one of the worst things but I felt relieved after I had done it. Once I handed in my notice, the trip started to feel real.
2. Commitments - Are you a member of a sports team, or have you made any commitments before you knew you were travelling. I was mentoring a Law Student at University and I had to make sure that I found another mentor for him before I left. If you do have any commitments, it best to give as much notice that you are going to be leaving the country, so arrangements can be made, rather than leaving things to the last minute.
3. House/Flat- Your home is one of the main things to sort out. If you are renting, how long is on your tenancy and if you are planning on leaving before your contract is up, then ensure to pay your rent upfront or negotiate with your landlord beforehand. If you own a house, then you may either need to look for tenants to cover the mortgage, or you need to factor mortgage payments into your travel budget if you don't want to rent out your house.
4. House Insurance- This is linked to point 3, but if you are leaving your property for long periods of time, then you may need to change your house insurance to unoccupied house insurance, or else you may run the risk of your insurance not being valid if you do have to claim.
5. Budget and save- Another vital point is setting your budget and saving your hard earned money. I have a separate blog post on how to save for travelling, which you can read here.
6. Flights- Start thinking about booking those flights. You will need to weigh up if booking the flights on your own, or using an around the world ticket suits you best. If you are booking a lot of flights, I would recommend starting a spreadsheet to track what you have booked, the booking reference and the general details. I also drag the email confirming the booked flight, into my calendar and then back this up on my phone. I also have a printed version of the spreadsheet, just in case I lost my phone and laptop and also left a copy with parents.
7. Jabs- Depending on where you are going, you may have to have jabs before you travel. You need to organise an initial meeting with the doctor, to discuss each country you are going so they can give you specific advice to your route. If the doctors do advise you that you need jabs, then make sure you book the first jab in more than enough time. It is also worth noting that some countries will require you to carry a certificate confirming you have had certain jabs, so double check that your destination doesn't require this, as you need to get this before you travel.
8. Visas- A lot of countries do require you to have a visa, but a lot of countries you can obtain when you arrive. I made a list of each country I was planning on visiting and then used the Government website to see if I had to apply for a visa before we left. Again this is something that needs to be sorted in enough time, as if you don't have the correct visa, it could cause massive problems and stress. For example, in India, if you arrive without a valid visa, they will put you on a plane straight back home.
9. Travel Insurance- This is VITAL! I know some people risk it for a biscuit, but I think this is one of the most important things to sort out before travelling. It should be at the top of the list. Do your research and make sure that you don't just go for the cheapest policy you can find, as it might not cover your needs or activities and this may be in the inner lawyer in me....but read the small print.
10. Change money or get a prepaid card- Money is one thing that you need before you travel but if you are going travelling for a long period of time, it can be hard to decide how to deal with the logistics of moving around different countries, with different currencies. I always like to get an emergency stash of money changed, just to make sure I can get out the airport to the hotel, or at least get to a cash point. Obviously, if you are going on a year-long trip, you can't take all of your cash with you, so you can simply take your bank card, or put some money onto a pre-paid card, or in my case, a combination of both. It is also worth checking if there are any restrictions, for example in India you take more than Rs. 25,000 out of India there is a penalty. Luckily for me, there is no chance this would cause a problem on our backpacking budget!
11. Pets- Saying goodbye to pets is one of the hardest things, as they can't understand why you have randomly disappeared. I am obsessed with my parent's dog, Molly, and I find it very hard saying goodbye to her :(. If you have your own pets, you need to ensure that you have someone ready to look after your pet, or if you are having to put your pet into kennels, then this needs to be factored into your budget.
12. Car- If you are not selling your car before your trip, then have you got somewhere to store it? Or in my case, I let my sister, Alice, borrow my car which worked out for both of us, as Alice got a car and the car was not left sat for months on end.
13. Inform your bank- Let your bank know about your travel plans so they can make a note on your account that you are not in the UK. It is very common for the banks to block your account, as it looks like suspicious activity. You should also try and remember to update your bank when you move from country to country, not just at the start of the trip. I can actually do this through my banking app on my phone, which is extremely helpful.
14. Make sure passport is valid- Again, this should really be at the top of the list, as without a valid passport, your not going anywhere. It is important to make sure that there is 6 months remaining on your passport, from the last stop of your trip, as this is a criterion for entering many countries.
15. Change your mobile phone plan- Do you need to update your mobile phone plan? You will not be able to the use the data and minutes while in the majority of countries, so you might be wasting money. I went onto a much cheaper plan and didn't upgrade my phone, as I didn't want to take a brand new phone travelling. It might also be worth unlocking your phone so you can purchase SIM cards in your new country.
16. Buy a decent backpack/luggage- This is one thing you shouldn't scrimp on, it is basically your home for your trip and you do not want it falling apart. After a lot of research, I went for an Osprey Sojourn 80 litre ( I LOVE IT).
17. Go to the doctors and dentist - Before you go on a long trip, you can go to the doctors and dentist for a check-up, to make sure that there is nothing untoward. Like a lot of other things, you need to go a few months beforehand, just in case there is something wrong.
18. Making sure you have all medication- If you are on any medication, make sure you have talked to your doctor about your plans and make sure you have enough for your trip. For certain medications, you require a letter from a doctor to have it in your carry on, so double check with your doctor if you need some of the these.
19. Cancel any memberships- Are you a member of a gym, or do you pay a monthly subscription for magazines? If you do, make sure you have cancelled these beforehand, so you are not incurring any unnecessary expenses.
20. Buy things you can't buy while you are away- This will be minimal, but there are some bits and bobs you will need to sort out before you travel. For example, we had to purchase the JLR Pass (Japanese Rail Pass) before we left the UK, as you are not able to get this when you are in Japan.
So there are my top things to sort out before going travelling. Some points are obviously more important than others, but I hope this is a good starting point for you.