Sun cream, beach reading, swimming costume… What else do you need to go on holiday? While packing your suitcase is definitely necessary, you also need to prepare for a trip by doing a little research and administration. It’s not an exciting prospect, but it could save you a huge amount of stress in the long run.
If you want to avoid ending up in a police station, embassy or facing a mammoth health bill, it pays to take a few precautions before going away.
1. Check your passport
How does it feel to arrive at an airport only to find your passport has expired? Hopefully you will never find out. Before you travel, double check that your passport is valid; some countries won’t let you in unless it has six months left to go.
You may also need a visa for your destination. Leave plenty of time to obtain this. Ensure you fill in the emergency contact details section of your passport. If something happens to you, your loved ones can be told instantly using this information.
2. Get insurance and health cover
It is never worth the risk of travelling without insurance. It covers so many eventualities, from compensating for thefts to covering the cost of cancellations or taking you home if you are sick. Check that your insurance covers you if you plan to do risky activities like extreme sports.
Make sure you have a free European Health Insurance Card when travelling within European Economic Area countries. It will secure you free or reduced cost health care if you need it, not to mention saving a lot of complicated paperwork. Find out whether you need injections for your destination and make sure you are protected. Don’t forget to take your usual medications with you too.
3. Know the risks for you in your destination
We all want to relax on holiday, but that doesn’t mean you can let your guard down completely. Check the Foreign Office site for advice on your destination, and research risk of things like crime, adverse weather and civil unrest. Don’t leave valuables on display, use common sense and respect local customs and dress codes.
Take particular care when taking photos, videos or using binoculars around sensitive sites such as military installations and government buildings. You may be seen as a security threat by security services.
4. Handling cash
In many developed countries travellers can rely on debit or credit cards without a problem, but it’s a good idea to have a supply of currency just in case. For more remote destinations it is advisable to carry enough money to cover emergencies and delays. Consider taking multiple payment cards in case one fails.
Some countries still accept travellers cheques. If you choose to use them, ensure you make a separate note of their numbers.
5. Who to tell you are going away
Tell family and friends that you are going away and leave them details of your contact information, insurance policy, itinerary, and passport number. Consider asking friends or neighbours to pick up post while you are away.
You may want to take your mobile or other device away with you so you are contactable. If so, check this is covered by your insurance and that your mobile service provider supports usage abroad.