I head to Berlin in just two weeks and am busy getting myself organised. Organisation is the key to stress-free nomadic travel. I wanted to share my pre-departure checklist in case you decide to embark on a trip sometime soon. Good thing, too, because writing this post reminds me I need to get a move on a few of these tasks!
While you might be able to get away with having screen shots of the following on your phone, I still recommend printing them out. That way you’ll still have all the information you need to continue your journey even if a catastrophe befalls your phone (or if it simply runs out of battery).
- All flight, rail, and transportation reservations – find out the check-in policies for each airline you will use on your journey. Some airlines only allow you to check-in online. You can check-in days in advance and email yourself a copy of your boarding pass in addition to printing them out.
- Proof of onward travel and bank statements – if you are visiting a country without a visa, you may need to prove you are in fact leaving the country in a timely manner. Depending on the length of your stay, you may also need to prove that you can financially support yourself during your trip. This varies by country. Some borders are hassle-free to enter, other border crossings require more patience because immigration officers will ask more questions about your travel plans.
- All flat and/or hostel reservations with addresses and contact information.
- Photocopy of your passport (in case you lose it or it gets stolen).
Email this important information to email yourself:
- Your credit card and/or debit card number, and the bank’s contact number (that way you can easily cancel them if they get stolen).
- Also, make sure you notify your bank(s) of your travel plans in advance so they don’t freeze your account because of ‘suspicious’ overseas transactions.
- Boarding passes and rail tickets if possible (in case you lose your hard copies of these).
For your own safety and security:
- If you’re an American, take note of the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate in every location you plan on visiting and save important addresses and phone numbers (including the emergency after hours phone number). The State Department lists an overseas citizens emergency number–-save this in your phone. You will need to call this number if your passport gets stolen. Read up on what you can do in an emergency.
- As an extra precaution, Americans can enroll in the STEP Smart Traveler Enrollment Program online. This is a free service that lets you enroll your trip itinerary with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. This allows the Embassy to contact you about important safety information (like a terrorist threat or civil war outbreak, earthquake, and when/where you must evacuate). It will also help your family or friends contact you in the event of an emergency.
- Check for travel warnings and alerts for the countries you will be visiting on the U.S. Department of State website.
- Select the country you plan to visit and read everything, but pay close attention to these sections: entry, exit, and visa requirements; safety and security; and local laws and special circumstances.
- Let a friend or family member know your travel plans. Provide addresses for your accommodations in addition to flight information and schedule ‘check-in’ times. For instance, I will email my boyfriend the names and addresses of all my Couchsurfing hosts and any hostels, and plan when I can ‘check-in’ with him online. This way he always knows where I am and that I am safe. If I don’t check-in for some time, he will know to contact the U.S. Embassy. This very important to me since I am traveling alone and will be meeting (and couch surfing) with people I haven’t met in person.
Other helpful tips:
- Triple check how long it will take you to drive (or take a bus) to the airport before the day of your departure, and plan for traffic. I aim to arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before my flight’s scheduled departure.
- Take a few screenshots (on your phone) of Google Maps showing you the route from your destination airport to wherever you are staying. This ensures you’ll still be able to find your way to the flat or hostel even if the internet connection is super slow at your destination.
- Check common etiquette and taboos for your destination. You don’t want to be that ignorant tourist flaunting the bottom of your feet to others in a foreign country where it’s considered offensive and rude.
- This may also prevent you from being imprisoned in a foreign country. Did you know it is a serious criminal offense in Thailand to make critical or defamatory comments about the King or royal family? You could face a prison sentence of three to fifteen years! Do your research and always be respectful of other cultures.
I can’t believe I leave Scotland so soon! Where has the time gone?
What would you add to this checklist?