It can be hard to start planning your next trip when you have to fly abroad, especially if it’s something you don’t do so often or it’s the first time. What’s the first step? And the second? And then?
Travelling abroad for a long trip can seem overwhelming with too much stuff to think about. So, as frequent travellers, we wanted to share with you a list of steps we always follow. We hope you find them useful!
1. Book your flights.
Assuming you already know where you want to go, there’re a few websites we always check when we want to book our flights.
Probably the most well-known travel fare aggregator. It’s just a search engine that compares offers from different providers and give you the best deals.
Another great travel fare aggregator for finding really cheap flights.
A search engine for smaller carriers.
Once we know which flight we want to book, we always go to the carrier’s website to buy the tickets. We know this is the expensive way, but when things don’t go as planned you know where to claim…
We always try to find the most economical flight that better suits our travel plan but safety is an important factor for us too. In Europe, the carriers are well known for us and subject to high standards of maintenance and regulatory oversight. Things might be different in other parts of the world.
Once we have down-selected the flight that suits us we check the carriers on airlineratings.com. You have access to a comprehensive list of safety criteria in addition to seat pitch, baggage policy, and other inflight products. But above all, safety.
For instance, we wouldn’t consider a company that is in the EU blacklist or operates old Soviet Union aircraft. A few times we have found ourselves in this situation and decided to change our travel arrangements.
2. Travel guides and route
We really love when it comes to this step. Preparing the route and finding lovely travel guides and books about the destination. This is good as you can learn so much stuff and also gives you an idea of the culture, climate and a general view of the trip.
Below are a few travel guides that we absolutely love:
3. Travel insurance.
Get travel insurance. We can’t really recommend lots of companies for this because we’ve always used the same: World Nomads, and we are very happy with it.
It can cover not just medical expenses but trip cancellations, lost baggage and personal liability.
The cover will depend on the countries you’re visiting and the length of the trip. If you’re planning to do any risky activities, don’t forget to state it! otherwise, it won’t be covered.
4. Get your vaccinations done.
Depending on where you’re going, you might need to be vaccinated. So the first step is to go to these websites:
Once you know the vaccinations you need, check with your GP practice to find out whether your existing UK vaccinations are up-to-date. You might be able to get some of them free on the NHS. For the rest, you need to visit a travel vaccination clinic, like this one in London, or pharmacy offering travel self-care services.
Keep in mind that you might need to get the vaccines well in advance or several doses, so don’t leave it for the last minute.
Some countries also require proof of vaccination (ICVP) before you enter the country.
5. Prepare a small bag of a first aid kit
This is something we always do when travelling abroad. It might seem very obvious but you never know what can happen.
NHS has a comprehensive list of what to pack to stay healthy. We’ll tell you what we always bring in every trip:
- insect repellent
- insect bite treatment
- constipation relief
If you need something else or prescribed medication for your health condition, it’s also important to check what medicine you can take abroad.
6. Find your accommodation
We’re not really into planning every detail of our trips. Usually, we only book the first couple of nights and then we just keep a broadly defined travel itinerary. But unless we have local advice, every time we want to find where to stay, we always check the following websites:
An online community that connects people looking to rent their homes with people who are looking for accommodations.
Probably the biggest hotel and restaurant review’s site. We could write an entire post on what we don’t like about TripAdvisor. But it’s still a great platform to check out places. However, we never do our bookings through their site.
Similar to TripAdvisor, but a much smaller community. In this case, the reviews are written by reliable sources such as travel writers.
A very powerful website to find out a wide range of accommodations and lodge reservations. For some small businesses, it’s the only online booking tool.
7. Tourist visa
The need for a visa to travel will depend on your nationality and destination. Our advice is to check first with your national foreign office, as in some cases it can be easily sorted out. Below we describe a few possible scenarios:
- Travel with your passport. No visa required
- An electronic visa is required, such as ESTA for travelling to the US. In this case, you just need to fill out the form online and pay the fee.
- Visa on arrival, you can request it at the point of entry. If this is the case, check first what you need to bring (passport photos, cash…)
- Visa required. You will need to sort out your travel visa in advance. Although it can be done by yourself, there are online companies that can help you out in the process or just do it for you. Of course, always for a fee.
It is also recommendable to register your travel details and itinerary with your embassy, Just in case of an emergency.
One of the few things you can never forget when you are travelling! In our case, we like to carry some cash, cards are not accepted everywhere or you might not be enthusiastic about using your cards in some places. But if the destination allows it, cashpoints are available and card payments widely accepted, we mostly use our travel cards. We use Monzo but you can find another two options here:
You can pay abroad without being charged extortionate fees or a hefty markup in your exchange rate (according to Monzo, they pass Mastercard’s exchange rate to you). Also, you can withdraw up to £200 every 30 days for free, 3% charge after that.
Similar to Monzo but offers a prepaid card. You can also withdraw £200 per month, 2% fee after that.
It offers the Borderless account, with a debit card that charges you between 0.35% and 1% when you convert your money. Also, free withdrawals up to £200 a month.
If you use regular debit and credit cards you will have to pay a fee (around 3%) plus a mark up in the exchange rate.
9. Pack light
A few trips travelling around the world means that we’ve made a lot of mistakes when it comes to packing.
So, although we’re still trying to figure out how to do perfect packing, we would recommend a few things to save you some stress and time:
- Pick a good backpack. Something around 55 litres is enough if you go for a bigger one it might be too heavy and uncomfortable.
- Try to pick comfortable clothes that match. In other words, go for neutral colours or focus on a colour palette.
- Wear lots of jumpsuits and dresses. You’re wearing two pieces of clothing in one.
- Avoid bringing too many bloody shoes! just bring a good pair of sandals and some trainers…
- Play with the accessories! For instance, I usually bring lots of headbands. I can add a pop of colour to my outfits without carrying with me the whole wardrobe…
10. Enjoy your trip!
And this is the most important step. Enjoy the trip! Improvise, don’t try and plan everything out to the very last detail. Just get out there and go with the flow. If something doesn’t work out our you miss a landmark don’t worry. Life is not perfect, travel isn’t either!
Let us know in the comments below if there is anything else you’d like to know about how to organise your trip.