Traveling is great fun, yet it also requires some serious preparation. Among all the things you have to think about when you are going on a trip, there are a few that are more important than others. Of prime importance, I’d say. And no, it’s not whether or not you should bring your swimgear. Here are four travel essentials that require your attention before you venture out.
1. Do you have a travel insurance?
Of course we all hope to return safely from our travels. But no matter how carefull you are, sometimes accidents happen, you get sick, something valuable is stolen or you have to cancel the trip. In many cases, your regular insurance doesn’t cover the costs if things like these happen while you’re traveling. Therefore a good travel insurance is indispensible.
Travel insurance is something many people think they don’t need – until they do. In fact, I honestly hope you will travel your whole life without ever actually needing your travel insurance. But in case you have an accident (you may drive safely, but someone else may not), or in case your baggage is lost (stolen or gone missing at an airport), or if you have to fly home because a family member is ill, a travel insurance will save you a lot of money, a lot of hassle and a lot of stress.
So I cannot stress this enough: never travel without travel insurance! If you do, you’ll regret it if something goes wrong.
2. Do you need vaccinations?
Due to the covid-19 pandemic, we have alle been reminded about the importance of vaccinations to prevent us from being infected by a potentially deathly virus, ending up in a hospital, or worse: dying. With covid-19 vaccines widely available to most people in western countries, as a traveler you still have to be aware of other viruses that may pose a risk to your health. While traveling is generally safe, there is always a chance of getting infected by a nasty virus that doesn’t exist at home.
Especially if you are traveling to countries in the tropics or subtropics, it is strongly advised to be vaccinated against viruses like Hepatitus, Diphtheria, Rabies, Malaria, Yellow Fever or Dengue. In fact: vaccination may be required to enter the country you’re visiting and be checked upon entry. Which vaccinations you need depends on your destination as well as your personal health status. Consult your local medical professional to get a tailor-made vaccination advice. Do this 4 to 6 weeks before departure.
Tip: traveling to tropical countries, bring insect repellant containing 40-50% DEET. It effectively keeps stinging and biting insects away.
3. What are the entry requirements?
Before you leave your home to venture out to some faraway destination, make sure you know what the entry requirements are of the country you are traveling to. Entry requirements are different for different countries and your passport may not be enough to be granted access. And if there’s one thing you don’t want, it’s to arrive at the customs desk of the airport at your destination and be told you cannot enter the country and will be put on the next flight back to where you came from.
The most important thing you need to check is: do you need a visa? And if so, what’s the procedure? Do you need to get one before you leave or can you get it upon arrival? And what does it cost? The answers to these questions can generally be found in your travel guide, or you can check the website of the tourist bureau of your destination or the handy website of Project Visa, which provides visa information of all countries. Either way, never get on a plane without the proper travel documents.
Tip: carry a copy of your passport (and visa if you need one) in a different bag than the original. Also mail the copy to yourself or store it in a secure cloud. This way you will always have a copy of your passport in case you lose it.
4. Does someone know how to get in touch with you?
Going on a trip we all hope to return safely and that our friends and family will be fine while we are away as well. Yet sometimes things don’t go as planned and unforeseen things happen. In that case people may want (or need) to get in touch with you. So don’t leave without a trace. Make sure at least somebody knows where you are going and how they can get in touch with you.
These days we can be contacted almost anywhere we go by just bringing our smartphone. But what if something happens to you and people need to contact your relatives? Two tips:
- Activate ICE on your smartphone. This is a phone number (of a friend or relative) people can access and call in case of an emergency (ICE) without having to enter the security code first.
- Old school, but carry an ICE note in your wallet or bag. A small (laminated) piece of paper with the phone number(s) of people who have to be called in case of an emergency, your blood type, whether you are a donor and what medicines you take, if any. This way emergency personnel have all the information they need if something happens to you.