It’s been said that getting there is half the fun. These days, with jam-packed airplanes, more travellers, and increased airport security, perhaps it’s not as true as it once was. Editor Chad Merchant takes a look at some measures you can take to help ease your journey and make sure that you’re in a proper state of mind to enjoy the destination once you arrive.
Whether it’s a weekend jaunt to a nearby island retreat or a weeks-long sojourn to the other side of the world, an impending trip has the capacity to fill us with excitement and anxiety in equal measure. Experienced road warriors have the process of preparing for a trip down to a science and through their collective wisdom, we offer here a list of signs that you might just not be suitably prepared for that journey that’s coming up.
YOUR HOUSE LOOKS THE SAME
This is an easy one. If your home looks just like it always does, you’re probably not ready to travel. Some of us like to tidy up before a trip so we have a clean place to return to, but apart from that, there’s the more mundane tasks – putting lights on a timer, clearing the fridge of perishables, closing off unused rooms, and perhaps even stopping mail delivery if you’re planning a lengthy absence.
YOU HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT THE WEATHER
Let’s face it, the weather conditions at your destination influence more than just what clothes you pack. The weather can also impact your travel, delay (or cancel) your flight, make securing a hotel room more difficult, you name it. This is particularly important for a multi-city itinerary with several connections. Check a well-regarded weather website (try www.weather.com) and check the forecast a few days before you travel. If the forecast looks ominous, be sure to double-check your flight status as departure time draws nearer.
YOUR HOUSE IS STILL ON FULL POWER
Ever heard of “vampire power”? It refers to the electricity that’s surreptitiously consumed by devices that are turned off, but still plugged in. Here in Malaysia, we’re fortunate to have switchable power outlets, so go through your house and switch off all non-essential outlets – like those powering your TV/Astro, microwave, or air-con units – before you leave. Don’t forget to completely shut down your computers and switch off that Wi-Fi router, too.
YOU DON’T HAVE ANY BACKUP IDENTIFICATION
Always carry a colour copy of your passport photo page (and perhaps a copy of another photo ID, such as a driver’s license or Malaysian i-Pass) when you travel, particularly on overseas trips. If your passport is lost or stolen, that backup copy will definitely make the replacement process easier. You can put a paper copy in your suitcase’s zippered compartment, or as an even better failsafe, snap a photo of your passport’s photo page with your smartphone, or scan the passport and save the images to “the cloud,” so that you can access the backup from any internetcapable computer or smartphone.
YOU HAVE A WALLET FULL OF MALAYSIAN RINGGIT
When it comes to travel, particularly international travel, not having some extra cash for emergencies is one of the worst mistakes you can make. “Cash is king,” they say, and never is that more true than when you’re in an unfamiliar locale or an ATM wasteland. Many local businesses won’t accept your shiny credit card, and you’ll be grateful to have a wallet stuffed with some local bills. Keep ‘em small, too, because cash is also a must for tipping if you’re in a country where that’s the custom.
YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR FLIGHT INFORMATION OR STATUS
Know your airline’s two-character code and your flight number, and check your flight status before you depart – this includes all your flights if you have a multi-leg itinerary. Websites like FlightStats or FlightAware are good resources, and there’s a brilliant app for iOS and Android devices called FlightBoard that replicates the flight arrival/departure boards of any airport in the world, all in real time. Even if the weather is great where you’re flying, the interconnected nature of things means a delay or cancellation could still occur. While you’re checking your flights, it’s a good idea to confirm other reservations, too, from hotels to car rentals.
YOU’VE FAILED TO PLAN AHEAD
Some trips are easy, but some are logistically complex, and if you don’t pay attention to the seemingly small details, they can mushroom into a disaster for your vacation plans. Do you have a plan for getting to the hotel when you’re overnighting in that connecting city? Will you need to convert currency at your destination? Do you have the proper visas secured, or the necessary cash required for a visa-on-arrival, if that’s an option?
Will you need to make any restaurant reservations in a foreign city? What about tour bookings? Do you have all the necessary contact names and numbers handy? Will you need a local SIM card for your phone? What is your immediate plan upon arrival? These all seem like minor details, but planning some of the small things can make a trip go much more smoothly. At the very least, have an idea about what you want to do on the first day at your destination, particularly if it’s on the heels of a long-haul flight.
YOU DON’T KNOW WHEN YOUR PASSPORT WILL EXPIRE
This one is pretty self-explanatory and has tripped up even veteran travelers. Some countries require a reasonable three months’ validity on the passport beyond the date of departure, but numerous countries, including regional neighbours Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, and China, require a whopping six months’ validity. If you travel with a passport even remotely close to its expiration date, you could face a nasty surprise.
YOU HAVEN’T PACKED, NOR EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT IT
I’m a shameless procrastinator when it comes to packing for a trip, so for me, particularly on long trips, I have to force myself to be organised. Try laying things out on a guest bed a few days before the trip, or using a packing list. Most of us overpack and take far too many things (you know who you are); for me, it’s usually the opposite, so I have to really think ahead to where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing.
YOU HAVEN’T THOUGHT ABOUT YOUR PHONE
If you travel frequently and have a suitable international voice/data plan, this isn’t a problem. But if that’s not you, chances are you’ll need to give your phone plan some consideration. Most Malaysian carriers offer short- and longterm international plans, but they can sometimes be complicated, so if you anticipate using your phone – particularly for web surfing – it’s in your best interest to call or visit a service centre to ensure you get a plan that’s cost-effective. Without it, you could run up a staggering bill… not a pleasant epilogue to your vacation. If you don’t want to bother, just turn off the roaming feature and disable the 3G/4G data connections; otherwise, you could be hit with roaming charges just for having the phone turned on.
NO ONE KNOWS YOUR PLANS
Be sure to let a trusted friend or family member know about your plans and perhaps even share your travel itinerary with them. Ask your neighbours to keep an eye on your place (or if you’re like me, to water your plants). However, don’t broadcast the precise details of your absence on Facebook or Twitter, as this carries obvious risks. If you use a local bank’s debit card, you may have to activate it for use overseas. It may also be wise to notify credit card issuers of your plans to travel, lest the legitimate purchases you attempt be mistaken for fraudulent ones and your card suspended.
Now that you’ve taken care of all the details, you’re fully prepared for your journey and can travel with confidence and peace of mind!
Homepage highlight photo credit: Highways Agency, Flickr
Source: The Expat January 2013
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