We get filled with such joy when we book our next vacation. We buy our flights, hotels, tours, car rental, and imagine ourselves right there, enjoying every thrill and relaxing moment. But, sometimes, a few important details that could make or break our trip skip our mind, only to remember them at the last minute or just when we arrive at our destination. Here are six important things you should consider for every trip, especially before booking anything.
1. Manage Your Cash Flow
Whether your trip is domestic or international, let your bank know you will be traveling, so they make a note of it in your account. This will reduce the chance of your bank thinking any credit card purchases or withdrawals are fraudulent.
Make sure you have at least two credit and debit cards available. Preferably from different banks as not all banks authorize all kinds of transactions abroad due to government regulations and fraud prevention. It’s always good to have a backup. Once in Romania, my main bank denied all transactions while my backup bank worked fine. It's good to know ahead of time if your bank works there or not, and not discover it on site.
Right before you leave, get up to date information on the current exchange rates between your home currency and the destination’s currency. The Xe.com app is excellent to keep track of this. Once you’re at your destination, if you need to exchange money, you’ll know the real exchange rate and how much money you're "losing" due to the exchange rate offered.
Alternatively, ask your bank if they have debit and credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees and foreign ATM withdrawal fees. This will help you save money by withdrawing money at the best possible rate instead of paying fees to exchange money in the exchange booths.
2. Check the Average Weather for your Trip Dates
Will it be summer or winter at your destination during your vacation? How hot or cold does it usually get? Will it be rainy season? Checking the weather will help you pack appropriately for your trip, but not only that, it will help you decide whether that time of the year is the best one to go there.
Hoping to see the Northern Lights in Norway? Then you must go there during winter. Wish to hike in Torres del Paine in Chile? Then you must go during their summer. Think of the activities you want to do there and check what’s the optimal time of the year to do them.
3. Check Local Event Dates
Festivals and major events can make or break your trip. Are you looking to celebrate Carnival in Rio de Janeiro? Then you should go in February. Songkran in Thailand? That’s in April. Maybe there are other events in your destination not as popular as these, but that are worth seeing due to their unique cultural and entertainment value.
On the other hand, maybe you’re not looking for any particular event and just want to enjoy the destination as it is. Know that when there are major events, hotel prices tend to go up and they often get fully booked, traffic increases, some sights might adjust their schedule or close altogether, and tours might fill up quicker. Think of it as a high season on steroids. If this is not what you’re looking for, consider going just before or after the event.
4. Check for Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts
See if the U.S. Government has issued a travel warning (for long term issues) or a travel alert (for short term issues) for any country you intend to visit. These warnings are useful to know how risky it is and whether or not you should go there or wait until the situation calms down. Know that many travel insurance policies do not cover travel in countries that are under travel warnings.
5. Make Sure your Passport and Visas are up to Date
Most countries require at least six months validity in your passport from the time of entry and two blank pages. Make sure you have these available. If not, renew your passport as soon as possible. It could take from two to six weeks to renew your passport.
Does your destination require a visa? This will depend on the passport you have and the country you’re visiting. If you’re traveling with an American passport, the best way to know this is by going to the U.S. Department of State website to see the visa requirements per country. Should you be traveling with another passport, you can either go to your official government’s website, specifically the travel section, to see if they have this information available. Should they not, you might be able to find the information in Wikipedia by searching for "visa requirements for [your country] citizens."
6. Budget Everything and More
Probably one of the most important things you must do before you book anything. Can you really afford this trip? Do a schematic itinerary noting every activity you want to do, every place you want to visit, and more. Start searching for flights, hotels, car rentals, activities, and note down their price. Don’t forget to add not-so-obvious expenses like food, local transportation, visas, vaccinations, travel insurance, miscellaneous, and more. Don’t forget either to add an allowance for extra, often unexpected or unplanned, spending. Once you have an approximate total number, if it works for you, then jump immediately to book the most crucial and volatile items which are airfares and hotels. Then, book the rest as you see fit.
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