I love going on holidays – and I’m sure you do too. Packing and preparing for holidays is another thing though, one that I don’t look forward too.
Some of my friends – my mum especially – are practically experts when it comes to preparing for holidays. She would be 100% covered if our whole family goes on a big trip, finding caretakers for her plants even. Me? No matter how many times I travel, there’s always a nagging worry that I might forget something.
Therefore, I figure the best way to solve this problem all of us travellers have is to create a pre-travel checklist, one that we can refer to whenever I’m jetsetting to a foreign place.
Here are 12 things I never fail to do before I pack my luggage and set off on another new adventure.
- 12 Things To Do Before Every International Travel
- 1. Exchanging foreign currency
- 2. Get a travel insurance
- 3. Visa and passport expiry
- 4. Vaccinations and pills
- 5. Activate overseas spending for credit cards
- 6. Shop duty-free online in advance
- 7. Rent your WiFi/ Activate your phone’s auto-roam
- 8. Charge your electronics
- 9. Download transport apps
- 10. Pack an extra set of clothes and essential toiletries in your carry-on
- 11. Driving Permits
- 12. Have important documents handy
- I bet you'll like:
12 Things To Do Before Every International Travel
1. Exchanging foreign currency
Before changing foreign currency, I usually go online to check the rates before heading to the money changer. This allows me to become informed about the market rate and ensure that I get the best rate.
That being said, I discovered this multi-currency travel card that CHANGED MY LIFE. Serving as a virtual money changer, it has saved all the hassle from having to change at physical money changers!
2. Get a travel insurance
Prevention is better than cure.
I cannot stress buying travel insurance enough – it is so important especially in the event of emergencies.
I’ve claimed more than SGD 3000 with my local travel insurance in one year since buying annual plans from them, to the point that they have rejected me as a repeat customer (seriously though, I’m such a lucrative customer – why would they do that to me?)
If you’re wondering, most of the expenses came from my ACL injury when I fell real badly while skiing in Japan this January. They chartered a private taxi to send me from my base all the way to Osaka airport, a 3+ hour drive away (that amounted to few hundred dollars), booked me on a new Singapore Airlines flight back from Osaka to Singapore, on Business class (yeah, baby), and gave me 30 days to visit a specialist and go on physiotherapy sessions.
That is just one incident. I’ve also claimed for other incidents like sickness, falls, luggage damage, flight delays, etc throughout my travel journeys.
We become susceptible to falling sick because of exposure to unfamiliar climates and hectic travel schedules. Buying a travel insurance policy that allows you to claim your medical expenses would certainly go a long way in helping you offset some costs.
3. Visa and passport expiry
Before you travel, do a quick Google search on whether you need to apply for a visa before you travel to a certain country. This procedure can sometimes take months so don’t leave it to the last minute!
I come from a country who boasts one of the most powerful passports in the world. Because of this, I’ve seen so many Singaporeans become complacent and assume that our passport gives us access to the entire world.
I know someone from New Zealand forgetting to apply for a visa to Vietnam and only realizing it on the plane to Vietnam. He had to apply on the spot and the whole plane stalled for him! You’d think that was the worst bit. As it was a weekend when he arrived in Vietnam, the immigration office in Vietnam almost sent him back when they weren’t able to process the application. What a close shave!
Speaking of passports, make sure your passport has at least 6 months validity from your date of travel.
4. Vaccinations and pills
Once again, do a Google search on what sorts of vaccinations you need when travelling to certain countries. This is especially so if you’re travelling to countries in Southeast Asia. Check if you require malaria pills and certain jabs.
5. Activate overseas spending for credit cards
We all get carried away while shopping on holidays, especially at duty-free shopping malls or at the airport.
I personally dislike carrying too much cash on me as it makes me feel anxious about (1) losing my wallet and (2) being a victim of pickpocketing.
Furthermore, there will be additional exchange rate costs involved if I have to change the remaining currency back to Singapore dollars.
That’s why paying big-ticket items while overseas is sometimes the easiest way to go. For one, you can accumulate points on foreign transactions (if you’re a points/ miles chaser). It’s also more convenient as you don’t have to carry wads of cash around a foreign country.
6. Shop duty-free online in advance
If you are passing through Singapore’s Changi Airport and don’t know this already, you can shop duty-free products ahead by shopping online on iShopChangi’s website, and picking them up after checking in for your flight within the transit halls. Or if you prefer, you can collect them when return back to Singapore so you don’t have to lug your purchases overseas with you!
More often than not, the collection counter is empty, so you don’t have to go through queues to make purchases. That way, you can fully enjoy Changi Airport’s facilities instead of rushing to shop all your buys.
7. Rent your WiFi/ Activate your phone’s auto-roam
Alternatively, buy a local prepaid card or rent a pocket WiFi. They key here is to do your research and see which is the cheaper option.
For instance, when I went to South Korea for my summer exchange last year, I opted to activate my M1 plan’s auto-roam at SGD 20 (on top of my existing phone plan) as the only other option was to buy a local unlimited data card for SGD 80 a month!
Read: Where to Stay in Seoul, South Korea 27 Jaw-Dropping Things to Do in Jeju Island, South Korea What to Do, See and Eat in Busan, South Korea in 3 Days
Read: What To Do In Kyoto, Japan First Time in Tokyo? A Complete Guide to Tokyo, Japan What's Famous in Hokkaido; Japan Rail Passes & A 6-Day South Hokkaido Itinerary
On my most recent trip to Australia and Vietnam, I’ve been working with Tep Wireless which sends over your very own portable, pocket-sized WiFi device and universal adaptor. You can then go to their website to customize the plan that you wish, which even includes calling and texting abroad.
It’s worth noting that there is a 1GB data cap restriction in certain countries, while other countries allow up to 3GB. As a result, when I was in Australia, loading apps like emails and Instagram doesn’t work when I was connected to 2 devices and in an urban city, much less while doing a road trip in the more remote areas in Australia.
In Vietnam, we were also provided 1GB a day. While it worked on most days of our trip, how strong the signal is depends on the local signals too, and I’d experienced interruption on the first day or so.
P.S. Want to eliminate the need for WiFi routers/ SIM cards FOREVER?
I’ve recently discovered Airalo, the world’s first eSIM store which eliminates the need for roaming plans or the hassle of hunting for physical SIM cards. Travellers can have access to local electronic SIMs from over 160+ countries through their website.
How it works: As long as you have an eSIM-capable phone (i.e. an embedded SIM in your phone), you can simply buy a data pack on Airalo, scan the QR code by going into Settings > Mobile Data, and add the eSIM to your phone.
Following which, you just need to top up your data at your Airalo account, and your eSIM will be there for you to use when you need to.
You can add up to 15 eSIMs on the iPhone eSIM capable devices (iPhone 11, iPhone XS, iPhone XR), and swap between eSIMs when travelling.
Gone are the days you have to change your SIM cards each time you visit a new country nor have to purchase SIM cards at airport arrivals and add to the tons of plastic waste that we generate. You will also not need to rent and carry an extra cumbersome WiFi egg or device as you travel. It goes without saying that you’ll never have to pay ridiculous amounts for roaming data ever again!
8. Charge your electronics
Imagine arriving in a foreign country, without knowing a single word of their language, and having a phone that has run out of battery. You can’t even use Google Translate!
Our lives have become intertwined with our mobile devices that being without our smartphones is akin to losing a limb.
I recommend packing a portable charger on your carry on baggage and of course, make sure that’s charged too!
9. Download transport apps
It would also be good to do research on how to get to your Hotel/ Airbnb before your trip to avoid wasting unnecessary time asking for directions and figuring your way around in a foreign country.
10. Pack an extra set of clothes and essential toiletries in your carry-on
On one of my solo travels, I had to survive a day without my luggage as it was delayed during the connecting flight. Thankfully, I everything I needed (except a fresh set of clothes) with me in my carry on.
Read: Summer Packing List; All You Ever Need for Every Beach Holiday! Packing List for Europe Winter The Science Behind Packing for Hiking; What To Pack, Why and How Important Packing Tips: Your Must-Haves for Weekend Getaways and Long Trips
This meant that I had to wear my used plane clothes for another day. I definitely learnt my lesson the hard way!
11. Driving Permits
Consider if you’ll be driving on your trip. If you do, does your driving license permit you to drive in your destination country? Do you require an International Driving Permit?
12. Have important documents handy
As mentioned in my earlier article, save all your documents in Dropbox, synced to your phone, and AVAILABLE OFFLINE. In the event of emergencies, you can retrieve it easily.
You may want to print any visas, bookings or copies of IDs as a hardcopy for backup too.
Want to hear more travel tips that have worked for me as a seasoned traveller?