July 6, 2020

15 items that should be on your to-do list before traveling

Travel is fantastic. It’s a great way to learn about another culture, experience different food, see things that you otherwise wouldn’t see in your locale and to get away from things. I find that those that travel tend to be more open minded and more grateful about the things in their lives. For example, I did not realize that Canada had a reputation for being kind and nice. In Hong Kong, I was traveling home to my grandma’s house by bus and they have double decker buses there. I decided to take advantage of the height of the bus and go to the 2nd floor so that I can see more of the city. We rode around for a while and then got off at the terminal station. As the bus was full, I let everyone go down the stairs before me while my Mom and my Grandma were the first ones off the bus (and they ended up waiting for me to get off the bus). They told me that Hong Kong was very different from Canada and that I didn’t have to be as ‘nice’ in Hong Kong as I was in Canada. That’s when I realized that maybe Canadians do live up to their reputation of being nice in other countries.

Travel can also be incredibly stressful. Trying to check in for international flights, catching connecting flights, missing luggage, having to be constantly mindful of your surroundings, watching your backpack and luggage to make sure it doesn’t get stolen, and more. As I am a constant traveler, I thought it would be good for me to remind myself what tasks I need to do before making a big trip (many of these things apply more to international trips so do plan accordingly). And I don’t talk about booking flights or hotels here as I assume this has been done already!

Check for visas, passports

First thing to do is to check your passport to make sure it hasn’t expired or will not expire soon. In the US for example, you must have a passport that is valid for 6 months after your travel, though there are exemptions to certain countries.

Another thing to check for is any visas required. On one such trip to the US, my partner and I did not realize that the visa requirements had changed for my partner and while we got to the airport early, there was a process to apply for a visa for the US. Luckily, it was an online process and the application we submitted was immediately reviewed and accepted otherwise we would have been really out of luck. You shouldn’t think about visa requirements as you are heading to the airport (or even at the airport), so make sure you are checking these well ahead of time so that you have enough time to apply and receive the visa ahead of your trip.

Receiving packages when you are away

I’m quite mindful of thieves and a good sign that you are away from your house is a bevy of Amazon or other delivered packages on your doorstep that have not been taken in for a few days. If you are receiving any packages at all and their estimated delivery dates are within your travel dates, have a friend or a neighbour take those packages in so that thieves don’t receive that ‘sign’ that you are away.

Lights on a random schedule in the house

At my house, I have wifi connected lights (Philips Hue lights) and so one of the great things about the lights is that I can set up a random schedule to have the lights turn on and off at different times. If anyone was observing the house, they would see lights come on at different times similar to how the house would be like if someone was there. There’s no guarantee that this can prevent your house from getting broken into but this is a better deterrent than nothing.

Unplug big appliances

Disconnect big appliances such as TVs, computers, heaters, humidifiers, etc. from their power sources. You aren’t using them while you are away so you might as well save on your electricity bill.

Exchange for local currency

There are multiple ways to exchange for local currency: you can do it at the bank, you can do it at the airport, you can withdraw from a local ATM. The best way to get the best rate is to have the time to wait and see where there are increases or decreases in currency exchange rates. If you have never been somewhere, you should at least have some cash in hand so that you can pay for things. Not all restaurants will accept credit cards.

Oh and another thing about your credit cards — check to see if there are any foreign transaction fees on your cards. The best are travel credit cards that have no foreign transaction fees of course.

Understand where there may be free wifi and check your smartphone for data and cell usage

Many franchises (Starbucks, McDonalds, etc.) have free wifi. Your hotel probably has free wifi for you. Outside of those places may not have free wifi. That means that if you are for example traveling to a restaurant and it is a ways away, you can Uber there from the hotel (using the free wifi), but you may have a hard time getting back if free wifi isn’t available at that restaurant (or near there). Check your mobility provider and see what needs to be done to be able to use data without them charging an arm and a leg for roaming. My mobility still charges an arm for data, but it is cheaper than using data without letting them know in advance.

Dress and prepare for the climate you are traveling to

In my city, it is quite cold. I have a Canada Goose jacket that I like to wear to keep myself warm. However, I wouldn’t wear the Canada Goose jacket to where I would be traveling, where it is in the 10–20 degrees celsius range. For the most part, I’ll be in a car traveling to and from the local airport and it’s much more important to travel for the weather and climate of the place I’m going to rather than packing unnecessary items such as a big winter jacket.

In addition, I expect that I’ll see a lot of sun so I make sure that I have on a light jacket, a water bottle and sunscreen.

Download and use a travel packing app

There are lots of free options on Android and iOS and what I like about the apps is that they ask you where you might be traveling to, what activities you may be doing, whether it is international or not, etc. and then they have templates of packing lists that are generated based on your selections so that you don’t miss any of the obvious things. I used a travel packing app the other day and I realized that I needed to exchange for local currency, which was something that I had not thought of beforehand. There are so many things to think about before travel so using a checklist is a great way to unload that mental stress.

Don’t bring things that you wouldn’t want to lose

Theft is common. I am constantly mindful of my belongings when I travel but sometimes I can get distracted or things can happen that are outside of my control. For me, I have a macbook pro that I really do not want to lose or replace and so the easiest way to prevent it from being stolen is to not bring it in the first place. Do you have items that you would rather not lose or replace? Don’t bring them! Try to only bring items that you are okay losing or replacing.

Download local maps offline

Here’s something to remember: expect your mobility provider to be a greedy jerk who wants all of your money and forgives none of your mistakes. That’s my experience with many mobility providers in my country and rather than give them my money because of my mistakes, I’d rather plan ahead a little — one thing is to download local maps of wherever I’m traveling to offline so that I have access to them. Google Maps has a great feature that lets you download these areas and so they can be a godsend in places where you may not have wifi.

Fantasy sport enthusiast? Set your lines in advance

I have both a fantasy hockey and fantasy football league that I am a part of and I know that if I am out traveling, experiencing life, I may not remember to set my lines — and especially if I don’t have access to free wifi. You may not be able to get the perfect line-up but setting your lines in advance will help you not to lose points.

Wifi socket for your garage motor

I heard about this neat tip from the Travel Genius podcast. The trick is to connect your garage motor to a wifi socket and then when you are traveling, you can disable your wifi socket so that the garage cannot be opened. For many houses, there is a pinpad outside that allows people to get access to your home through your garage so disconnecting the motor prevents anyone, even if they had the right pin, to get into your garage. In this case, it is probably a good idea to lock your garage door as well just in case.

Leave spare keys with a friend or neighbour

You never know what might happen, but it is a good idea to give ‘backup’ keys to someone that you trust so that they can get access to your home in case something happens. Maybe there’s a fire and you need access to the home. Maybe you lose your passport so you need a copy of other documents in your home from abroad.

Check to make sure your devices are working

A big thing here is to check to make sure your camera that you rarely use is charged, working and has capacity on its memory card. You don’t want to get somewhere, take a photo and then realize that your battery isn’t working or that you do not have any memory left because you forgot to download and clear out the photos you had in there already. Do this ahead of time so that you don’t have to do it on your trip!

Create a budget

Here are some things that the budget should also include in addition to food, accommodation and events: tips for the hotel, miscellaneous items that you may want to purchase at stores that don’t allow credit cards, lost or stolen items, parking. I especially like budgeting for items that may be lost or stolen. It just helps give me peace of mind that when things do happen, I’m not incredibly stressed out. It’s something that I had planned and budgeted for and it comes with taking trips like these.

In addition, it’s important to make sure you’re not spending a lot of money on things that you don’t really need. I get caught up in the moment sometimes and make impulse buys, but then when I get back home, I realize that I could have gotten the same item, online for much less. I get caught up in the excitement sometimes. I also try to pack a little lighter than I normally would to give some space for items that I may purchase when traveling.


What do you think about these items? What items are on your list before traveling? What am I missing?

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