When you are planning a holiday abroad, it is easy – and right – to get caught up in the excitement of it all, imagining the delicious meals you’ll try in Italy, the stunning sights you’ll see in Iceland, or the adventures you can have off the coast of Ireland. And that’s just the “I” countries in Europe! Travel is something to get excited about, but it is also worth cultivating a quiet but firm voice in the front of your mind that reminds you of the things you’ll have to do before you can go.
When you book, there may be a few months before you can actually get around to travelling, but those months will soon go by – and if you let time slip, it is all too easy to forget things that you need. And “need” is the word here; you may feel that you can’t travel without a good book, but there are bookshops in airports, so you’ll be fine if you forget a book. The below list is a (possibly non-exhaustive) list of items you’ll need to remember when you’re travelling abroad.
Obviously. There are very few international journeys that you can make these days without a passport, and even on internal flights they’re often requested as a form of photo ID. When your journey is booked, go and find your passport. Check that it is valid now, and that it will still be when you’re making your return journey. And then stash it somewhere safe but obvious so that you don’t find yourself looking for it in a panic a few days before you’re due to leave.
If it is not in date, or is about to expire, then there’s no time to lose on getting a replacement. You need to make sure that you can complete all the necessary paperwork, see if you need a countersignature from a trusted person, get new photos done and all of the little, fiddly bits and pieces that are necessary for a passport application. You can potentially get a same-day passport if you go to your nearest office with all the necessary documentation – but set a day aside, as it usually takes at least four hours to process.
Visa, or proof that you don’t need one
If you’re travelling to a foreign country, then the chances are that you will need a visa, and since the end of 2020 this does include EU countries if you’re from the UK. It is vital that you leave aside enough time to get a visa sorted, so – again – it makes sense to apply for this as soon as you have booked your travel. Different countries will ask for different details and proofs, and your first stop should be the internet to search for information on exactly what is needed for travellers to the country in question.
There are some countries who operate visa waiver schemes, but you will still need to apply for a waiver. If you’re planning a trip to the USA, you should make yourself aware of the ESTA UK requirements and get your application in progress so you can ensure smooth travel. Countries in general are very strict on which documents they will allow people to use to enter the country, and the USA particularly so. In any case, you must spend a significant period of time ensuring you can enter your country of destination, and have it all pinned down in advance of your departure.
While much of our focus in recent months has been on getting a very specific vaccine, the publicity around it has helped to make some very relevant points which need to be remembered when booking a holiday. Perhaps most importantly, vaccines can take more than one shot and a significant waiting period to provide the fullest immunity, and therefore should be arranged leaving as much time as possible before you depart. A period of eight weeks is generally recommended, but the soonest appointment you can get is better still.
Of course, the overall situation with vaccine requirements is somewhat fluid right now, as outward travel is not currently recommended. However, in more normal times, you will need different vaccines for different destinations, from different bases. If you’re travelling to Romania from the UK, for example, Hepatitis A and Tetanus shots are required. A handy list of vaccinations needed can be found here. If you can provide proof of a recent(-enough) vaccination, you won’t need to have it again, so discuss this with your doctor in advance.
Insurance … of more than one kind, possibly
It’s not 100% essential that you should have travel insurance when you’re going abroad – in that it’s not something that will see you turned away at the airport. It is highly recommended, however, given that you cannot guarantee things won’t go wrong while you’re away. If you are travelling with a tour operator, the cover may be included in the overall price, but if you’re taking care of things yourself, it helps to know that travel insurance covers:
- Cancellation or cutting short of a trip for reasons you can’t control
- Missed or delayed departure for the same
- Items that are lost or stolen – including passport, money and essential items
- Personal injury or death
- Any medical emergency
- Any accidental damage, or injury, you may cause while abroad.
While some people will eschew the insurance, resolving to simply be careful, the last year has made it quite clear that you can be as careful as you want and still fall ill. Getting the insurance is the smart move, because the costs of the above can easily run into the thousands or tens of thousands when they happen overseas.
For some people, there will be other items that should be included on the list of travel essentials, though these don’t apply to everyone. These include things like medication – bring more with you than you’re likely to need to be on the safe side – and, naturally, your phone and charger as well as a list of emergency contacts. You may also need to bring tickets, although this depends on the carrier and travel lines you’ll be using. Make sure that everything you need is packed, and is ready to go as much as a week in advance of your departure. You’ll be glad you did when you’re relaxing in the departure lounge!
If you like this article, you may also like Things to do in Europe