The excitement that comes at the thought of boarding a plane on a new adventure is unparalleled. The jitters, the thirst for the unknown, or simply the relief of returning home–all captures part of the beauty of travel. But novelties aside, the journey leading up to the check-in counter requires much thought and preparation. From purchasing foreign currency to setting travel notifications, the to-do list can seem never-ending. As travelers, we often struggle with prioritizing the items on our to-do list which can result in us forgetting to do the most essential things. In order to better make use of the hours before a scheduled departure, we enlisted the help of our community expert travelers to find out how they would recommend every traveler plan and prepare 24-48 hours before a trip.
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Lee Litumbe: This should actually be done much earlier than 24-48 hours before your trip, but always check to see if you need a visa for the country you're traveling to. Depending on your home country, you may not need to get a visa if you're only visiting for a limited amount of time (typically under 60 days), and there are some countries that will require a visas, but offer it on arrival. NEVER ASSUME though. Check before you go, because there's nothing worse than booking your flight + accommodations and going through all the hassle to get to the airport - only to be turned away at the gate.
Catherine Finch: I always check the weather at my destination. Not only to pack appropriately, but also to dress appropriately- there is nothing more uncomfortable than wearing sandals when arriving to a destination in the middle of a snowstorm.
Carille Guthrie: Find out the currency exchange rate for your destination. I always forget to check the exchange rate. Every single time I’m at the airport standing in front of the ATM trying to figure out how much money to take out!
John Collins: For specific questions on my destination, I trawl through Lonely Planet Forum or TripAdvisor forums to see if anyone has been in the same position as me, e.g. solo traveler, no accommodation on arrival, visa on arrival concerns, or if you want to go to places with limited information in Guidebooks. I also learn key phrases in the local language like:
Where is ____ ?
How do I get to ___ ?
This is delicious!
Can I take your photograph?
2. ORGANIZE TRAVEL DOCUMENTS, ITINERARIES, & BANKING
Dan Sadgrove: Always make sure your passport is up to date.
Lee Litumbe: Notify your bank that you’ll be traveling so they don’t freeze your accounts during your trip. Also make sure you have set aside some cash in case of emergencies - I’d recommend at least two hundred USD or Euro. In my experience they are the most widely accepted worldwide. But don't keep it all in one place. Put some in your wallet, a random sock in your suitcase, your book bag, etc. just so that you're not stranded in a worst case scenario. Then, make sure you email scanned copies of all your important documents (passport, ID, bank cards, etc.) to yourself and trusted family members. I can’t tell you how many times doing this has saved me, especially when things like my wallet or passport were stolen while in a foreign country.
Catherine Finch: I am old school so I double-check airline reservations and accommodations; it’s all about reconfirming before leaving. Depending on how complicated the trip is, I occasionally make hard copies of the reservation details. When traveling internationally, I take iPhone photos of key travel documents: passport and visas, credit cards, health certificates and insurance. But even with simple trips, I make sure to have confirmation codes and take screen shots of the codes.
Seckin Yilmaz: Time is always limited for me when I travel, so I generally prepare a detailed itinerary for myself since there's lots to see and do. I write down the opening-closing days and hours of places I want to see, mark special photo spots on the map, list things I especially want to see and generally draw a route on the city map. I always stick to the plan!
3. DOWNLOAD HELPFUL TRAVEL APPS
Lee Litumbe: Downloading travel apps has made my travel life infinitely easier. I always download the app for whichever airline I’m flying with for early check in and to help track my luggage or get notified of delayed flights, as well as apps like Google Translate, Google Maps, XE Currency, and Whatsapp which are lifelines for me. You can read more details about my favorite apps here.
John Collins: After you download Google Maps, log in for your destination city and zoom in and around to download the streets so you can access them when you're offline without Wi-Fi.
Donna Cruz: I use the app Trip It to put all my flights and accommodations in one place. I found it very useful for trips with connecting flights because I receive notifications when a flight is delayed or cancelled.
4. CHARGE YOUR ELECTRONICS
Jahaan Kajee: I tend to over-prepare for trips, and spend my the 24-48 hours before a trip ensuring all my electronic devices are charged, and my music playlists are up to date!
Lee Litumbe: Also make sure you have the right converter (a universal adaptor is even better) to ensure you can charge your electronics in a new country. One of the most frustrating things that can happen when traveling is not having the right power plug for the country once you arrive.
5. HEALTHCARE + SAFETY
Lee Litumbe: Don’t overlook the little (but major) things like getting travel insurance or packing a first-aid and healthcare kit. Make you have insurance that covers you physically, your luggage, your electronics, and your flights. Also, be sure to include vitamins, antibiotics, and pain relievers in your first-aid kit. You can read more about our beginner's guide to travel insurance here.
Steffy Fogain: I should do a better job of this, but sharing my travel itinerary with my relatives is a must. That way, in the event that my phone dies or I have trouble connecting to WiFi during an emergency, they can track my flight to ensure that I landed safely.
6. PACK YOUR ESSENTIALS
Lee Litumbe: Get packing cubes to help keep your luggage organized. This has significantly improved how efficiently I'm able to pack since I live on the road. Staying organized is a huge thing for me.
Dan Sadgrove: I’m probably the worst person to give advice on this. I usually wait until about 30 minutes before I have to get in the car to go to the airport and frantically chuck what I think will fit into the suitcase. Since I’ve been on the road for the last two and a half years straight, I try and stay under the 23kg allowance. If I’ve accumulated anything on my travels I have to make a quick decision on what I have to leave behind based on the season I’m travelling into. I’ve left stuff behind at friends’ places in all parts of the world. Last item I left behind was my Leica M6 in LA. I kind of regret that.
Parker Hilton: How easy will it be to get cash where you're going? How accessible are your staple items? If those things aren't readily available where you're headed, you may need to pack them.
Janis Roseanne: While I have been known to pack last minute, it feels a lot better if we’re all packed 24-48 hours beforehand. I recommend getting one of those digital luggage scales to make sure your bags are under (or just at!) the maximum baggage weight restrictions. I feel a lot less stressed once that’s all sorted out. My last order of business is always to pack some snacks for the trip!
Scott Jackson: The best advice I can give is to make a check list of all the things you intend to bring with you (clothing, documents, passports, visas, etc...) The last thing you want is to show up at the airport having forgotten your essentials. To reduce the anxiety of wondering if you missed something, go through the list at least three times.
7. GET SOME REST + RELAXATION
Vanessa Granda: Rest would be the number one thing. Most people try to exhaust themselves so they can sleep on the flight, train, or bus - but for me it’s plain unpleasant.
Hannah Bergin: Relax! There’s nothing worse than last minute panics after realizing you don’t have something you need, have misplaced something you thought you had, lost your booking confirmations for this or for that, haven’t yet figured out how you’ll get to the airport… As wonderful as travelling is, the journeying is inevitably a little stressful. I like to make sure that I am completely packed, that my documents are well organized and accessible. I also ensure that I have all the contacts, addresses and maps I require, a good few days before I leave. That way, the last 24 hours or so can be (calmly!) spent saying goodbye to family and friends, as well as getting a decent amount of rest and sleep so that I can be in the best frame of body and mind to begin adventuring!
OUR FINAL THOUGHTS
The world of travel is filled with possibilities and you never know when you might face the unexpected. Whether you're a novice or expert traveler, pre-travel panic can creep up on you without any warning signs. To ward off these pesky emotions, we recommend creating pre-travel rituals such as researching the location that you'll be visiting, creating checklists, emailing yourself copies of important documents and last but certainly not least, getting some rest.
Now that you've heard from our featured contributors (whose stories you can check out by clicking directly on their names btw) tell us, what does your pre-travel routine consist of?