I'm about to head to Cyprus. It will be my first trip overseas since Covid-Lockdown. The pandemic has definitely meant that we all need to do a few extra steps of preparation before travel - but this new focus on pre-travel checks has made me more mindful of the other things that we travellers often forget. They can seem like such little things, but can really make a difference when you need them. In fact, most of the items on this list are things you hope you'll never need - but if you do - you'll be so glad you ticked them off your holiday prep list! Here's the top 5 ESSENTIAL items to check and prepare before travelling. 1. CHECK YOUR PASSPORT
This article is going to deal with the essentials, and later there will be check-lists and strategies that are handy to make such preparation more streamlined and less time consuming. Lastly, I'll be posting an article on the best pre-travel check and activities you can do to make your adventure even more fun, culturally rich and rewarding!
So let's get started with the absolute essentials! If you're new to travel, this is indispensable. If you're a seasoned traveller, let this be a refresher list. Just think about it like a refresher driving test after xyz years of learning bad habits and laziness!
1. CHECK YOUR PASSPORT
You wouldn't believe how many people get caught out either last minute before a trip, or even AT THE AIRPORT! Passports last such long time, it's easy to just assume you have years left on them. If Covid has taught us anything, it's that we can really loose track of time. Think about the dentists asking when you had your last check up - it's hard to remember accurately even 6 months ago, never mind years ago. It takes 60 seconds to locate your passport (or 5 if you are travel-aholic like me!) and 2 more seconds to check the expiry date.
As a minimum, a British Passport should still be valid for 90 days on the day you depart from home. However, the UK government recommend to have at least 6 months validity on the day you travel out. The passport should ALSO be be less than 10 years old on the day of departure from home. So the 3 months of validity should fall WITHIN the 10 years from the start date.
For example if your pass port is valid from February 2017 and expires in December 2027 - those last months from February until December in 2027 - your passport will NOT be less than 10 years old and so will not meet the TWO requirements. The reasoning behind the 90 days minimum validity, is that for many countries (particularly for British travellers), you can visit for up to 90 days without requiring a visa. This leads to an assumption that most people will return to their home country within 90 days. Long-term adventurers, need to ensure that their passport doesn't expire until they expect to return home (so if you plan to roam for 18 months, you'll need AT LEAST 18 months left on your passport.
Take a scan of your passport, and print a copy to store in a travel wallet that you take with you on your travels, as well as storing a digital copy securely. If you do require visas for your particular trip, and these are printed into your passport - make sure to scan these visa pages too. If you receive only a paper visa on arrival at your destination, take a photo with your phone and store it online, or email it to yourself. I personally recommend creating an online storage folder for each trip which contains all your important documents, as well as location and itinerary information. This (secured) online storage folder can be shared with your next of kin at home - so that someone knows where you SHOULD be and when, as well as having access to documents you might need them to utilise in an emergency on your behalf.
2. LOOK AT VISA REQUIREMENTS
This one is worth looking into well in advance, even before you book your trip. British travellers have become very accustomed to having excellent freedom of roaming, with mutual visa-waiver agreements between the UK and numerous countries, both inside and beyond the European Union. However, since the UK left the EU, it pays dividends to double check if requirements have changed, even with European countries. It's a good habit to get into anyway, especially is you are planning to travel beyond the EU, and/or beyond the usual 30 or 90 day tourism allowances.
Visa requirements may even sway your decision on which destination you choose for different trips with caring timespans and goals. If you're only after a short, hassle free break - you may want to work within the menu of countries that won't require any long application processes or high-costs. On the other hand - if your heart is set on s specific destination - make it happen! Just... give yourself a realistic amount of time to make it happen. Before you go ahead and book, me sure that you have a realistic chance of successfully gaining entry to your dream destination.
For those looking to travel for long periods of time, or possibly through several countries in one trip, research on visas becomes even more important.
I personally applied for a 1 year visa for the USA, as I was likely to be dipping in and out of the US from both Canada and the Bahamas over the course of a year. For various reasons, I was eventually overfed a 2 year visa - and, boy, was that a bit of luck! Although the United States was not my point of travel, both the Bahamas and Canada were considered 'neighbouring territories' at the time. After having visited Seattle from Canada, I didn't re-enter the USA until 6 months later, passing through Florida on my way to the Bahamas. I was then located on Andros for 6 months, but when I returned to Miami, I was informed I had over-stayed my visa for the US! Neither Canada, nor the Bahamas were 'far enough away' (I kid you not!) for me to have technically 'exited' the USA. Apparently, I should have returned to Britain or gone as far as Japan off the West coast!
So it pays to not only give plenty of time to apply for the visa (the US embassy put me through a trip half-way across the country, an over night stay, hours of queueing next to armed guards and a thorough riffling of my life-papers!) - but you should also look over the technicalities and limitations of any visa that you do receive.
And if you think that's a lot of hassle... you should see how hard it is for US citizens to gain visas for long-term travel!
Often it's possible to get Young Persons travel Visas up until around the 28-32 year mark (varies by country), with companies who will support you in applying for the document, as well as finding work while you travel (if you are allowed to) for a fee. Sometimes it's worth the cost to take away the hassle and anxiety of application processes.
3. TRAVEL VACCINATIONS
Before we get into the C-word... ! Let's look at general vaccinations for travel.
Again - look into this well before you intend to travel, possibly before you even book, as it might influence your choices and timings of your adventures. Generally we Brits have got it sooooo good thanks to our lovely, lovely NHS! Obviously, I'm not a doctor, so for up-to-date travel vaccinations advise, visit the
UK government and NHS guidance recommends visiting your GP or private travel clinic AT LEAST 8 WEEKS BEFORE TRAVEL , as some vaccines need to be given well in advance to allow your body to develop immunity, and some involve a number of doses spread over several weeks or months.
First off, find out what vaccinations you need for the countries your are visiting.
You can do this at sites like: TRAVEL HEALTH PRO or NHS FIT FOR TRAVEL
Next, find out what vaccinations you already have (and have proof of). You may find that you're already covered, and simply require a document or evidence of your immunity. As with passports, it's easy to fall under a false sense of security if you had travel vaccinations in the past. They don't offer life-long protection, so check that previous vaccinations have not expired in their efficacy or certification.
Now is also as good a time as any to make sure that your NON travel vaccinations are up to date too - might as well be fully covered and in tip-top condition! Hepatitis B, Tuberculosis (TB), Flu and chickenpox are all unlikely to be required for travel - but you wouldn't want to be struck down with any of those either!
Now comes the cost - some vaccinations are available for free on the NHS.
Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Cholera and Polio (given as a combined diphtheria/tetanus/polio jab) are all free from the National Health Service.
Other jabs are payable:
... with Yellow Fever only being available from designated clinics. Lastly, discuss any extra considerations with your GP or vaccination clinic. Special considerations need to be made for people who are:
Pregnant or Nursing
Obese or with underlying conditions
Working as an Aid Worker, in medical environments or in contact with animals during their travels
You see the pattern forming - scan your vaccination documents, store a digital copy online and take a printed copy with you in your TRAVEL WALLET
4. COVID & TRAVEL - IT'S A THING, LET DEAL WITH IT
Well, isn't this gonna suck?! I'm going to have to keep coming back and editing this article every 10 seconds, it feels like! Yes, the rules and restrictions are changing fast and frequently when it comes to Covid-19 and travel. It's a devisive topic - vaccine passports, masks on flights, PCR tests and their costs in different countries. At the end of the day - it has to be your decision, but whatever you do decide - you need to look up the appropriate requirements, and if you're not going to get the jab, at least have the decency not to complain about or break the rules for un-vaccinated travel (there, I said it).
For most people who are passionate about travel, it's not even a decision. We're used to getting our travel jabs, and one more doesn't seem like too much of a stretch. The draw of far off places and new faces far outweighs any aversion to needles in most cases! Those who have experienced the benefits of travel also tend to be more open minded and considerate of the countries and peoples upon whom they'll be visiting. This is not just about protecting ourselves, but those around us. CLICK HERE FOR THE UK GOVERNMENT'S CURRENT COVID TRAVEL RULES
Just like everything else - scan, store, print and pack your Covid Vaccine proofs. While we're on the subject - it's worth noting that some airlines will no longer accept cloth facemasks, or facemasks with filter ports. Make sure to grab a set of the medical grade 3 ply masks.
Worry not, you'll look sleek as f%$k in colourful MEDICAL GRADE FACEMASKS
If you require a PCR test to fly out from the UK, you need to have taken it less than 72 hours before flying. Depending on which list your destination is on, you may also require day 2 and 8 tests on returning to the UK. The UK government gives lists of recommended suppliers via comparison websites like:
Lastly on this subject, make sure that you know just what your insurance covers (and doesn't cover) in regards to Covid-19 - same with your flight provider. More on this next...
5. TRAVEL INSURANCE
Do you insure by holiday? Or annual travel insurance? Individual, Couple or Family?
Do you have specialist items or activities that you need to cover?
What about Covid Travel Insurance?
It's worth considering all of these questions. The good news is that most Travel Insurers can cover you immediately after payment. However, I would still recommend looking into this with a couple of weeks to spare - to find the best pricing, and to negotiate back and forth about what you want to cover. That recommendation comes from experience, let me tell you - but it also comes from being an active, blogging, immersive TRAVELLER, rather than a tourist. For many people, 'off the rack' policies will do just fine - and often you may even have travel insurance built into a bank account or credit card membership.
However, for those of us who want to get "out of the all-inclusive, and into the all immersive", you need to have a little closer look at the fine print.
As an ex-Master SCUBA Diver Instructor and Technical qualified diver - it's not impossible that I'll take a whim to go SCUBA diving deep than 30m, for example, or through wrecks and caves. You can usually add extreme sport cover to go up to 30m - but you may need to seek out specific diving insurance for deeper and more complicated diving.
If you are going on a cruise - you need to ask your insurer if they specifically include Cruise Cover - in case of missed boardings etc. The complexity of cruising itineraries (often covering multiple countries in one schedule - I mean that's kinda the whole point!) means that there are more opportunities for issues and emergencies. They can also include compensation (sometimes per missed destination if you are confined to cabin, or the cruise route has to change for some reason).
It's also worth looking at what you are taking with you on you travels. With a carry one that consists almost entirely of blogging, vlogging and photography equipment, as well as an expensive (but, I think, essential) work laptop, smartphone and smart watch - you KNOW I've got separate specialist tech and photo insurances!
Personally, I always have annual insurance, as I plan to be out of my home country more than I am in it if the year goes well! I also take this approach to my tech and photography insurance. Very often - if you have all of these different insurance policies to purchase each year - going through a broker can be a great idea.
By getting them to organise all of your different policies (you could also sort you home, contents, car, life and medical too!), you should be able to ask them to sort you some significant discounts for you giving them all of this business. Obviously bear in mind that the flip-side of this is that brokers will search through a list of insurers that they work with regularly - so you may not getting the WIDEST search - but they should be trying to find you the best deal within their specified partners list.
The alternative is to use insurance or market comparison sites, which can be a bit time consuming, but often yield great pricing - though I'd still recommend contacting the insurer directly to discuss the finer details and any premium editions that you need (see above).
As with any and all aforementioned paperwork and proofing - save, scan, store, print and pack your essential insurance policy information - know what number to call from abroad and have your full policy stored online either in cloud storage, or just in your email inbox. Whatever your experience of travel - I really wish you never have to use the last of this list, but knowing that I have had to - I can only espouse to you what a great thing it is to have! Did I forget something? What are the other pre-travel checks that you make? Answers on a postcard (they are so much more fun to collect than emails!