Getting Trip Ready from Planning to Packing
Trips, vacations and holidays are one of the sweet sweet sides of life. In my opinion, there is nothing more riveting or exciting then jumping on a plane to go see something new. No doubt there is some planning involved, and depending on the duration, location and style you like to travel in, there may be quite a bit of it. Do not be afraid, this is the fun part! Sometimes the prospect of organizing can be daunting, but I have always found it is better to plan ahead, do my research and tackle things small steps at a time. Remember to have fun and enjoy the process!
Think Ahead. Do Your Research. Be Flexible. (Do this 4-12 months ahead)
Where do you want to go? When do you plan to go? And for how long? Is there something specific you want to see or do? Knowing when your chosen destination has its peak season or best weather can impact your whole trip. Peak season can make flights more expensive and accommodations harder to come by. Similarly, it is important to know what weather you are going into; even places typically known for being hot have a hurricane or rainy season. Certain tourist and natural attractions are also seasonal; if something is on your “must see” or “must do” list, make sure it will be open and doable when you are there. All of this research will help determine how much planning ahead you will need to do.
I have started planning trips and completely scrapped them because my research found that my availability conflicted with both the weather and activities I wanted to do. Of course, this is all a personal choice! Going to a new place during their off-season or winter can be a beautiful experience too. I went to Iceland in February, and it was beautiful, quiet and there were more than enough activities to do!
Keep on researching! Perhaps book your flight? Your hotels/hostels/AirBNB? Your rental vehicle? Review Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet and travel blogs for more specifics, or maybe you have friends, family or acquaintances with some recommendations? I find first-hand accounts oh so helpful!
- Lonely Planet guides are my favourite. I always scope out their guides for researching and planning my holidays.
-From my experience, flights seem to be cheapest when you book 4-6 months ahead.
-Flights also seem to be a bit cheaper when you book on a weekday in the evening (I have no idea why, but this is what I have found!).
-Flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday is almost always cheapest.
The Less Fun but Equally as Important Stuff (Do this 3 months ahead)
- Check your passport – Make sure it will be valid for at least 6 months after your trip. Some places will decline you entry into their country without this time requirement. You worked so hard and did all that planning, so just take care of this!
- Check into specific entry requirements – Some countries may require you to show “proof” of something upon entry; tourist visa, vaccination record, health insurance, etc. What may or may not be needed will differ by every country you are going to and what country you are coming from. Again, you worked so hard and did all that planning, so do yourself a favour and look into this well before jumping on the plane!
-Check into vaccinations – Review your countries travel advisories and see what they have to say about your destination. Depending on where you are going, certain vaccinations may be recommended. Do your research thoroughly, though you may wish to go to a travel clinic for more information on this. Consulting your own vaccination records will help determine what you may be already covered for. I would recommend looking at this closely at least 3 months ahead, as some vaccines require multiple shots over a period of time.
The Before Packing Stuff (Do this 1-4 weeks ahead)
-Start thinking about what to bring – this is where all the research you have done will come in handy! I always TRY to pack light, but I also want to ensure that I am prepared for just about anything; a rainy day, a cool day, a day of hiking, a nice dinner out, etc. Your intended activities will have a big impact on how you pack, but generally, you can expect to be spending quite a bit of time outside. Maybe you need to pick up something specific? Like water shoes, quick dry clothing or a raincoat. Don’t go overboard trying to prepare for EVERY scenario, if you can equip yourself with functional multi-purpose clothing it will make packing much easier.
-Consider getting the local currency – I personally like to be prepared with some of the local currency before going. I like to do this so I am ready for tipping and am able to buy a meal or a drink, etc. Things like US dollars and the Euro are easy to come by, anything different than this you will probably need to visit a special continental currency bank. I recommend doing this 2 weeks ahead, as it usually takes several days to get an order.
-Review your toiletries – I don’t tend to buy mini travel size stuff, but I have kept a stock of small bottles that can be used interchangeably with whatever products I might want to bring. Take a look at what you have and make a list of things you need to pick up – things like sunscreen can be much more expensive when you are away. I personally don’t want to worry about having to pick up basic things like shampoo or toothpaste when I am away, so I am always sure to plan ahead.
-Prepare your “medical kit” – This is the little bundle of stuff you hope you won’t need, but you will be oh so glad you have it if you do! Things like bandaids, moleskin, anti-bacterial ointment, tylenol, allergy medication, gravol, pepto and imodium. I have a sensitive stomach and unfortunately travel does a number on it. I have learned my lessons over the years and I won’t go away without these things anymore, you’ll just have to trust me on this one!
-Pick up some snacks – This is totally optional, but I like to pick up a few travel-friendly food options. I usually pick up things like Larabars, pistachios and beef jerky. I do this for several reasons; it’s nice to have something available for when the mood or hunger strikes, it allows me to stick close to paleo a little more and it saves a few bucks. Sometimes you don’t want a big meal, you just want something small to tide you by – and that is where this is perfect.
-Packing cubes changed my life! I highly recommend these to anyone – it will make packing and organizing, both before and on your holiday, so much easier!
Getting Ready to Pack (Several days ahead)
-Charge your electronics – camera batteries, ipods, e-readers or whatever device you intend to pack. I find I always forget to these things until the night before, and I am getting out of bed to get things charging. Don’t be like me, and do this a few days before you go!
-Make a playlist – If you are a music lover you know the value of a fresh playlist can make that new experience even better. This can come in handy for a long plane, train or bus ride, and this is especially true for a road trip. Again, if you save this to the last minute it won’t get done, so do it a few days ahead!
-Get a new book – I am an e-reader convert, and a new light read before a holiday is perfect. It is great for any wait in the airport, plane ride or quiet moment at the beach. Heck, when you have an e-reader, you can bring as many books as you like!
-Make a list – Lists help organize and ensure you don’t forget anything. Now, when I say make a list, I mean use this for the un-obvious things you are more likely to forget. Things like a nail fail, binoculars, lock, spare contact lenses, glasses, sunglasses, phone charger, etc. A list of “last minute things to pack” will save your life! Okay, they won’t save your life, but you will be grateful you did it!
Packing (1-3 days ahead)
-Ideally, I like to pack over a few days. This allows me to take a methodical approach to packing; I can think about what I want versus what I need, I am not rushed and my mind has more time to remember those not-so-obvious items.
-Start with clothes – I do this in a two folder process.
1) I make a pile of ALL the clothes I would like to take if I had my way. If you are like me, you know that this is already way too much, and it is! This just separates what you want to bring from everything else. Now leave that pile for a few hours or a day.
2) Come back to your pile of clothes, but now try to think about them in terms of outfits and activities. You are now going through with a fine tooth comb, and removing items that don’t have a place. Make a yes, no and maybe pile. Yes items will make the bag and maybe items MAY have a place, but likely not.
-From here, packing is just packing! It’s not so overwhelming if you have kept organized and haven’t left everything to the end.
You are now ready for your trip!