We’ve all been there. Unpacked the suitcase only to realize we’ve forgotten something vital. Or got home and gazed at the umpteen pairs of socks, two rain-jackets and three woolly jumpers that went unworn in the intense heat of a foreign summer!
Such small details won’t completely ruin a holiday, but they can definitely detract from the overall experience and enjoyment. And that’s without mentioning any unforeseen emergencies, like when things get lost or stolen or people fall ill.
The good news is that with a little foresight, research, and common sense, the most frequent holiday issues can be avoided. And even if you do have an emergency, some forward planning can help to minimize any disruption.
So here’s our handy guide on how to pack responsibly and prepare for all outcomes when traveling abroad.
When you’re packing for a holiday, especially if you’re going overseas, it makes sense to plan for every eventuality. That way, if the unexpected does happen – for example, rain in a usually hot country, or you run out of a prescription – you’ll be ready.
How long you’re staying will also be a factor in how much luggage you need to bring, as will the availability of laundry facilities. If you’re staying relatively close to home, you may be able to easily access things like prescription drugs. However, if you’re going to a far-flung place with few facilities, you may need to stock up before you leave.
When you’re visiting a place for the first time, it’s always a good idea to do some research before setting off. In our experience, the best way of doing that is to talk to friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who’ve already been there. They’ll have firsthand knowledge of your destination, and can advise on what – and what not! – to bring.
If you booked your holiday through a travel agent, they’re another valuable source of information. Often the reps have visited the destination themselves, so they can offer really useful advice. Of course, you can pay a visit to Google or sites like TripAdvisor to do your research, but personally, we prefer speaking to real people who’ve actually visited the destination!
Thus far we’ve talked about what you should and shouldn’t pack, but it’s also important that you familiarize yourself with the laws, customs, and culture of your holiday destination. Some countries expect women to cover up, for example, and others don’t allow the importation of chewing gum! Many countries now have a zero-tolerance approach for driving under the influence of alcohol, and in other places, it’s not advisable for women to travel alone.
It pays to be wise with regard to local geography, too. Certain parts of a city might be notorious for pickpockets, for example, or it may be unsafe to drink tap water. By taking a few simple precautions – like keeping your valuables out of sight, or only drinking bottled water – you can nip many of the potential issues in the bud and avoid having your vacation spoilt.
Wise travelers do their homework ahead of time in case of an emergency. If the worst should happen and you’re robbed, lose something important, or fall ill, it’s useful to know where to go before the event. It only takes a few minutes to research and record important numbers for emergency services, hospitals, insurance hotlines, and so on.
Finally, before you leave, check that your credit cards are acceptable in the country you’re visiting, and verify the position regarding roaming charges with your cell phone – you don’t want to ruin that post-holiday glow by getting hit with a monster cell phone bill!
I used to own an RV and lost count of the number of times I forgot something small yet important, like a corkscrew or even tea towels. Each time I went away, I had to buy a few extras that I already had at home. Eventually, the penny dropped, and I drew up a list of everything I needed to take. By checking my list before I left, I made sure to never again forget any essentials!
So draw up your own list of holiday must-haves. First up, it should include things like your passport, medical insurance, driver’s license, hotel/car hire reservations, airline tickets, and so on. It’s not a bad idea to have a special safekeeping bag for them all. And here’s a really useful little tip. Take pictures of all your important documents, and send them to your Gmail or cloud-based email account. That way, if they do get lost or stolen, you’ll at least be able to access copies, which can make getting replacements much easier.
Finally, you can move on to any specific clothing needs. You probably won’t need your sandals for that skiing holiday in France, but it’s essential to remember your gloves and goggles! Oh, and don’t forget your credit cards and local currency, and remember that the latter may take some time to order.
All this might seem like overkill, but in practice, once you have your list in place, it’s super easy to use. Plus, it actually helps you to pack more quickly and efficiently, because you can get everything done in one go!
We can’t stress enough how much a little effort and research ahead of time can help you enjoy your holiday more. You won’t forget any little essentials, and if anything bad should happen, at least you’ll be in a position to react quickly and minimize any disruption. When it comes to happy holidays, remember this: a little planning goes a long way!