10 easy steps for planning your first overseas holiday

  1. Choose a destination.

Choosing the destination doesn’t need to be a hard task. Use a recommendation from a friend, go somewhere you have always wanted, or stick a pin in a map with a blindfold on! Whatever your method, if you research the destination enough before your travel, you will have a great holiday! Every destination has a lot more to offer than the top ten tourist traps and cookie cutter experiences, no matter whether it’s a far-flung destination in East Africa, or something tried and tested by almost every Australian, like Bali.

Once you have decided where you want to go, start planning! Start a new pinterest board, spreadsheet or notepad in your phone – whatever your method is to keep all of the information in one place. Some key information you should know before you book anything in:

  • The best time of year to go (or at the very least, what the weather will be like when you plan to go).
  • A rough idea of what it costs for flights, transport and a hotel.
  • How far away it is (or how long it will take you to get there).
Ku De Ta

Ku De Ta, Bali

2. Book the holiday.

Now is the time to pop in to your local travel agency. Contrary to popular belief, it is not more expensive to get an agent to book your holiday for you. I mean, you could definitely spend hours upon hours researching every flight, hotel, transfer, day tour and general travel advice, but if you can find a good travel agent, they will save you hours upon hours of time and stress.

A good travel agent will spend some time getting to know you, and then make some recommendations for your destination based on what you have said you are looking for. They should be able to put together a glamorous, instagram worthy 5 star sojourn, or help you backpack your way across an entire continent on your desired budget.

My top tip for using a travel agent is to book someone you feel you have a good connection with and that has shown that they have listened to what you want.

I am biased of course, because my day-job is a travel agent. I have been one for ten years! But this just gives me inside information. The way it works (with the company I work for, anyway) is that the airlines, hotels, tour operators etc pay the travel agent after the booking has been made, so there is no booking fee or extra costs. You pay the same amount whether you book it yourself, or via the travel agent.

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3. Passport and visas.

Do you already  have a passport? Great! Check the expiry date. You need a minimum of 6 months validity from the date you return from your holiday to travel to most destinations. (For example, if you get home from your trip on 23rd June, 2019, your passport must not expire before 23rd December 2019). If you fail to pick this up, you are very likely to get denied boarding at the airport before your holiday. It will ruin your trip, and cost you a lot of money.

If you haven’t got a passport yet, or you need to renew it, get it done, now. I have written some tips on how to renew your passport in a hurry which you can find here if you need.

You must make sure the name on your flight ticket is spelled the exact same way as it appears on your passport. (eg. If your name is Timothy on your passport, but your ticket reads Tim you will have a problem). Most airlines don’t need middle names, however in most cases, you are better off to put them in all bookings.

Once you have a current passport, you should check if you need a visa. A visa grants you permission to enter the country, not a credit card. Some visas can be applied for online for a small fee, and others require you to go to the consulate, or have your travel agent send your passport off to them, and can take months to be issued.

At time of writing this, some of the countries that require Australian passport holders to have a visa before entering are: USA, Canada, Brazil, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Russia, Egypt and Israel, to name a few.  Please note this is NOT a comprehensive list, and you should check with your travel agent, or with the consulate of the country you are going regarding your circumstances.

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4. Health and safety.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to buy your travel insurance. So many people leave this until the last-minute, and buy it the day before they travel. Take some advice from me; A few years ago, I had a 4 week South America trip booked. We had spent over $10,000 prebooking flights, tours and hotels. A few weeks before we were due to leave, we received some bad news that my mum was seriously ill. We cancelled the trip, without hesitation, and thankfully our travel insurance reimbursed us for all of the money we had lost (so we can rebook the trip at a later date!).

Your travel insurance will also cover things like if you are in an accident while you are away, or get sick. (It also covers things like when monkeys bite you while you are in Thailand!).

Before you travel you should check with your GP that your immunisation are up to date. Things like Tetanus, and Hep B are so uncommon in Australia, because people get immunised regularly. It’s easy to forget when you had your last booster! Overseas however, there are a lot more risks. You can also check with Travelvax to see if you need any immunisation. Some common ones for South East Asia are Typhoid and Hep A, where in parts of Africa and South America you will need Malaria tablets and Yellow fever vaccinations, the list goes on.

You can check out health and safety alerts on the Australian Government website  Smartraveller. You can also register your own travel plans, so if something goes wrong, someone knows where you are.

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Karon Beach, Phuket

5. Suitcase or backpack?

As it gets closer to your trip, you will need to decide what gear you are taking with you. The first place to start is whether to take a backpack, or a traditional suitcase. The correct gear very much depends on the type of trip you do. I favour my tried and tested Kathmandu Entrada 65 litre lightweight backpack for most trips but if I’m travelling for work, or for a short domestic trip, I sometimes use a standard suitcase.

Once you have picked your choice of pack, you can fill your case! What goes in it will depend very much on where you are travelling, so I wont go into that here, but you will be able to get suitable packing lists from friends or family. (Or, if you need a hand, hit me up in the comments and I’ll give you a hand).

Your nearest travel shop or outdoors/adventure store will also be able to point you in the right direction. My best piece advice though; Less is more. Once you have packed your case, take out 5 things.

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6. Money

If you intend on using your bankcard/credit card overseas, you will need to let your bank know where you are going. Even if you don’t plan to use them, I suggest notifying them anyway, so they are available to you in case of an emergency.

You also need to decide how you want to access your money. I usually carry some cash, but put most of my money on a travel card (I use the one provided by Flight Centre as the fees are really low, but you can get them from your bank or the post office too).

When I was travelling in Colombia on my own, I carried cash only, as ATMs are hard to find. On a night out drinking, I was a super-dork and carried my cash in a money belt, under my dress, and only a small amount in my handbag. (Most of the time I only carry a max of $200AUD of cash, so if I get robbed, it’s not a huge loss). In Bali, and in India I carried AUD, and exchanged it as I travelled around. In Europe, I took a few hundred Euros with me before I left home, but used my international travel card for most stuff. I’ve done the same in USA. Every country you go to is going to require a different approach.

7. Camera

I personally carry my camera almost everywhere I go, but phone cameras are such good quality now, I find I end up using my iPhone almost as often as my bulky SLR, so I am currently considering  upgrading to a smaller, lightweight camera. The list of tech items you might like to bring can go on and on, but this is not a packing list… (Perhaps that could be my next post?!

Orvietto

8. Phone / data

If you are travelling for a significant amount of time, buying a sim card locally that allows you to text and call, and gives a good amount of data is a good idea. If you are going for a few weeks, and not planning on hiking, camping or travelling anywhere too remote, you can probably get by using the free wi-fi provided at most hotels, cafes, bars, train stations, airports, well… most places! When I’m travelling, I usually switch my phones data off, and then put the phone on to flight mode. I then turn wifi back on and search for the free stuff. This is undoubtedly the cheapest method, however if you want to post your insta-worthy travel pic as soon as you take it, without waiting til you get back to your hotel, or need to be able to be contacted 24/7, you should seek an alternative. Check with your own service provider first, as they are pretty competitive for short-term travel. If you are going somewhere far-flung or for an extended period, a pre-paid sim from the country you are in will be the cheapest option.

9. Travel apps

There are so many great apps available now to help every traveller have a better experience. I’ll do another post on my favorite apps later, but until then, my top three  apps that you should have in your phone before you set off are maps.me, been, and Google translate

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10. Go on holidays!

Whether you followed this guide to a tee, packed and repacked, and carefully planned your trip months in advance, or you have just stumbled on this guide and you leave in a few days, don’t panic too much if you are not super prepared. If you forget something, you can probably buy in on your way. Don’t have a camera (or forgot it) well you’ll probably live more in the moment that way. If you get lost, you might just have the best adventure!

Overcoming obstacles while travelling teaches you so much about yourself, and gives you amazing skills that you never would have realised you had otherwise. Live in the moment, and enjoy your hard earned break.

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Until next time!

Sarah

xx