When you're planning to be away for a considerable amount of time, the lead up to you stepping on that flight and leaving the UK can be very overwhelming. You have a whole mix of emotions whizzing around your head and a long to do list in preparation for your adventure.
To help you out here's a 15 point checklist that we've put together to use in your preparation phase. Most of them we did before we left, a few we missed and can tell you from experience are much easier to do before you leave rather than struggling with a dodgy Skype connection when all you want to do is be out exploring the exciting new destination you are in.
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1. Check Your Passport
This may sound obvious but plenty of well seasoned travellers get caught out by this. So make sure you check the expiry date on your passport because to enter most countries you need at least 6 months remaining. Also check how many pages you have left in your passport, bizarrely some countries insist on there being at least 3 blank pages for entry.
2. Check The Expiry On Your Bank Cards
If they are due to run out whilst you are away be sure to order new ones in plenty of time to arrive before you leave the UK. Banks won't deliver them overseas so you would have to get them delivered to a UK address and then arrange for someone to send them to where you are by courier. A faff and expense you don't need.
Also if you don't already have an account with more than one bank, open another. This way if there is a problem with one you have a back up. We have both HSBC and Barclays accounts. Also some card types are more widely accepted in some countries than others. We constantly had problems with our HSBC card being accepted by cash points in Argentina but our Barclays one worked fine.
We keep the bulk of our money in a saving account that doesn't have a card attached to keep it safe and transfer money out to our current account accordingly. That way if a card gets nicked or cloned thieves only have access to limited funds.
3. Tell Your Bank Your Destinations
You can do this while you're in the bank or over the phone but the easy way to do it is just through your online banking. Be sure to keep it updated whilst your travelling if your itinerary changes. That way you ensure your cards aren't blocked. Another hassle you can do without.
4. Add A Trusted 3rd Party On Your Bank Account
Both you and your 3rd party will need to go in person to your bank at the same time to do sign the relevant forms. But plan for the worst case scenario in that your cards get nicked, your accounts are stopped and you can't access your online banking. You'll be thankful you took the time to sort it out someone being able to act on your behalf in the UK if it happens.
5. Check The Expiry Date On Your Driving Licence
Driving licences need renewing every 10 years. You may not be planning on driving whilst your away. But you may fancy hiring a scooter to explore places on, particularly if you are going to SE Asia and may need to produce a valid licence to do so. You can renew it easily online here.
6. Speak To The Student Loan Company
If you have a student loan that is! If not skip this point. You will need to call the Student Loans Company and get them to send you a living overseas assessment form, which you will need to complete, sign and send back along with accompanying proof of how you are supporting yourself (i.e. saving account statement) and an itinerary of where you will be with timescales.
It can take a while to sort as you cannot send things by email, it has to be by post, they are really slow and their customer service are unhelpful and rude at best in our experience. We didn't do this before we left and the hassle in getting it sorted went on for months.
7. Register To Vote By Proxy
Even if there aren't any planned elections for whilst you will be away, one might crop up. Registering to vote by proxy is simple to do, just complete an online form to say you're temporarily living overseas and opt to vote by proxy.
They'll then send you a form to sign and complete with your nominated person's details who you need to trust to register your vote. And that's it. Worth planning ahead - again something we didn't do before we left and wish we had.
8. Unlock Your Phone
It's handy and also quite cheap in most countries to a get a local SIM card. But you will need to get your phone unlocked. Just contact your provider and they'll send you PUK code. It can take a while to come through so do this in advance. Also if you have a contract that you are cancelling make your sure you give the required notice - usually 1 month.
9. Dentist & Optician Check Ups
Depending on how long you are planning to be away for, this is worth doing. If you need any treatment or a new prescription, it's going to be 10 times easier to take a preventative approach here and get it sorted at home.
10. Obtain Any Prescriptions You Need
If you have an ongoing health condition there will be supplies that you need to take with you. Also whilst you are in contact with your doctor it's worth finding out and making a note of your blood group type if you don't already know it for any medical emergencies.
11. Get Your Vaccinations
This is also something you need to plan in advance as some immunisations are done over a course of 2 or 3 injections. Check the NHS Fit For Travel website for what is recommend for the destinations you are heading to. Note that some are a must and some are just recommended.
I'd say talk to your doctors but ours had very little knowledge of what we needed and didn't have half the stuff in stock. Your best bet is to have a consultation with a specific travel clinic to decide what you're going to get, then call your doctors to see whether they can provide it for free on the NHS. The travel clinic we went to was really good but as they are usually private they will charge for all their jabs and are not cheap.
For travel in South America, South East Asia, China and Japan we had Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Tetanus, Hepatitis A & B. If going to malaria risk zones you will also need anti-malaria tablets. There are a few different types and all can have side effects so do some research about which one is best for you.
You can buy Malarone from pharmacies without a prescription, but it is known to exacerbate mental health conditions (no good for my anxiety) and so we got Doxycycline prescriptions from our doctors and haven't experienced any side effects with them.
12. Get Travel Insurance
There's so many options here. You need to do your own research, check out terms and conditions and make your own personal decision. Thankfully we've not had cause to use the one we have so I can't really recommend it.
Check whether you have one provided as standard through your bank too. And check what level of cover you get for electronics. Ours only insures devices less than 2 years old and to claim for loss or damage we have to be be able to provide proof of purchase.
13. Make Copies Of All Your Documents
I'm talking passport, vaccination record (particularly yellow fever), insurance documents, valuables receipts and flight details. Make photocopies of everything to carry with you and scan online to google drive or your email.
We know of travellers who have had to get another yellow fever vaccine as they had misplaced their previous certificate and couldn't move onto their next destination without. Always also carry a copy of your passport if you need it for ID purposes rather than your actual passport around with you day to day.
14. Get Some US Dollars
US dollars are the most widely accepted currency and it is often insisted upon at some borders when purchasing visas. Also useful for paying any unexpected bribes or fines that may crop up. We carry a few hundred with us as a back up for emergencies.
15. Buy A Hard Drive & Fill IT With Films
We meant to do this and ran out of time. Man do we wish we had though. The number of times we've been been delayed or just been in transit without any, or with very poor internet is too many to count. Trust me, sitting on an airport floor for hours on end, bored out of your mind is no fun so do yourself a favour and plan ahead for those inevitable times.
Did we miss anything off? Is there anything else you would recommend to do before you leave the UK to travel? Did you find this list helpful? Get in touch in the comments guys!