I’m all about excitement in my travels and tend to keep a flexible itinerary that allows me to go with the flow, even still, it’s important for me to plan ahead and prepare for smooth travel. Like just about anything else I do, lack of preparation almost never produces good results– and when it comes to travel, this can be the difference between a wonderful trip and a disastrous one.
Even if you have wanderlust in mind for your next trip, preparation is key to ensure you’re able to delight in all of the joys of travel. Here are four reasons why it’s so important to be prepared when you travel.
1. Things go wrong
You might miss a train, you might miss a flight, or you might arrive and find the hotel you booked doesn’t actually exist anymore – at some point on all great trips, something will go wrong. It is almost a rite of passage. If you have prepared properly, it will become a funny story you tell years from now. If you haven’t, it could ruin your trip. So, before you set off, check you have done all the basics.
Is your paperwork all in check? Do you need insurance? In countries like Thailand and Cuba this is actually mandatory – so don’t leave anything to chance.
How to prepare: With any trip planned, create a checklist with everything you need to complete before your trip! This should include everything from the basics like packing to doing your due diligence and researching visa and or travel requirements.
2. You may want more flexibility
I’m all about flexibility when traveling and actually plan for it! Whether using airlines that allow for flight changes or keeping a list of back up hotels/Airbnbs – just in case I want to extend my trip, my flexibility comes with a plan.
If you are having a really fantastic time in one town or city on your trip, you may want to adjust your schedule to stay a little longer. With preparation, you will know your itinerary inside-out and therefore know that you can stay an extra two nights before skipping the next point on your route and traveling directly to the one after. If you don’t know your schedule well, you probably won’t be able to be as flexible as that when you travel and that could mean you miss out on a stop that is really important to you.
How to prepare: If you’re like me and like to go with the flow, plan for flexibility. You can do this by adding a few additional days onto your trip so you can slow down your pace or double-checking hotel cancellation policies so you’re aware of the rules (just in case you want to switch locations at the last minute). You never know when a hammock will call your name!
3. You don’t want to run out of money
You have saved up for months, you have booked your flights and confirmed your accommodation and you can’t wait to get there. But two weeks into your trip and you are running out of money rapidly. If you don’t plan your budget down to the last penny you might find yourself short of cash at the moment you need it most. So budget for every eventuality you can think of and then you will be able to understand when you can spend a little more and when you can’t.
I personally like to set aside more money than my expected budget – just in case. Inevitably, I’ll stumble across a few restaurants I didn’t budget for or want to sign up for an experience or tour – so having a little padding allows me the flexibility to fully enjoy my travels.
How to prepare: Set aside an emergency fund, in the case you’re running low on money or choose to extend your trip. It’s nice to have that little padding, even if you don’t touch it.
4. You might lose something
There is nothing quite as awful as losing the one thing you can’t afford to lose when you are traveling. It might be your bag that doesn’t arrive at the airport, it could be your smartphone that you leave on a table in a cafe or it might even be your passport.
If you prepare properly and you do lose something, you will have a back-up plan. When you are packing, make sure you have photocopies of key documents – including your passport – put key phone numbers and email addresses on a piece of paper and when you check your bags in, take a photo of your baggage tag so that you can recover it later should the airline lose it.
How to prepare: The biggest practice I follow is traveling with carry-on luggage, I’ve heard enough horror stories from fellow travelers to motivate me to travel exclusively with what I can take on board with me. While this may not be right for you, just having an understanding that you may lose something is enough to help you plan. Keep your valuables and a change of clothes in your carry on to stay on the safe side. For more on this one, check out my packing tips here.
Fail to prepare? Prepare to fail.
So, prepare for success.