Before Preparing for a Trip

Organizing your trip on your own  can be stressful and fun! Whether you are leaving for a short or long term, you have to think of everything, try not to forget anything and it starts even before booking your plane ticket . I have put together a list below of everything you should not forget before you go  so that preparing for your trip becomes a joy rather than an anguish.

Prepare & organize your trip

From the decision to go to departure, here are all the steps for preparing a trip . Click on the link that interests you or expand the article.

  1. To check before booking your plane ticket
    1. The choice of destination
    2. Check the validity of your passport / identity card
    3. Do i need a visa?
    4. Do I need specific vaccines?
    5. Am I going to drive? Do i need an international permit?
  2. Before leaving
    1. Book your plane ticket
    2. Take travel insurance
    3. The bank, an aspect not to be overlooked
  3. Prepare your itinerary
    1. I’m going to travel alone, I’m stressing
    2. Research blogs, guides & social networks
    3. Maps.me, a practical application
    4. How am I going to get around?
    5. Do I have to book all of my accommodations?
    6. Activities: sites for inspiration
  4. Finally the departure: some little tips to remember
    1. All that should not be forgotten

To check before booking your plane ticket

That’s it you have put down your vacation, all you have to do is choose the destination where to go on your trip . The choice is wide and depending on the continent, the country where you are going, I advise you to check some information to be sure of your decision . Who would like to spend their vacation under the Indian monsoon, the typhoons in Japan, or the heat of the Australian desert? Who would like to be refused access to the plane because a passport is not in order or quite simply because we forgot to make a visa? Here is a first list of small things to check before booking your plane ticket :

The choice of its destination

You have decided on your destination, I now advise you to check the formalities, the political situation and if the period is suitable for the trip.

  • Knowing the  political situation and the risks of traveling in the chosen country is the first thing to check. To do this, nothing better than going to the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Travel advice section . Some advice may seem alarmist to you, but it is always good to know them in order NOT to TAKE RISKS on the spot. Pay full attention to the red and orange areas of vigilance.
  • What is the weather like there? When to go? I advise you to type “when to go to + the chosen country ” in your favorite search engine and you will have all the information you need. 
  • Check the formalities: do I need a passport, a visa? I advise you to get the information at the source, that is to say on the French website of the embassy of the country  in question or on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of your country to have the best data. more up to date. Avoid forums for this information because you will always find the one or the one who traveled ages ago in the country and who will have the least up-to-date information possible!

Check the validity of your passport / identity card

Checking the validity of your passport or identity card is the first thing to do before booking your plane ticket.

When traveling outside the euro zone, you often need a passport that is valid for 1 to 6 months after returning from your trip . Today the deadline for rewriting a passport is such in France (especially before summer) that it is better to plan ahead. Even more so if you have a visa to do since it must be attached to the passport with which you are traveling .

It is the same for the identity card. Better to have it valid 6 months after your return from your trip. For adults, the French identity card is now valid for 15 years. For French identity cards which were issued between  January 2, 2004 and December 31, 2013,  the expiration date does not correspond to the validity date. Before leaving, I advise you to check if the country in which you are going allows it or not. The list can be viewed here .

Do I need a visa?

The visa is the second thing to check after the passport and identity card. Depending on the country, it will take you a few days or several weeks to obtain the holy grail that will allow you to enter your future destination. You will therefore not be able to leave at the last minute. For example the visa for Russia is complicated to obtain when Thailand offers a 30-day visa waiver  and does not require anything other than a valid passport.

  • How to make this visa? Once again, it is best to go to the website of the embassy of the country concerned where you will find all the necessary information or to the country files on the website of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs  France Diplomatie .
  • How quickly can I get my visa? The formalities for an e-visa are done online and are generally quite quick. You get it in a few days. Please note not all countries offer this service. For a visa that you will have to do at the embassy, ​​consulate or affiliated center, it will take a few weeks and you will sometimes have to travel to Paris to do the paperwork. Better to know that before you make up your mind.

To do your paperwork, you can also  take the services of Action Visas  for example, which will save you from making the trip to Paris and possibly a lot of stress! You can quote online to see if the time vs money saving is worth it.

Do I need specific vaccines for my trip?

I know the issue of vaccines is controversial, but you have to be aware of what you do when you travel. Not long ago, a French family reintroduced measles to Costa Rica when the disease was eradicated in the country. Well done ! Getting vaccinated protects us and protects others .

To find out about the vaccines to do before traveling (for example yellow fever) or the diseases specific to the country in question ,  I recommend the site of the Pasteur Institute or that of  the Air France vaccination center .

Am I going to drive? Do i need the international permit?

If you are planning to go on a road trip , check whether or not you need an international permit. It is free, easy to obtain but beware the delay can be quite long (minimum 5 weeks or even a few months). It is better to take it a few months before you leave to be sure you have it in your pocket before you leave.

  • To check if you need an international permit, just check on France Diplomatie in the “useful info” section of the country files
  • The procedures to obtain the international license are done online on the ANTS website
  • If you are in a hurry, you can hire a sworn translator, but the service is chargeable. You will find a list on the website Service-public.fr

Please note that the international license does not replace your driving license , it supplements it. You will therefore need to have your 2 documents with you during your trip.

Before departure: plane, bank, insurance …

Once you have validated your destination and have everything in your pocket to leave, you can finally move on to the decisive step: that of booking the plane ticket.

Book your plane ticket

Unless you have a preferred airline, don’t book your ticket with your eyes closed. Remember to check some data, especially if you go through a price comparison. Here are the ones that I check systematically:

  • Airline: in the event of an international flight, I always travel with a regular company , in particular for the related services. I know that if I fly with Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways or any other big company that is part of an alliance, I would have a decent service in case of problem: reclassification on a flight in case of cancellation, hotel in case of missed correspondence and reclassification the next day … You can trust all companies that are part of an alliance like Star Alliance, Sky Team or One World.
  • The case of low cost: for me low cost = low service. Of course, your plane ticket is not expensive, but in return you have no service in the event of a problem. A low cost flight is not viable in the long haul . In Europe I also avoid Ryanair which regularly cancels its planes.
  • Number of stopover hours: before booking your plane, check how much stopover time you have before your connection. In some countries, you will have to go through the border police and collect your suitcase before boarding the next plane, so allow some leeway . In these cases, especially at large airports, try to allow around 4 hours. it will also give you time in case of delay of the first plane.
  • Pay attention to the specific case of connections via the United States or Canada . You must enter the United States or Canada before picking up your suitcase and taking your connection. For this, you must therefore be in possession of an ETSA for the USA , an AVE for Canada . These authorizations are attached to a passport number, so do not plan to change it between the time you apply and the time you leave, otherwise you will have to start the process again.
  • Arrival time : pay close attention to the time you arrive and make your arrangements accordingly (book a hotel, plan a taxi or check that transport is still running …)

To book your plane tickets , look on comparators  like  Skyscanner  or directly on online agencies. Be careful, make sure that checked baggage is attached to your plane ticket (sometimes it’s an extra cost). I also advise you to go and check the prices directly on the airline’s website , sometimes it’s cheaper.

Take travel insurance

Travel insurance is a must when you go abroad , especially outside of Europe. Hospitalization or repatriation costs can be very expensive (especially in the USA and Canada), it is better to be insured. 3 cases arise:

  • Check with your insurance company if you are insured abroad (which countries?), What it takes into account and under what conditions (repatriation, medical costs, etc.)
  • Check with your bank card how you are insured and for how long . If you paid for your plane tickets with a Mastercard or Visa Premier, you may not need to take out additional travel insurance (a trip lasting less than 3 months)
  • Take out travel insurance for the duration of your trip . Many companies offer you this service. Personally, I take Cap Assistance at Chapka Assurances but you will find the same kind of products at AVI, ACS, April… It’s up to you to make the comparison and see what suits you best according to the services. I advise you to read the lines of the GTC (general conditions of sale) to fully understand what you are signing and under which conditions the insurance applies.

The bank: an aspect not to be overlooked

I had a few banking mishaps during my travels and in particular that of seeing my card blocked for withdrawals and payments abroad .

Avoid bank charges and withdrawals with a neo-bank

Traditional banks or online banks have the advantage of offering you the services of an advisor but the disadvantages of murdering you in bank charges and withdrawal fees outside the euro zone . The neo-banks (Max, N26 , Revolut ) have come to revolutionize the market because they offer services that traditional banks do not offer such as:

  • free withdrawal fees
  • the possibility of paying in the local currency (and thus avoiding exchange fees) in certain countries
  • money transfers at reduced costs …
  • an account that is managed completely online

However, I hear a lot about these banks and I still don’t fully trust them. Today I travel with 2 types of cards:

  • A Visa Premier from my traditional bank
  • A basic from a neo-bank. I only use the latter to travel and I only fund this account in the event of travel.

Please note: the accounts of these neo-banks, in particular Revolut and N26, are located abroad. As a French citizen, you are required to declare the existence of this account to the French administration .

Debit card – Credit card

While we are used to calling our cards “credit cards,” in reality there are so-called debit cards and so-called credit cards. What a difference ?

  • The debit card is the one whose expenses are debited from your current account.
  • The credit card is also linked to your current account, but expenses are only debited once at the end of the month. The famous deferred debit card.

The concepts “debit” and “credit” are mentioned on new bank cards and be aware that some car rental companies or hoteliers require a so-called credit card (therefore with the mention credit on it) for payment. If you plan to rent a car or pay for your hotels by card , take a good look at which card you have in your wallet.

Make a power of attorney

Another tip: if you are going away for a few months, consider giving a bank power of attorney to someone you trust. it can be used in case of problem.

Prepare your itinerary

Preparing the itinerary of your trip means getting into the real world. This is the stage where the journey takes shape and in which we project ourselves. In other words, this is the most pleasant phase!

I’m going to travel alone, I’m stressing

We often make a mountain of the first trip alone  but once we leave we say to ourselves “I was very worried for nothing” . Traveling alone does not prepare much more technically than another trip. You just have to prepare a little more psychologically to meet people  and not be alone in your corner. You will see, once you try, you easily adopt the solo travel mode!

To deepen the subject, I recommend my section Traveling alone , you will find a whole bunch of articles and resources to reassure you and decide to go solo for a weekend, a week or even around the world  😉

Research blogs, guides & social networks

Blogs like mine will keep you organized. Here for example, you will find my itineraries for 3 weeks in Thailand , 3 weeks in Cambodia or for a road trip in Iceland  but also enough to organize your city trips ( Graz , Bologna , Manchester , Bangkok …).

Where to look?

  • Search engines are your best ally  : “visit + name of a city” “itinerary + name of the country”, “what to do + name of the city or country” and you will have something to feed you to inspire you.
  • Pinterest is a great source of information that I use regularly before I travel. I create tables of the destinations I will travel to and save interesting blog posts, photos… It’s very fun and I strongly encourage you to take a look. It’s much better than Instagram, know that!
  • The guides offer ideas of routes depending on the duration of your stay.
  • There are also many destinations-related forums on Facebook where you can share tips or ask questions to refine your itinerary.

Mapsme: the ideal application for organizing your trip

I really like Maps.me, an application I use to plan my trips but also on site to write down all the tips from travelers I meet. You can download the map of a country, a city and pin places to visit, restaurants, hotels … and for each pin placed, add your notes.

I use it to take my notes and it helps me afterwards to write my articles.

For me, this is the essential application to have on your phone, just like the applications to manage your travel budget .

How will I get around the chosen country?

Knowing how to move in a country is anticipated. Will I take the services of a driver, rent a car or travel by bus?

  • Rent a car is  anticipated a few months in advance, especially in certain summer destinations such as Italy, Greece or Scotland.
  • Plane / Bus /… : I advise you to download the applications used in the country/city you are in and want to travel around.

Accommodation: do I have to book my hotels before departure?

Whether or not you book a hotel before you go will depend on the way you travel, the season and also the destination. If you are going to Scotland , Puglia in the summer or Iceland in any season, I strongly advise you to book a few weeks or months in advance. If you travel to Asia,  for example, you will always find something to lodge at the last minute but, depending on the season, you should not be demanding. In fact it all depends on the expectation that you have for a hotel / accommodation.

  • YES you must book your accommodation in advance 
    • the first night of your arrival in the country. Knowing where you are going to sleep and put your bags when you arrive is always good, isn’t it?
    • if you like to treat yourself with nice hotels / properties
    • if you are traveling to popular destinations / cities
    • if you’ve spotted a hotel you’ve been wanting to go to for a long time
  • NO if you travel hard and don’t give a damn about your comfort. You will always find somewhere to sleep!

I mix the two a bit. I don’t really like to book in advance to be free to change my schedule. On the other hand, I like to book my first and my last hotel in advance. Often I enjoy these properties. Comfort on arrival to recover from the jet lag and a good hotel at the end to settle down a few days before returning to France.

I also note that since the arrival of smartphones, I reserve my nights the day before or 2 days before . It can occupy my time in a bus 😉

  • How do I book my hotels?
    • Many popular sites allows you to book your hotel according to your own criteria and requirements, as well as apartments , guest rooms or bed & breakfasts  or guest houses.

Activities to book

Now that you have the tickets in your pocket and an idea of ​​your route, take a look at what activities you can do there. For inspiration, book activities or take passes to visit the cities.