By Rita Flores
Are you about to start planning your next holiday? Overwhelmed with the details of packing or finding the best flights? This can seem like a challenging task, but I’m here to help.
Whether you’re taking a short trip or will be away for a few weeks, there are some things you can do ahead of time to ensure you will have a safe and pleasant experience. Travelling has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember.
I almost feel as though I started flying before I could speak. From short weekends away to flying to the other side of the world with family or friends, I have always loved to travel.
Even though I consider myself an experienced flyer, believe me when I say that I have had a few out-of-breath moments due to mistakes and accidents.
A checklist is one of the most effective tools you can use when planning a trip away, and I’ve done one for you to ensure you avoid making the same mistakes that I did.
1. Finding the best flights
Skyscanner is my go-to website for finding cheaper flights even if you haven’t 100% decided where you want to go, as it gives you a variety of affordable locations for your chosen dates.
When I’m flying around Europe, I usually book with Ryanair, and my best advice is to read their promotional emails.
They tend to offer great deals when booking in advance, often having 24-hour sales or promotions. Also, if you’re flexible with when you fly, it often helps if you travel off-season.
2. Verifying all your bookings and dates
Although I travel frequently, I once booked a spur-of-the-moment flight and accidentally chose the wrong dates, resulting in paying more than I wanted to because of the changing fees.
The lesson to be learned is to always double-check the dates and times of your bookings including flights, hotels and pickups. And never forget to save all confirmations as documents in a folder, or at least, screenshot all the emails confirming your reservations.
Speaking of saving confirmations, you can never be too prepared.
In the case of losing your passport or ID, make sure you have a paper copy printed or a version stored online to make your life easier, should the worst happen.
The same goes for addresses and important phone numbers, such as the hotel where you will be staying.
4. Do you want to be offline all the time?
Consider- will your phone plan work abroad? If you’re going to another continent, a local SIM may be your best option.
When I went to China, I decided to get a SIM card from a local shop so that I could have data everywhere without having to pay too much.
This way I could always update my Instagram stories and WhatsApp photos to my family!
5. Useful apps
Sometimes you might visit places where there’s no data or signal which can be a problem, especially if you find yourself needing directions. This is where Google Maps offline comes in very handy, so remember to download this on your phone just in case you get lost.
6. Does your family know?
Trips are often unpredictable, and you never know what could happen. Giving your itinerary to a friend or family member may be crucial in the case of an emergency.
I know we all think that “maybe I’ll need this”, but…do you really? The fewer things you have, the better, that way you avoid losing them.
My biggest tip to not over pack is to lie down everything on your bed that you want to take with you. I know your room is probably going to look messy but trust the process. When you start packing your suitcase, try to select only half of the things you have laid out on your bed- be ruthless!
It can also be useful to pair things up in outfits (does that top really go with anything else?). Buying a lightweight suitcase between one to two kilograms is an investment worth doing because, believe me, I have already paid for the extra weight a few times and that’s money you really want to save.
When it comes to the packing, try to organise your suitcase with a separate bag for the toiletries, another one for jewellery and don’t forget a separate bag for your dirty laundry- it will be useful during your stay.
Hotels will usually provide towels, but you never know if you’ll need one to go to the pool or the beach. And if you’re staying at a hostel or Airbnb, you should never presume that they will provide one.
I recommend leaving medications, snacks, a pair of underwear and electronic devices in your carry-on, especially if you will be away from your main luggage for a long period of time.
8. Clean before going
Nobody wants to come back to a dirty house, especially because you already have to go through the hassle of unpacking everything on your return.
Cleaning, hoovering, emptying the bins and washing your bedding are all tasks that future you will be grateful that you did.
To reduce food waste, remember to go through the fridge and eat, freeze or throw away anything that won’t last until you return. For safety purposes remember to unplug all the appliances, turn off the heating and make sure the lights are off when you leave.
9. Fly comfortably
I never thought that I could stay sat on an 11-hour flight until I did, and realised that it’s not that hard if you prepare beforehand. Personally, I find that an aisle seat is the best option, (although I do agree that enjoying the views from the window is relaxing).
Eventually, however, you will want to stretch your legs or go to the toilet without having to disturb the person who is sitting next to you. You may not want to spend all the time watching the airline’s selection of films, so bring more entertainment with you.
Downloading podcasts, films or your favourite playlist before boarding can come in handy, along with a book or magazine. And, if you’re a student like me, there’s always some uni work you can do.
If you want to fall asleep on your long flight, try to avoid caffeine, turning instead to green or lavender tea which can help you feel tired. For long flights, I usually try not to sleep the night before so that I will be tired and instantly fall asleep on the plane.
Everyone has their own way of doing things, but these are the principles that I go by, gathered together over my years of travelling, and I hope they work for you too.