Taking that trip you’ve always dreamed of or planning spontaneous trips can be so much fun. However, several things have to be considered well in advance so that you can have the best holiday experience. Let’s take a look at some of the important things to consider when planning that amazing solo, couple, group or family trip away.
1| Validity of your passport
As a rule of thumb, do make sure your passport is valid a minimum of six months from date of return of your trip. And if you’re a UAE resident, your UAE visa should be valid 3 months from date of return. This may seem like common sense advice but you would be surprised at how easy it is to forget validity of passports of family members.
Also do ensure that your passport has enough blank pages inside for issuance of visas. Destination countries prefer to have two blank pages side-by-side on which to stamp their visas. So this is another important point to consider when planning your trip. Given enough time, you can apply through your country of origin for another passport booklet so that you don’t run out of blank pages.
2| Travel insurance
This is another area that travellers agree to disagree on. Travel insurance that covers emergencies like medical expenses while on holiday or lost luggage is vital. When the Bali volcano erupted recently, passengers with valid travel insurance were able to travel back with less disruption and costs than those who didn’t have it.
Travel insurance is worth investing in and especially required for travel to Canada, the USA, Australia and Europe. The coverage offered is for personal medical expenses, theft, trip curtailment or cancellation, loss of passports, travel delay, missed departure and even burglary at home when you are away on the trip.
And while no one likes to think anything untoward may happen on their holiday, the reality is that you may encounter some form of emergency. In that instance, it is always better to be covered by a comprehensive travel insurance policy. This is something a knowledgeable travel consultant will always advise their clients.
3| Visit Visa
For many nationalities, applying for visit visas are a regular feature of their travel plans. However, for many others with passports that ensure entry without visas, you would still need to do a check to see if your destination requires a visa. Some popular destinations requiring visas include India, Sri Lanka,
To facilitate the process some countries such as Turkey, Zambia and Sri Lanka offer e-visas while countries such as Georgia and Armenia offer visit visas on arrival with a nominal fee. However in many cases you may have to plan ahead of time, making appointments with Visa Facilitation Services or consulate offices at least 30 days prior to travel. You would be required to hand over your passport to them for visa issuance so do keep that in mind.
During peak travel times such as summer breaks, the best advice is to apply for visas well in advance.
Visa rules routinely change so it’s best to contact the consulate or visa facilitation service well in advance of your trip so that you have sufficient time to apply and receive the visas.
4| Wi-Fi, internet and mobile phone plans
A big part of travel is having access to the internet and Wi-Fi. Before you travel check your local service provider for data travel packages. For e.g. du offers 750 MB data for only AED 35 (daily rate). This is just one of their offers among others.
Most international airports offer services for local mobile Wi-Fi or dongles with unlimited data coverage. This is a great option as several devices can connect to this at the same time.
For longer stays (for e.g. More than 7 days) it may be advisable to also pick up a local SIM for easier and cheaper call packages.
With so many reasonably priced options you would not have to resort to using cellular data (from country of origin) while travelling to another country as this is usually very expensive. We have known of cases where travellers unknowingly have been billed thousands of dirhams for keeping cellular data on while away on holiday.
5| Local currency and credit cards
Ideally I recommend that my clients pick up local currency from currency exchanges before they travel. Airports and hotels usually offer approximately 5 to 10% less for your money. While using credit cards has also become widespread, do keep a watch on bank charges and exchange rate every time you transact with your card. If you do have the option of paying in AED or local currency, select local currency when making payment.
Also, while many places do accept credit cards, you may find yourself in a night market or a small village where only cash is accepted. So it’s always advisable to have some local currency in hand when travelling.
Another tip that I offer is to always inform your bank of your travel plans so that they are aware when they see credit card charges from an international destination. In these days of multiple frauds and scams, banks and financial institutions have increased security measures. To avoid your credit card getting frozen by your bank while on your holiday, it’s best to keep them informed of your travel plans.
6| Useful travel gadgets
We always research wattage and types of charging points at destination. Cameras, phones, laptops, power banks – all of these require regular charging. Carrying multipurpose travel adaptors that can charge several devices at once is always useful. Power banks come in handy on long days of travel. Always ensure that you do not pack power banks in your check in luggage for safety reasons.
7| Get familiar with your destination
Getting acquainted with your destination is always a good idea. Download google maps of the local city or town so you can access it offline if you need to. For approximate calculation on distances between places, we use Rome2Rio.com.
I usually try to pick up a few phrases in the local language that may come in use. For e.g. I find the response to ‘Bonjour’ while in Paris is warmer than just a ‘Hello’ or saying ‘Gracias’ while in Spain is better than a ‘thank you’. Look for Apps that assist with language translation such as Memrise or Duolingo.
8| Be aware
A great travel experience can create memories for a lifetime. However, you still have to be careful and aware of your surroundings when travelling. Pickpockets and thefts are a common occurrence especially around popular city such as Rome, Paris and London. Carrying your belongings in a backpack may not always be the best decision when in these places.
I’ve invested in an anti-theft backpack (of the Mark Ryden variety) that offers little or no access to thieves as it is not easy to cut through and there are no zippers on the front of the bag.
Do carry copies of your passport, ticket, visa, travel insurance and photos as you may require them in an emergency.
Also Check out: The Travel Checklist you shouldn’t be without
9| Local food, activities and local commute costs
We love to eat like the locals when we travel so we research the best local food cafes and restaurants in advance. Asking friends who may be from there for their recommendations is also advisable. Getting an idea of the costs of food can be useful when planning daily budget spends.
Many cities offer city cards that include museum entries and discounts on the important attractions in that city. The savings can be considerable especially if you’re travelling as a family.
Look at picking up commuter cards for ease on local trains, trams, buses and boats. For e.g. Switzerland offers Swiss Passes that include all local means of transport and children are offered discounts when traveling with parents.
Andrea Bailey is a Dubai based travel writer and travel consultant with Travel Counsellors. She travels frequently with her 3 daughters aged 11, 7 and 4 yrs.