It doesn’t matter if you have 6 months or 6 weeks before you travel, there are a few preparations that you should get started as soon as you know you’re leaving. Use the list below to ensure that you’ve covered all your bases.
1. Have You Booked Your Flight?
Look around for the best deal before you book your flight – take into consideration length of layovers, arrival times, and departure and arrival cities as well as the obvious price factors. If you haven’t booked your ticket yet, click here for some interesting options.
2. Got Your Passport? Is it Still Valid?
If you’re over 16, a U.S. Passport is good for 10 years. If you don’t have one, now’s the time to get it! The least expensive route will take about 6 weeks. While you’re at it, get a certified copy of your birth certificate if you can’t find your original.
3. Visit Your Doctor.
Time to go to the doctor and dentist – you know you’re overdue anyway. This is a no-brainer – get checked out… blood pressure, heart, teeth, all the basics. If something new has come up, fix it before you leave.
There is decent medical treatment available for minor illnesses and injuries, but planning and prevention are the best strategies for any trip.
Get your prescriptions for medicines, glasses, etc. updated and filled. Order extra quantities (in case there’s a coup while you’re “in country”) – Just kidding!
Pick up a second pair of prescription glasses – and bring your prescription with you, too.
4. Get Your Vaccines.
Yep, you’re going to need shots. Regardless of the country you’re going to, you can’t escape having at least a few vaccinations.
Don’t worry, vaccines hurt your wallet more than your, uh, derriere. Here’s your vaccine information.
5. Get Your “Affairs” In Order.
Establish or update your will and create a Power of Attorney. Now don’t jump to the phone and cancel your trip. This is simply the prudent, responsible thing to do. In fact, you should do this whenever you travel internationally. Here are some convenient on-line resources…
6. Get Some Travelers’ Insurance.
It’s worth it if only for the peace of mind – and if something should happen, it’s invaluable!
You probably already have a baggage and flight insurance policy right in your wallet or purse! Most major credit cards come with a travel accident insurance benefit related to the flight if you charge it to the card. In case you didn’t keep that little booklet of rice-paper thin pages with minute writing stating all the credit card company disclosures and benefits, call your customer service rep and ask what they provide. Check out all your cards and use the one with the best benefits to book your trip.
A quick glance at the “Guide to Benefits” for my VISA card show that I have a $100,000 Travel Accident Insurance Benefit (loss of life, limb, sight, speech or hearing) and a $300 Baggage Delay Benefit.
Now, on to travel insurance for the rest of your trip…
7. Think “Outside of the Box”
You will be visiting a place whose culture, dress, behavior, living standards and priorities are probably very different from your own – “different” not better or worse.
If you plop down in Africa with the same set of expectations and behaviors that (appear to) serve you well in your home country (assertiveness, impatience, self-involvement) you will not only piss off the locals and eliminate the possibility of true cultural immersion, but you will frustrate yourself and create unnecessary stress for yourself and your fellow travelers. (We aren’t speaking to you personally, but “you” in the general sense, of course.) Click here for a fun way to start thinking from a different perspective.
8. Start Exercising!
It’s time to start getting in shape for a new adventure. Sure, you will still have a great trip without starting or increasing your workout routine, but life in Africa is more physically demanding than that of the Western World – even for its tourists. Up your exercise quotient and you will have a more fulfilling, less painful and exhausting day-to-day experience.
9. It’s Time to Clean House!? (This is the first secret to becoming an Enlightened Traveler)
Doesn’t everybody clean their house before a big trip? You’re going to a place where virtually anything from “the West” is a prized and cherished possession.
Using your unwanted trinkets from home, you’ll have the opportunity to bargain for crafts, tip hotel staff, and give gifts to children (and adults) The opportunities to use your unwanted, forgotten items are almost limitless.