My travel planning style is to decide on my destination, book my flight 2-3 months in advance and then mull about my actual itinerary.
I talk to friends, watch films and read blogs, including Solo Traveler, of course, as so many readers have generously shared their travel experiences in our Destinations section. At about three weeks before departure I start confirming my itinerary.
Arranging flights, accommodation and activities are the fun parts of travel planning.
There are other, important planning steps that must be taken as well. They may not seem as exciting as actually booking your trip, but they may be more important than any others.
Planning for Solo Travel Safety
- Confirm that your travel insurance is current. TD Travel Insurance has sponsored this post. We came up with the topic together because their research shows that getting travel insurance is not in the top five things people do when they plan their vacations and it's the second thing I do. People tend to check that their passport is current, read reviews of attractions and check the weather (which I do in the last week before departure) but they don't rank travel insurance as a high priority. I do. My trigger for checking on my annual travel insurance plan or buying insurance for a specific trip, is the booking of my first hotel or hostel. Having a trigger or routine around travel insurance is a good idea as TD's research shows that more than 1/3 of Canadians have forgotten to purchase travel insurance at least once. Annual insurance plans, like the TD Annual Plan that covers you for unlimited trips of 9, 17, 30 or 60 days, makes it easy so you don’t need to worry about buying – or forgetting to buy – insurance every time.
- Plan how you will manage your money. My preference is to use credit cards for most purchases as I travel. That said, I still need some cash and in countries where credit cards are accepted widely, the banking system typically accepts my bank card in an ATM as well. Simple! However, some destinations operate on a cash basis almost exclusively and in these destinations ATMs can get a little tricky. I had difficulty getting cash in Jordan and Myanmar. In destinations that are cash-based, it's a good idea to have some of the local currency before you depart. Your bank can order the currency for you. Ask them to give you a break on any fees if you are a regular customer. I would get enough for a few days only and I would keep it in a variety of locations in my luggage, purse and pockets. Go to a bank on arrival to make sure that you can get more cash easily before you run out. Read Protect Yourself from Pickpockets: Keep Cards & Cash Safe
- Organize your documents. I print out copies of my passport and visas (if required) and the confirmation emails for flights, accommodation, train tickets, excursions and anything else I've booked in advance. I also keep a copy of these in Dropbox so that I can easily access it from my phone should the paperwork go missing. If you don't have Dropbox you can get 2GB of storage free.
- Know how you'll manage your communications. Knowing how you'll stay in touch with home or get emergency support is important. When I traveled before cell phones, going with a readily available communications plan was not a factor. Now, I wouldn't go without a phone and an affordable way to use it. Free WiFi in coffee shops, libraries and hotels are certainly an option if you have your own phone, tablet or computer. But in a foreign country, there is more to think about. Read Use Your Phone Anywhere in the World: Free and Low-cost Options
- Know the risks before you go. Research the health risks at your destination and, if necessary, go to a Travel Clinic to get the proper vaccinations and medications. Check your government’s advisory website to learn what risks are involved in your chosen destination and register with the government as a citizen traveling abroad. Here are the pages for the US, Australia and Canada. The registration service is no longer offered to British Nationals. They are offered basic travel information here and asked to sign up for alerts.
This post was brought to you by TD Insurance. As always, Solo Traveler retains all editorial control of what is published.