Travel Tips Part 1: Before You Leave

David and I will be leaving Canada in less than a month to live in Paris and Den Haag (The Hague) until mid-September. We’re all set to go!

I’m fairly particular when it comes to preparing for a trip – especially one that will take us outside of our country. I’ve put together a travel binder, which is broken up into categories to include things like: flight information, apartment information, travel insurance (entire policy, with contact numbers), emergency numbers, and receipts. I even made a pretty cover in Canva for it!

Travel Poster

During the planning stages we put our knowledge to good use, and learned a few things on the way, too. Here’s a list of some* important tips before you leave for a trip to a foreign country. Keep in mind that, while I think most of these tips are valid for all travelers, they’re especially important if you intend to stay for a longer period of time.

1) Print your itinerary and flight information. Border guards will want to know where you’re going, why, and if you have a return ticket before they stamp your passport. Also, it’s good information to have on hand when you need it.

2) Have a copy of your medical insurance coverage. Read it thoroughly (!), and keep a copy with you while you’re away. If you need additional coverage, get it. Don’t be an uninformed (or risk-taking) traveler.

3) Go see your family doctor before you leave and get a check-up. Make sure there are no serious health concerns. Often health insurance while traveling can be voided if you had an existing condition for which you did not receive treatment before your trip.

4) Get the contact information of your country’s Embassy or consulate in the place you’ll be staying. They can help you in an emergency 24/7. For example, if you’re arrested, get sick, have your passport stolen, or are assaulted – they will help you!

5) Scan or photocopy your important travel documents. I stored copies of all our travel documents on Google Drive. If you photocopy your travel documents, make sure you store them separately from your originals, and in a safe place! It’s also a good idea to leave copies with family or close friends. Travel documents include things like: Passports, Visas (if applicable), hotel or apartment confirmation, flight information, and driver’s license.

6) Check and understand the exchange rate before you travel. Similarly, notify your bank that you will be traveling.

7) Check travel alerts and warnings for your destination. This information can usually be found on your government website. If you’re Canadian, check here.

8) If you’re Canadian, you can register online to let the government know you’ll be traveling, where you’ll be staying, and for how long. This is actually a great safety feature because if there’s a natural disaster or an act of terrorism, your government knows where you are and can help you! Furthermore, if there’s a disaster or emergency at home, they can get in touch with you.

9) Investigate the need for visas at least 3 months before you leave. Most countries process visas pretty quickly, and as late as two weeks prior to departure. However, there are a few countries (eg. France) who take much longer and the process can be complicated. Be smart and investigate early!

10) Ensure your passport is up to date and is valid for at least 3 months after your scheduled return date. Depending on your length of stay, some countries (eg. France**) won’t let you enter their country if your passport does not meet this requirement.

11) I wanted to only have 10 points, but I just had to include this last one. Visit your post office and either have your mail held for you, or have it forwarded to a friend or family’s address. That way your mail a) won’t be stolen b) won’t overflow c) important letters and documents won’t be neglected.

I hope this will be helpful for your next trip! Have fun and travel responsibly ;).

*Your government will likely have a webpage dedicated to traveling. Take a look at their checklists, warnings, suggestions, and tips! For the Canadian government’s website, click here.

**Can you tell France is bureaucratic? Everything takes forever…

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