Before you go - Things to Do

by Female Abroad

Friends and family are always asking me When should I book? What should I prepare to go? While there is no straight forward response to these questions as it really depends on where you are going, there are some basic things you can do to prepare.

When to book.

As soon as you know your dates. The further out you book, the better the deals. Most airlines and hotels will only release a rate a year out so you will have to wait for the 1 year point to pass. (ex. you are travelling May 2018, you can only book in June 2017). With hotels, grab the flexible rate so you can cancel it if a special price/promotion comes up. This is harder to do with airlines seats.

- Typically with Asia & Europe you want to book 9-11 months out especially if you are going during high season or festival season.

- With Latin America & Africa 3-5 months unless, again, it is high season or festival season.

Travel warnings.

Before booking that dream vacation, look at your government's website for safety warnings. This is very important as it can void your insurance and you might get stuck if something happens. It can also prepare you for the worst case scenario. High risk of theft? Pack a dummy wallet. Rape prevalent? Don't go out alone or into isolated areas and watch your drinks. If you are Canadian, check here.


A lot of people don't full research their destination. Check out posts online and even guidebooks from your local library (or buy them). Chat with friends & family they usually know someone that has been or is from there. Research is the most important thing you can do as it can help you skip monsoon season (unless you want to get wet), allows you to know when the festivals are (it will be busy and lots of closed businesses), lets you know the customs (lots of Catholic countries close their businesses on Sundays), and more.

Check the entry requirements.

Do you need a passport? (more than likely), Do you need a visa? Can you apply for a visa upon entry? What do you need to apply for a visa? How long does your passport need to be valid for? Is your passport expired? Do you need to be vaccinated? Canadian? You can find info about passports here and entry requirements into Canada if you are returning can be found here.

Make copies.

Always make copies of your passports, visas, insurance cards, and any other important items you are bringing with you. Normally I will give a copy of everything to a family member so if I have to evacuate quickly or get robed of everything, someone has a back up copy that I can get a hold of.


Get your International Driving Permit and bring your actual drivers license. While the IDP really feels like an expensive souvenir showing that you rented a car, some countries do ask for it so make sure you spend the $35 and get it. Better to be prepared. If you are Canadian, more information can be found here.

Visit a Travel Clinic.

Contact your local travel clinic to see if there are any vaccinations that you might need and arrange for a time to get them. This can be very important as some countries will not allow you to enter without proof of a vaccine. It is better to check with the travel clinic than your doctor as the travel clinic will be more up to date if there have been changes. Canadian? You can find travel clinics here.

Ask your Doctor.

If you are taking medications, pack enough for the entire trip and make sure they are in their original packages. Also carry a letter from your doctor about the medications in case you are questioned about them. If you can get the doctor to write down the Latin name as well as the generic equivalent that would be extremely helpful as you can hand this to a pharmacist/chemist/doctor in the foreign country and they can track it down for you.


  1. Make sure you have a sturdy suitcase or backpack and that you know everything that is in it.
  2. If you have carry on, make sure that your lap top, iPad, smart phone, and other devices are easy to pull out as you will have to put them in a separate try when running through the X-ray. Try to wear slip on shoes as well, especially if you are going to the USA, as you will have to take your shoes off. If you are bringing liquids then make sure that they are in a clear 1L plastic bag and each item is no larger than 3.4oz.
  3. Wear your coat and layer so when you are on the plane, you can adjust for cold/warmth. Coats are great blankets and sometimes pillows.
  4. Make sure you have no nuts, no animal products, or any other banned items in your luggage. If you are unsure what is "banned" check the airlines website or the immigration pages of the country you are going to and from.
  5. If there are two of you, if you have more than one 1L bag of liquids, make sure they are not in the same carry on. Both of you need to take a bag or they will stop you for secondary checking and possibly make you empty one bag.


  1. I get this question a lot What currency do they use? How much should I pack?
  2. Normally you can assume that your debit card will work at an ATM but might not be accepted at shops or restaurants.
  3. Credit cards like Visa & Mastercard are more widely accepted but some locations won't take foreign cards or are not set up to take cards at all so make sure you have back up cash. Even if you ask if they take cards, they may say yes, but then when you go to pay the card machine is broken. One of the great scams of Eastern Europe...
  4. Make sure you have cash in the currency of the country you are travelling to but USD$ does work sometimes too. Bahamas for example, everything is USD$ so you don't need BAH$. Sometimes you need both.
  5. Some countries charge entry and/or exit fees as well as visa fees upon entry. Most of the time these are charged in USD$ and have to be in cash. Look before you go to make sure you have the right amount, in the right currency, and in the right form of payment.
  6. Now the hard question, how much? This really depends on the type of trip you want to take. Luxury? Budget? What are you planning on paying for in cash - the hotels? The tours? Tips? Restaurants? Are you travelling with family, friends, by yourself? What country are you going to? What are you planning on doing while there? There are a lot of great websites out there that can give you an idea as to what to budget for but it is really up to you.


Pretty much everyone needs to charge their phone, devices, and camera now when they travel. Have you though about an adaptor? Does the country take the same plug? What about the voltage? You might need to pick up a converter as well so your device doesn't blow up and so you don't kill the power in the hotel. If you do need an adaptor, pick up 2 of different shape/sizes. You might find an adaptor that fits the socked put it might be recessed so you have to plug a thinner one into a thicker one so you can plug your device in. If you can, try to pack a USB charger for the device. It is easier to pack cords then a few full on chargers with thick ends. Plus if there is an updated TV, you can just plug it into that.

Report your travel.

Give your itinerary and contact information to a friend and/or family member so they can get a hold of you. Same goes with the government. If you are travelling abroad, let the government know so if there are any emergencies/disasters/evacuations they know to look for you as well as how to contact you. The Canadian Government has an easy site to use, click here. If you do run into trouble, a list of overseas Embassies can be found here.

Travelling with a child?

If you are divorced or the child is not yours then there are some needed requirements like a consent letter if they are under 18 and sometimes it does need to be notarized. For more information on Canadian law requiring it, click here.