Michelle Legge
Cover,Take Care

Passport? Luggage tags? Get it all done with our essential pre-departure checklist

10 April 2019

To help you tick the most important boxes before your overseas trip, get cracking on this essential Travel with Jane pre-departure checklist.

Who doesn’t love a list, especially when it’s a travel list! As your internet search history will tell you, travel lists come in all shapes and sizes – some people are serious preppers! While there’s always room for fun travel lists, we’ve kept this one short and sweet. Our pre-departure checklist zones in on the absolute essential things you need to do before you head off.

Whether you have weeks, days or hours to prep, use this checklist before you do anything else and set yourself up for a safe, hassle free trip.

1. Passport Expiry Date

Check that your passport is good for at least 6 months after the date you return home from your trip. This is an important one as your passport is only valid for travel if you have six months left on it, and if you think about it, your return trip home will require your passport to come out of its protective pocket – so use your return date as a marker.

2. Tourist Visa

Visas are a biggie on your international travel checklist. For up to date information on tourist visa requirements, leave plenty of time to contact the embassies or consulates of each country on your itinerary. Smartraveller.gov.au is an excellent place to search for embassy contacts by country.

Each country has its own way of dealing with visas. Depending on your length of stay and the purpose of your visit, some let you purchase your visa on arrival, others need that visa to be in your passport before you jump on the plane in Australia.

Then there are visa exemption programs offered to citizens of specific countries by the likes of Thailand, USA, New Zealand and the UK. Visa waivers ‘waive’ the need to carry a visa, but still require a few admin steps, especially in the case of the USA ESTA program.

Australia being the lucky country is fortunately on most visa waiver lists, so citizens with valid passports are usually welcomed in most corners of the globe. It goes without saying that visa requirements need to be thoroughly checked before each journey though.

3. Copy important documents

You’ll never know what you might need, or when you might need it, so keep print outs and email copies of important information like:

  • Your Travel by Us certificate of insurance and policy number
  • Passport photocopies
  • Credit card details and bank contact numbers
  • Traveller’s cheques and receipts
  • Visa information
  • Flight itinerary and tickets
  • Travel itinerary and booking confirmations
  • Important phone numbers, in case you lose your phone

4. Share important documents

Share copies of your passport, flight tickets, credit cards and Travel by Us certificate of insurance with your travel companions and loved ones back home. You never know when you might need to access your travel information so when it comes to making and sharing copies, we say the more the merrier.

  • Screengrab and save important numbers and info on your phone
  • Message or email documents and screengrabs to trusted friends and family
  • Upload important documents to a secure cloud storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive
  • Hide photocopies of passports and insurance details in each of your bags. If you’re travelling with someone, ask them to keep a copy of your info too.

5. International Roaming

If you’re taking your phone with you on holiday or an overseas business trip, chances are you’re going to want to use it. Using your phone overseas can be expensive of course, and is not always possible without first getting it set up for international roaming. So before you jet off, tick this travel checklist item by talking to your mobile service provider about international roaming and data plans.

Luckily the abundance of free or cheap WIFI makes connecting easy – whether you’re buzzing around the streets of Manhattan or the laneways of Phnom Penh, WIFI is usually within reach. By using data alone you should be able to do just about everything thanks to messenger apps and VOIP services like Skype and WhatsApp. However, if you think you might need to use your phone to make calls, or send text messages, it’s a good idea to get Roaming enabled and to check the charges so you know what you’re in for upfront.

Major providers like Telstra and Optus offer international roaming packs of both call time and data – a good backup for when you urgently need to upload that Instagram pic.

6. Receipts for Insurance

Keep receipts of the valuables you’re taking with you in a safe place at home. Receipts will come in handy if you need to claim. If your bags or belongings are stolen overseas, report it to the local police within 24 hours and keep a copy of the police report. See our police report tips here.

7. Update Family

Update your family or friends regularly with your travel plans and contact details in case of an emergency. If they know where you are, they’ll be far better prepared to assist you in an emergency, as well as share information on your whereabouts with Australian and local authorities, if the need arises.

Setting up a WhatsApp group is an easy way to keep the tribe in the loop with short messages – and plenty of jealousy-inducing travel pics.

8. Register with Smartraveller

Keep up to date with travel warnings and important news by registering your travel plans with smartraveller.gov.au. You can also subscribe to their email notification service for the countries on your itinerary.

This way, if a natural disaster strikes, or political unrest reaches boiling point where you are, Smartraveller can notify you and your family, and keep you in the loop as developments unfold.

9. Call your Bank

Tell your bank and credit card providers about your trip so that they don’t suspect fraud when they notice foreign transactions on your cards. The last thing you want is to discover your cards have been frozen while you’re overseas.

Another smart idea is to travel with more than one source of plastic – be it a credit card, bank card or travel card. This, along with cash and traveller’s cheques, keeps all bases covered. If you’re a professional travel prepper, keep one card and a bit of cash in a separate bag or hidey hole. If your handbag gets nicked, you’ve got backup. Check out our guide on travel friendly credit cards.

10. Medicine and Prescriptions

If you’ll need medication while away, bring a copy of your prescription with you. This may be needed at customs, and, can be helpful in case you need medical treatment overseas.

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

− Maya Angelou