Travel writer, Hugh Thomas, shares his experiences of the unique WECANDANCE festival in Belgium.Written by Hugh Thomas on 28th August 2016
The essential travel checklist
Lucy Rowland gives us the top tips for your summer travels! So, you’ve made your mind up
Lucy Rowland gives us the top tips for your summer travels!
So, you’ve made your mind up. Summer’s here, and now is the time for that trip that everyone seems to have done on their gap years. You’ve graduated/finished your exams/thrown caution to the wind, and finally booked your flights after months of forsaking uni nights out to save your pennies… it’s all very exciting. But the few weeks before you set off can actually rival finals in the stress stakes if you haven’t planned ahead. Make sure you sort out the nitty gritty before buying a 200-pound backpack in a fit of hysterical anticipation: impress yourself with your organisational skills, and use this as a checklist of essentials before jetting off. You can thank me later.
Visa: Do you need one? If so, what type – if you’re volunteering or working abroad, the costs are probably going to be considerably higher than a tourist visa. Make sure you factor this into your budget to avoid a nasty shock. Also, apply for your visa ASAP – they may say three days’ processing time, but don’t trust them. Leave a month at least.
Passport – check that it’s not only in date, but is valid for a few months after your return. Seriously. Go and check it, now.
Insurance: Shop around – if you’ve booked your trip through a travel agent, they’ll try and flog you their own insurance, usually at a totally unnecessary price. Use price comparison websites to find the best deal, and make sure when you buy your insurance that it covers everything you’re going to be doing – extreme sports may be less than thrilling when you have to pay thousands of pounds in medical fees for an impromptu X-ray.
Jabs: Go on the NHS Fit for Travel website to check the ones you need – some, like hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and cholera are usually free, but you’ll probably have to pay for rabies and Japanese encephalitis. Check their prevalence in the areas you’re visiting, likewise with malaria – it’s more common in humid, tropical environments, and if there’s one souvenir you do not want to bring home, it’s a life-threatening disease. Just saying’.
Packing list: Do you really need your straighteners? Your beer bong? Hiking boots? Didn’t think so. Get the essentials, then see what else you can fit in. Comfy shoes, cheap-but-wearable clothing, a guidebook/phrasebook and all your important documents are the bare minimum – followed by travel adaptors, a cheap unlocked phone if you’re going to be away for a while, toiletries (including contraception, guys and gals), and room for things you want to bring back. If you’re going somewhere with a low cost of living, you can even get your clothes out there – you’ll fit in better. Nothing screams ‘TOURIST!’ like those North Face khaki cargo shorts.
And you’re sorted. You’ve booked your transport to the airport (no? Better get on the Megabus website then…), you’ve exchanged heartfelt goodbyes with your dog and your parents are worryingly sorting through your suitcase. The time has arrived! Last few words of advice: plan ahead, have fun, be safe… but don’t be too sensible.