It's a couple of weeks before I embark on my next adventure in another place. Needless to say, I'm excited, as I always am, when It's time to explore a country I've never been to before.
Nevertheless, one mustn't let excitement get in the way of practicality when preparing for a trip. There are several things I always check, double check and re-check when I take a trip (whether locally or internationally).
1. Verify Flight details
There's no harm in making sure about your departure time. Most airlines require that you be at the airport at least two hours before for domestic flights and three hours for international ones. You wouldn't want to get caught in the traffic and miss the flight.
You might want to produce photocopies of your passport, a valid ID, and your flight details, just in case the original copies get lost. Put one copy in your handbag that you take everywhere with you and the other in you carry-on/check-in luggage.
(Also, prior to booking for an international flight, make sure your passport is not about to expire in six months. Most countries will not allow foreign passport holders into their country if they see that the passport will expire within half a year.)
It would be helpful to find out what the airlines will allow you to carry-on with you. Most, if not all, require that umbrellas be checked-in, as well as chargers, liquids of a certain amount, and various sharp objects (nail cutter, scissors, Swiss knives, etc.).
Lastly, don't forget to label your luggage with a name and contact details. That way, if it gets lost, it will be easier to trace and have shipped to you.
2. Check your destination's accommodation details
If you are staying with a friend or relative, then you don't have to worry about this. But if not, here are some things you might want to consider asking:
Finding out basic information will save you from a loy of surprises and will help you enjoy your trip even more. There is no need to stress about the things that you can find out about beforehand.
3. Make your packing list
This saves you the time thinking about what you might have forgotten. Make a list of what you need to put in your carry-on and check-in bags. Find out what the weather is like so you will know what kind of clothes to bring: will you bring heavy winter coats or light summer clothes? What is in your itinerary? Will you be trekking? Going to museums? Visiting vineyards? Does it include a special evening that requires formal wear?
What toiletries do you need to bring? How about medicines? Creating lists has saved me from forgetting several things when I travel. It also helps me when I pack, so that I know what things to put in first, and what things I might not need to bring at all.
4. Learn all about their transportation system
How do people get around? What are the means of transportation? Train? Bus? Jeep? Taxi? Motorcycle? Tuktok? Camel? The mode of transportation varies from country to country. Where people get a ride and where they get off also varies from country to country. Some countries are more lenient allowing you to get off anywhere. Others are stricter and have set bus stops that only allow you to get off at a certain place.
You also need to see what places are reachable by foot. If you're traveling on a shoestring budget, saving as much as you can is a priority. There are some places that are accessible by foot, while others are rather far. But if the view is scenic, the weather favorable, and the company pleasant, then walking is a must!
5. Learn a bit about their culture and customs
Engaging the people of a certain country is a great experience. You learn a whole deal about what the people believe in, what is important to them, etc. when you talk to them. It is important, though to get to know a little bit about the culture of your travel destination. That way, you can avoid embarrassing moments or offending someone by a gesture you did not know was considered rude or obscene.
Do people shake hands? Bow? Rub noses? Is it acceptable to give a gift when visiting someone's house? How do you receive a calling card? Do you eat after everyone has been served or wait for your host/hostess?
There are so many different customs that vary from country to country and sometimes even from village to village. You don't have to memorize all customs, but it would be good to have a basic knowledge.
6. Do some intensive research on their tourist destinations
Usually, when we Google about a country's tourist spots, only the top, popular ones show up on the research page. Some of a country's real tourist spot gems remain hidden. Are you the type of person who is not so found of long crowds and over-populated areas? Then you should look for places that are quiet and may not have so much tourists: little churches, some café shops hidden on side streets, antique shops, libraries, etc. Who knows? These hidden tourist destinations can prove to be gems indeed.
Of course, there are several more things you can do to make your travel experience fun and enjoyable, while making it a great learning experience as well. You don't even have to do all in the lists above if you feel you don't have to. The most important thing is to have a wonderful time.