Before You Go
Remember to reconfirm your flights a few days before departure and check the baggage allowance. Trust me, you will want to bring back more than you take out so it's a good idea to try and depart as lightweight as possible!
Entry rules and regulations change between countries, and it is a miserable experience after a long flight to be stopped from entering a country due to having something forbidden in your bag. This can be fruit, flowers, gifts and so on and in some places can carry a hefty fine.
Make sure you know whether you need a visa for the country you are entering or whether you can get this on arrival. If you can get one on arrival, you may need to have a couple of passport photos with you. Sometimes you may need a working visa rather than a visitor visa. Make sure you know which one you need and how much it should be, so you don't get ripped off.
Keeping in touch
If you don't already have one, it's a good idea to set up an email account (such as hotmail or yahoo) that you can access from anywhere in the world. This makes keeping in touch with friends and family much easier. Certain internet cafe's will have MSN cameras for live chat and facilities to burn CD's of your pictures and so on. Always do 2 copies and send one home for back up. Flicker accounts and free blogs are now a very popular way of telling the world about your trip as it happens.
Before you go it will be important to consider your budget. Whilst there are many ways to raise the money for your trip (from fundraising to employment), it is important to consider how much you will have to spend per week. The currency and the cost of living will vary from country to country and depend on how much luxury you want in your life. For example I spent the same amount in four months in Cambodia and Thailand as I did during just one month in Australia.
Remember to make allowances not just for food and accommodation, but also for travel and excursions. There is no point in going to an amazing destination if you can't afford to do the things you want to do when you are out there.
How you manage your finances is also an important part of your trip. In some countries it is best to take travellers cheques (make sure you keep a list of their numbers, again I would recommend e-mailing them to yourself) but credit/debit cards are becoming almost universal. Whilst in other countries, such as France, it makes more sense to take your bank card (be aware you will get charged per transaction so its worth taking money out in lump sums).
A useful system for managing your money if you are going away for a while utilises Internet banking. It requires two accounts with the same branch. One is a saving account with the bulk of your money in it, (the card for this account needs to remain at home). The other is a current account (and you take the card for this account with you). This allows you to transfer money between the two accounts online so that you always have access to your money and can just transfer what you need. It also means that should your card get stolen, you will only loose a relatively small amount of money.
Also allow your parent to have access to this account. You never know when they might need to discuss strange transactions and without your agreement before you leave, you won't have anyone to ask questions or get advice on your behalf.
Make sure your insurance policy covers you for; medical, legal, passport loss, ticket loss, cash loss, luggage, cancellation, missed flights, working abroad, hazardous sports, medical conditions, and ask if they provide a 24 hour health line and if there are any exceptions.
If you do have to claim on your policy after your trip, you will need to have kept any receipts and documentation e.g. police reports that you received abroad. If you make friends to travel with, make sure they understand where your emergency number and policy code is in your stuff and likewise, you for them.
Naomi Cartwright Jan 2009 (Cont)