Preparing to travel

When it comes to travelling there is nothing more important than being properly prepared. The preparation doesn’t just involve what goes into your luggage but also the transportation to and from the airport and during your stay, payment methods, and communication. All of these are very important factors that you should already have set or at the very least an idea of how you will arrange them before you ever step foot on the plane. I will start off discussing the preparation of the luggage and a few notable items to take.

PACKING YOUR BAGS

In my opinion, if your luggage isn’t properly packed it can really ruin the mood of your vacation. Now some people may say “well if I forget something I can always buy it there” and while that may be true you need to think about it in the sense that you are spending the money that you could have been spending on food, gifts or activities on something that you probably already owned and could have brought in your luggage. I suggest you make a check-list of everything you will need and start packing at least one week in advance. What this will allow you to do is create an organized packing strategy that you can easily track and add to whenever you remember something else that you want to take or something that you probably should take. Never forget that organization is key to a great vacation.

An important item to pack is a first-aid kit. You never want to think that something will happen to you while you’re enjoying your vacation but the truth is that something could potentially happen and you should be prepared. You should always carry your first-aid kit with you when you are out and about. It doesn’t have to be a large kit (the picture below is the one we use) as long as it has the basics. Your kit should at the very least be filled with a couple of band-aids, antiseptic/alcohol wipes, Gravol, and Pepto-Bismol capsules and Tylenol, all of the items you can find on Amazon or your local pharmacy.

When it comes to clothing you always want to check the local weather of your destination a week before and two days before you travel. As we all know the weather can change drastically from one day to the next and you want to make sure you have the appropriate clothing. Again this is a situation of yes you can buy a sweater, jacket, umbrella etc. wherever you go but why would you needlessly spend the money.

Lastly I will mention an item that you may or may not find useful. Travel wipes. If you are a constant traveler then you know that not every country has the type of plumbing or toilet paper that you are used to. Some may be better and some may be worse but in any case having travel wipes I find is very important. During my research for good quality wipes I discovered and purchased Dude Wipes for myself and for my girlfriend Cottonelle. Both wipes are approved for travel so you won’t get any issues during the security check and both items are available on Amazon.

Click here for the Cottonelle Wipes

Click here for the Dude Wipes

COMMUNICATION

We use our cellphones all day, everyday, and during vacation it is no different. It could be that you are using it to keep in communication with the people you are travelling with, people back home, using it as a GPS, ordering Uber etc. The point is you need your phone working. Two of the best purchases I ever made were the travel charger, which connects to sockets in North America, Europe, U.K, and Australia. It comes in different colors (if that matters to you) and you can charge four phones at the same time. The second purchase was a pre-paid SIM card from GiffGaff. This SIM card gave me 20GB of data, free incoming calls, free outgoing calls up to 60min, right before the 60min you can hang up and call again to start a new set of 60min so that you don’t get charged. This is the best SIM card if you are travelling to Europe as it covers a very large amount of European countries and it was only $40 CAD. Both of these products can be found on Amazon. Of course if you don’t like shopping online you can always purchase a pre-paid SIM card in most airports.

Click here for the Travel Adapter

Click here for the GiffGaff SIM Card

TRANSPORTATION

Let’s first talk about the transportation from the airport to where you are staying. You have the option of taking public transit, taxi, if you are staying at a resort or hotel they usually have their own pickup, private car, car rental (which I won’t touch upon as I prefer to take a break from driving when I am on vacation) or Uber. These are the main methods of transportation that you will use upon arrival. Now public transit is probably the cheapest but I feel it is also the most uncomfortable. You are going to be lugging around your luggage plus your carry-on and since most people don’t travel alone you can multiply the space you will take up by two. Then there is the whole aspect of figuring out the system and while there is nothing wrong with a little adventure I know that most people after a long plane ride would prefer to do things the easy way which takes us to our next two options, taxi and private car service.

Taxis in some countries will have a set fare to take you from the airport to somewhere in the city, those are usually the best because you know what you’re going to pay right away, but others give you more or less a range of how much it could be and if it isn’t a set fare you run the risk of getting ripped off. A private car service is exactly like what you see in the movies. You have a driver dressed in a suit waiting for you with a sign with your name, when you greet him he will take your bags if you’re alone but if you are with a lady he will take her bags instead. It is usually a luxury high-end car like a Mercedes and comes equipped with WiFi and water. On a recent trip to Rome I opted for this type of service from a company called Welcome Pickups. I set everything up on their website days before we left and on the website it will ask you a couple of questions to get a better feel for why you are visiting and it will then provide you with the option of booking tours right on their site and the driver will present you with the tickets once you are in the car. The cost of this service was the exact same cost if I would have taken a taxi. I feel most people think that because of the attention and higher-end service that it would cost an arm and a leg but you would be surprised.

Now if your preferred mode of transportation is Uber then you and I think alike but you need to remember there are certain countries where Uber is banned and not all cities have the same options you may be used to. For example in Rome UberPool and UberX don’t exist therefore the remaining options of UberBlack and UberSUV are more expensive options for travel. These options are different from Paris which offers UberPool, UberX, UberGreen, UberBlack etc. If you are unsure of the available options in the city you are visiting you can always visit https://www.uber.com/en-IT/cities/ and at the same time you can use the fare estimator to see how much it would cost you to move around town or more importantly how much it will cost you to go from the airport to your hotel/AirBnb etc. Another option is the app MyTaxi. You can use this app to easily call for a taxi in places where Uber may either be too expensive or not available. If you are in a good location central to most of the activities you are partaking in then the option I recommend is walking. You get to enjoy the views and explore more of the city.

PAYMENT METHODS

If you’re a Canadian, as I am, then you know our currency really doesn’t have much value when travelling abroad. This leaves us with the question of how should we pay for things during our travels. Here are the best options I have come across.

Prepaid Cards – CIBC has a selection of prepaid VISA cards that are perfect for when you travel. The cards come with a a fixed exchange rate so you’ll always know how much you are going to pay to load the card and they are currently available in U.S Dollar, Euro, British Pound and Mexican Peso. The benefit to travelling with one of these cards is that you already have the local currency loaded on the card. If you were to use your own credit card you would be risking a higher exchange rate on purchases and not to mention accumulating debt. There are no fees for using the card on the CIBC side but you can still incur a fee from the ATM and you can easily load the card from the app or website so even if you were to run out of money during your travels you can always top it up from your phone. Another notable prepaid card comes again from CIBC and the partnership with Air Canada. Together they have come up with the CIBC AC Conversion Card . This card is my favorite option for Canadian travelers. Once again there are no transaction fees, fixed exchange rate, being a VISA card it is accepted worldwide and the best feature is that you can load up to 10 currencies on one card! The currencies currently supported are Canadian Dollar, U.S Dollar, Euro, British Pound, Australian Dollar, Japanese Yen, Hong Kong Dollar, Turkish Lira, Swiss Francs and Mexican Peso. The card is secure and easy to load. To me this is a true travelers card.

STACK – STACK is a prepaid MasterCard that allows you to withdraw cash and pay for items in 150+ currencies. There are no foreign exchange fees, no ATM fees on the STACK side but the ATM provider will most likely still charge you a fee and since it is a MasterCard it is pretty much accepted everywhere. You load the card in Canadian funds and the exchange rate is based on the MasterCard international rate which could vary day to day. The card has a variety of other features including rewards so it might be worth checking out.

I hope this has helped you in someway to prepare for the amazing vacation you are about to take.

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