My latest trip to New Zealand really challenged me to use all my travel-planning skills and know-how that I’ve acquired through my own (sometimes haphazard) experiences and advice from more-seasoned travelers. I thought I’d do you a favor, dear readers, and compile a checklist for you here to help tick off the boxes when you’re planning your next great adventure.
1) Save yourself a lot of trouble and look up any specific travel requirements for the country(ies) that you’ll be visiting.
- Agriculture/Souvenirs- Many countries are very strict about what you can bring in and what you can bring back.
- Visas – Do you need to apply for a visa to travel here? No joke – some countries require a visa just to pass customs and enter the country to collect your baggage for a connecting flight.
- International Driver’s License – Pretty self-explanatory. Check if you’ll need one to drive in your destination.
- Passport – DON’T FORGET IT. Also, make sure you’ve given yourself enough time, in case it needs to be renewed.
2) Put some thought into where you’re going to stay.
This is really at the traveler’s discretion and depends on what you have planned for your trip.
- Affordability – Hostels are often the cheapest, and are a good choice if you don’t plan to spend much time in your room and don’t mind communal spaces.
- Experience – I really can’t recommend AirBnB enough. You can find some really neat spaces for a excellent prices if you do your research ahead of time. If it’s your first time AirBnBing (or really, every time), you should check the reviews that people have left about the location and its host(s) and make sure that you review the amenities included, house rules/guest requirements and refund/date change policy.
- Location – It’s a given that if your accommodation is in a city center/downtown, it’s going to be pricier. I find that being 10-15 minutes out puts you close enough to most attractions, without paying the same prices. But once again, it’s traveler’s choice – just think about how much walking/driving/using public transportation you want to do.
Speaking of which…
3) Know how you’re going to get around.
Planning ahead will help you get to places safely, on time and also use the most affordable mode of transportation. Is there:
- Reliable public transportation – Do they have buses, train, light rail, etc. and are they safe/clean/easy to use? Remember that with public transportation you’ll either need to carry a good amount of cash with you or purchase a transportation pass.
- Rental cars – When renting, consider more than just getting the cheapest car. Is it automatic or manual? Does it have USB/other outlets to charge your devices if you really need to? How old/reliable is it? The last thing you want to do is be driving in a strange place and break down.
- Planes – I know people don’t always want to hop on another airplane after they’ve taken that big international flight, but sometimes domestic flights are cheaper than driving, and they’ll definitely save you the time.
- UBER/Lyft/Taxis – Useful option when it’s not feasible or unneeded to to use the other options above. Just always use your discretion and be safe – know where you’re leaving from and where you need to go.
- Good old-fashioned walking – If areas are walkable, always an enjoyable way to see your destination. Wear those comfy shoes and be prepared for weather.
4) Know your mobile device options before you leave.
Traveling to another country no longer means being completely cut off from communications (which can be both a great and terrible thing). Here are a few things to consider:
- What your carrier already offers – Do you have free/unlimited texting? How much do calls cost? Do you have data usage without an extra charge for roaming?
- Purchasing an international data plan – find out if you can and if it’s worth it.
- Mobile hotspot – if you already use your phone as a hotspot, this is a good and secure substitute for wifi, plus you won’t need to rely on another device for internet. Check the rates out with your carrier.
- PocWifi – It’s a basically what it sounds like – a pocket wifi device you can carry with you for internet access. We were able to rent one at the Auckland airport for a pretty affordable rate, with unlimited data usage. Like any wifi device, connection got fiddly at some points (especially in high mountain areas or on the outskirts of town) but we were always able to connect and it was life-saver when it came to connecting to the internet to use our phones to navigate.
5) Annnnd most importantly, be flexible!
Weather, flight changes/delays/etc., and other unforeseen challenges will pop up when traveling. And yes, it is a bummer when your day doesn’t go as planned, but you’ve come all this way, so try to make the most of it. It’s not a bad idea to do research some ideas for what to do on these off-days, and, you can always ask locals for their advice.