Please Note; this is a brief guide as guidance only - IT IS NOT A CATCH ALL CHECK-LIST GUARANTEED FOR SUCCESS !
So how long do I really need as well is one thing you may have asked yourself having been tempted by last minute offers on a flight that takes your fancy ? Im off on my way to Japan for some R&R and offer some advice and tips on what to pack and your preparations.
Apart from the obvious ailments which may affect your ability to travel (sprains bad back.. ) check here to see up to the date info on travel health for the country (s) you are visiting. This along with the Visa or Passport application will be the main reason you cant just jet off somewhere tomorow ! Tthough myself I have taken a calculated risk in areas with malaria, I don't recommend it. Also there are no guarantee's and the fact that you cant stop catching something like Dengue Fever anyway (you can only reduce risk). You can pack all kinds of health items, but check to see if you can source creams and things at your destination, as you may not need what you schlep. But do check the things you take for any conditions you have at home and take the prescriptions from your doctor with you.
Visa and Passport
Check that your passport is within a vaildity for a length of time extending past your trip as required by your country. Check and ask in the various travel forums online (do a search for your destination) for particular requirments. I am lucky coming from the U.K. that we have such reciprocal agreements that I can usually fill out a visa waiver or simply fill out a visa on entry to a particular country. I always count my luck as I walk down that gangplank onto the plane that I am able to do what I'm about to do-spare a few thoughts for those in countries where they cant simply visit another country or even people who don't have riches to eat let alone travel.
The Good Stuff
For me this moment (even before ARRIVAL represents the start of my trip) is the nectar of Travel, travel for me happens as much in the mind and the romance I can conjur up at this moment gives me goose-bumps every time I set off to a new destination.
Goes without saying that you need to make sure this is an e-ticket (with a reference number and id you pick it up at the airport) or that it will arrive before you leave. Check all the details are impecabble and correct before you travel, think 24 hour clock as well. Plan how you will get to the airport to be there at least 2 hours in advance for international flights and 1 hour for domestic. [Let us know BUT DONT BLAME US if this was not long enough !]
With Insurance, which I have never used and hope I never actually do is save money by purchasing a yearly one, it saves a lot and covers for all those city breaks with the no frills European airlines, and my skiing too (so I have winter sports) but there are generally no policies which cover scuba diving, once you get into the small print as they WOULD in a claim situation. It is also one less thing to organise, I just have to make sure I pack the number and reference.
And now with the paperwork and red tape over with the more exciting stuff !
The Check List
Clothes- Check if you will be needing that heavy Jacket for your two weeks in Thailand. I think it can be good to not over pack going out and buy some local clothing, helps the economy of your destination (try to not buy stuff you will never be able to wear back home though). A light (low volume) rain proof mac is a great idea, im still looking for the ideal one myself ! Also be careful when buying clothes abroad as sizes change medium in asia is different to medium in the USA !
Foot ware- Will I really be doing serious hiking or will my trainers suffice. Its a close call for this trip to Japan I will try and do Fuji and some other hikes so will see how my pack is looking.
Keys- Depending on your duration I might leave these with friends or neighbour, car fobs are very expensive to replace, but if you drove to the airport you will have little choice on that. You obviously need to be sure to get house keys maybe at 3 in the morning when you return ?
Money + Tickets + Passport +Visa
[For Japan something you cant get when you are there is the tourist rail pass ! This needs to be bought outside Japan.]
Initial Hotel Booking info ?
Travel guide and book for those moments one is on a bus or train for 10 hours..
Sports Gear- You have to know the answer to that, surfboards aren't worth it in my experience unless this is your sole reason and you are taking a whole quiver, in this case you are a specialist and know your airlines. Scuba gear, worth it for me if diving more than a week, and actually the price in some countries really changes depending if you have equipment, so do check that- my dive computer isnt really big but is valuable. Skiing, I have no experience of this but a getting fed up with paying more and more for rental gear though it is nice to try different stuff out.
Well I hope this gave you some ideas and if all this article did was galvanise you into getting on with it then do, I'd thoroughly recommend a dry run packing session, and you will see how long it takes and how small your pack is !
That done mentally go through the steps of going to the airport and checking in, and checking that you have everything you need to at least get there. Have fun !