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Welcome to my newest series, The Wanderland Guide to Travel Planning. This is the final post in a six-part series! Many thanks to Capital One for sponsoring this post.

Part Six // Packing, Paperwork and Other Practicalities

You’re pretty much all set. Destination picked. Flight booked. Itinerary setaccommodation settled, and activities and entertainment planned. All that’s left is to pack up and go! But first, check on a few of these practicalities and make sure you’re ready for takeoff.

Packing

For longer trips — and ever shorter ones — I often start packing quite early so that I can plan accordingly if I need a special piece of gear (going trekking? Might need to bring replacement mouthpieces for my . Going on a rainforest safari? Might want to consider upgrading .)

My first step is typically to select what type and size of bag I’m going to be using, based on my destination and length of my trip. Then, I set aside an area where I can start laying out what I want to pack well ahead of time and do a little editing every day until take off. If it’s a long trip and I’ll be packing a lot, I might do one section at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed – clothes, toiletries, electronics, etc. If it’s a shorter trip, I might try to roughly plan out outfits for each day based on my activities so that I don’t waste space on frivolous times. Usually I double-check myself with a  to make sure I’m not forgetting something small but essential.

Read more packing posts and lists here.

Paperwork and Practicalities

• Visas: If you’re traveling internationally, US citizens can check the list for visa requirements, while the website ? will give you a quick glance no matter where you hail from. Note that these websites are geared towards those going on shorter trips and thus don’t often go into the details of options available for longer stays — you’ll probably have to go digging a bit for that (for example, both websites briefly explain that visas aren’t necessary for US citizens staying 30 days or less in Thailand, but don’t mention that visas for longer stays are available and can be relatively easy to obtain.) Visas can be confusing but in general as a US citizen I am very grateful for how little red tape stands in my way while traipsing around the world. (Brazil, my next big trip, is turning out to be a major exception.)

If you’re not super web savvy (or the country you want to go to has an embassy website that makes your eyes bleed), check if your credit card has a Pre-Trip Assistance service.

• One-Way Tickets: I touched on this in my guide to booking flights, but some countries will require proof of exit in order to enter. If you’re planning to prance in on a one-way ticket, read this first.

• Vaccines: If I’m heading to a new region of the world, I’ll check guidebooks and the for a general idea of recommended vaccines and then call my doctor to get her opinion on which I actually need. The big vaccine that many travelers (especially those heading to Africa or Latin America) will wrestle with is yellow fever, as there are several countries that require you to show vaccination if you’ve traveled to other (for example, you must show proof of vaccination in order to enter Brazil from, say, Peru).  Plus, you know, there’s no cure — and it’s fatal.

Health insurance rarely covers travel-specific vaccines. If you’re stateside, you can find clinics offering the yellow fever jab on the . The priciest option (for all vaccines) will be to go to a private travel clinic, where a yellow fever vaccine will set you back about $300. A cheaper alternative is to call your local County Health Department — I paid $130 for mine in Albany, New York (I did have to get a prescription from my general practitioner first, but I was able to do so over the phone.) The bargain option would have been to do it abroad — you can safely and comfortably get yellow fever and other important travel vaccinations in cities like Lima and Bangkok for around $30-40. Just look up international hospitals and clinics in your arrival city and shoot them an email (I’ve found the hospitals and clinics in Thailand respond to emails within hours!), and make sure the incubation period will have passed before you head into high-risk areas.

• Health and Health Insurance: I am currently on the hunt for a US health plan that will cover me internationally, or a travel plan that will fill in the gaps. Suggestions are welcome! In the meantime I will be paying out of pocket for care here in Thailand, which is incredibly affordable and comprehensive. Before I rolled off my health insurance, I did final check ups for my teeth and eyes, and had a new  birth control implant put in (in my opinion, the absolute best choice for women road warriors).

I do pay for  diver accident insurance, which starts at $30 per year and is a must for scuba enthusiasts (standard health insurance and travel insurances do not cover decompression chamber visits, which could both save your life and wipe your savings in a matter of hours.)

• Travel Insurance: There are a dizzying number of options out there for travel-specific insurance. Personally, I don’t use any of them. Instead, I insure my electronics on my parent’s homeowner’s insurance for a reasonable annual fee (I highly recommend going this route if possible as the coverage is more comprehensive and the rate generally lower than travel-specific insurance) and rely on benefits provided by my credit card.

Most credit card holders are not aware of all the benefits they receive– for example, as a cardholder, I’m entitled to Visa Signature security and convenience benefits, which include both complementary auto rental insurance and insurance on checked and carry-on baggage, among other things.

Staying Healthy on the Road

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and having a strong body is the best defense! I covered finding healthy food and gyms in a previous post. But here are a few extra ways to avoid illness and injury on the road.

Getting Healthy in Albany

• Avoiding food borne illness: Many travelers deny themselves the joy of street food out of concerns over food-borne illness. That’s a shame! Check out my friend Jodi’s safely.

I’m frequently asked if I avoid ice and/or fresh fruit and vegetables due to concerns over tap water. Nope. For those on short international trips I can understand wanting to avoid any risk of getting sick, but for long term travelers I think it’s best to just slowly introduce that local bacteria into your system and enjoy all the local produce you can get your hands on! I drink tap water from a Clearly Filtered bottle everywhere I go.

• Avoiding mosquito borne illness: Due to the extended time I spend malaria zones each year and the detrimental side effects and risks of long-term use, thus far I have chosen to avoid all preventative malarial drugs and focus instead on preventing mosquito bites in high-risk areas. Again, I can see how the choice might be different for a short-term traveler less concerned over the long-term risks of those drugs.

Personally, I simply wear bug spray when necessary (bring your own from home if you want to use natural varieties or you’re concerned over DEET levels – it’s pretty unregulated in much of the world).

• Preventing injury: For the most part, this is just luck. But be very careful when renting motorbikes – in Southeast Asia, it’s a popular way to get from point A to point B. It’s also the leading cause of death among travelers. Don’t let statistics alone stop you from renting one, but be realistic about if you’re comfortable driving on poor roads, in heavy traffic and up steep hills.

• If you do get ill or injured: Did you know that your credit card may offer travel and emergency assistance services? With my , I have access to a Benefit Administrator who can connect me with local emergency and assistance resources twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Managing Money on the Road

I’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years by using great banking products and sticking to a well-researched system.

• Avoid foreign transaction fees – and build points: I signed up for my in 2009 in anticipation of my first big trip, and it’s been my primary credit card ever since. First off, it has zero transaction fees – an absolute must for me. Second, it offers double miles on every purchase – miles that are redeemable on any travel related expense, a flexibility that airline-based cards and programs just can’t compete with. In my first year as a cardholder, I snagged a free flight to Hawaii worth $560. These days, I make everything from Uber rides to hotel rooms disappear from my bill with the click of a button.

• Research your card benefits carefully: Recently, I discovered that I’m eligible to pretty top-notch benefits at – perks like 3pm checkout, automatic upgrades, free wifi, $25 in dining credit, and more — simply by holding a . I’m kicking myself for not knowing about it sooner – I spotted several hotels I’ve stayed in over the last year on their roster.

• Avoid ATM fees: For point building purposes, it is best to put as many purchases as possible on credit cards. However, in some destinations around the world that’s easier said than done. Use ATMS rather than currency exchanges to get cash when needed (they have far better rates) and find a debit card that refunds ATM fees. Then, carry small amount of cash (my preference, in case of theft or scatterbrain) and visit the ATM often without fear of racking up huge fees.

• Have backups: Personally, I’ve found customer service at the credit cards I love and have stuck with, like Capital One, to be top notch – they’ll do their darndest to get you a new card and emergency cash wherever you may be in the shortest amount of time possible should yours become lost or stolen, or should you lose access to one of your accounts. (I had to call them just this week and had the sweetest conversation with Tami in Tampa.) But don’t get stranded. Carry your primary credit card and debit card in one place, and stash a backup of each somewhere completely different in your luggage. Better safe than sorry!

• Track your spending: I use online banking tools to monitor my accounts and to track my daily spending. Splitwise is another great app for when you’re traveling as a couple or group. Trail Wallet let’s me set a daily budget for myself, make my own categories, and make entries in both a home and local and currency. Taking note of every sol I spend will not only help me write posts about my daily budget like I did for Honduras and the Philippines, but also help keep realize when I’m splurging too much on smoothies or when I have wiggle room in my budget for the VIP bus seats.

Read more posts on budgeting here.

Ready for takeoff yet? I truly hope you enjoyed this series. Let me know if I missed any of your favorite travel planning tips in the comments. Bon voyage!

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48 Comments...
  • Amanda | The Backpack Lass
    February 3 2016

    I’ve really enjoyed this series! I found the one on flights super helpful. I find I struggle with this the most when looking for cheap flights, so thank you 🙂
    Amanda | The Backpack Lass recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 6 2016

      Glad to hear it, Amanda! I put a lot into those posts so I’m thrilled to hear they are helpful.

  • Kellie
    February 3 2016

    Great post. I’ve been scoping a new credit card that suits me travelwise. Maybe I’ll give the Capital One Venture card a try! Thanks (:
    Kellie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 6 2016

      Clearly, I’m a fan — seven years and counting!

  • Tracy
    February 3 2016

    Wow Meihoukai – super comprehensive post, thank you. Just downloaded the Trail Wallet app – will be really helpful on our trips. Thanks again and happy traveling!
    Tracy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 6 2016

      I’m obsessed with Trail Wallet — I use it every single day! Hope you enjoy it!

  • Shannon Off Duty
    February 3 2016

    Wow this is all very good advice. I didn’t know vaccines could be so expensive too. Noted for future travel. Thanks:)
    Shannon Off Duty recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 6 2016

      Yeah, travel vaccines can be super pricey if you don’t plan accordingly!

  • Rachel Elyse
    February 3 2016

    I know you’re planning your Brazil trip around the Tomorrowland event, but I wonder if you had heard that for the Olympics this summer, Brazil is waiving visa fees for citizens from 4 different countries, the U.S. included!! It starts June 1 I believe until mid September. As I said, obviously you are going for Tomorrowland but it would have saved money and the hassle of getting a visa!

    • Meihoukai
      February 6 2016

      I did hear that, and I’m super jealous considering what a pain this visa acquisition has become 🙂 Oh well, I wouldn’t change a thing about my own trip!

  • Kate
    February 4 2016

    Great post! So many really useful tips – and so many things I hadn’t considered! I will definitely be taking a closer look at my credit card rewards/benefits to see what they offer 🙂
    Kate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 6 2016

      I know, there’s so much fine print it can be hard to dig through — but clearly, it’s worth it to do so! I didn’t even know about some of the benefits I had until I wrote this post. Doh!

  • Michelle
    February 4 2016

    Although this sounds like an ode to Capital One, I’m super glad you wrote it. I just signed up for the Venture Card after reading about it on your site and a few other blogs. I had no idea all this stuff came with the card. Hopefully I won’t need to use the emergency stuff but it’s good to know it exists. Can’t wait to get my first free flight. Thanks for all the pointers!
    Michelle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2016

      They did indeed sponsor the post and as a cardholder since 2009 I’m a huge fan! Glad you’re enjoying all the benefits as well. No flight feels as good as a free flight!

  • Maria
    February 4 2016

    Hi Meihoukai! 🙂 I found your blog about 3 weeks ago and haven’t stopped reading since. I’m planning my first trip out of the country for this year, to South America, and your posts have been incredibly helpful and inspiring….and I see a venture card in my near future haha. Last year I fell in love with scuba diving, I’m really hoping within the next few years to make it a bigger part of my life. Can’t wait to see where you travel/dive next!
    Maria recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2016

      What an amazing trip you have coming up Maria! There are plenty of opportunities to dive in South America… hope you get to enjoy a few. I’m looking forward to doing so in Brazil in April!

  • Brianne
    February 4 2016

    Great post. I have the Capital One Venture Card as well. but had no idea that made you eligible for perks! Mind = Blown!

    – Brianne
    Brianne recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2016

      It’s crazy how easy it is to overlook all those benefits. I think the biggest one is the auto insurance — it can save you a TON of money. Definitely give Capital One a call next time you’re renting!

  • Ashley
    February 5 2016

    I had no idea as a Venture Card holder, I was entitled to Visa Signature benefits– that’s huge. Thanks for continuing to enlighten me on all matters travel related– I’ve loved this series!

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2016

      Thanks Ashley! I love hearing that so much!

  • Jenny
    February 8 2016

    I would add that if you are a U.S. citizen you should open a bank account with Charles Schwab, they refund every single ATM fee from anywhere in the world and their customer service is amazing! Seriously, we haven’t paid a single ATM fee in over five years; there is no better bank account for a long term traveler!
    Jenny recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2016

      Indeed! I extolled the virtues of my Charles Schwab debit card in the money management post I linked to here 🙂 They are the best!

  • tammyonthemove
    February 8 2016

    I need to find a British credit card that doesn’t charge ATM fees abroad. I think I would save so much money in fees, as it doesn’t seem much at the time, but it soon adds up, especially if you travel long term.

    Oh and you managed to not make me feel bad for packing so many shoes. That is my mortal weakness. I always pack so many: hiking boots, trainers, trekking sandals, flip flops, ballerinas and a paid of high heels. I am really good not overpacking otherwise, but with shoes I just can’t help it.
    tammyonthemove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2016

      Shoes are my weakness as well. In Thailand it’s easy, I just have three pairs — trainers, flip flops, and dress sandals. Anywhere else, all bets are off.

  • Great tips! I just opened an American Airlines card for 50,000 miles but after that, I’m definitely going to check out the Venture One card.
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2016

      Nice! I had that one for a while as well. Closed it before the annual fee kicked in 🙂

  • Annemarie
    February 9 2016

    Hi Meihoukai, love all your posts! I am a big reader (and photo admirer) of yours and these tips are really great. I am not quite sure with the water and food tip as even after years of travelling I have an esily upset stomach (and I do drink tap water). But that might just be me.
    Annemarie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2016

      Hey Annemarie, do you mean the part where I say I chose not to avoid fresh fruits and veggies? Everyone has to make their own call on that but I can’t imagine life without salad 🙂

  • Dale
    February 9 2016

    Really great info and nicely detailed post Meihoukai! I haven’t used Trail Wallet or Splitwise yet, so will have to give them a go. Getting a Brazilian visa can be a bit of nuisance, but it’s good for 10 years, so I think that helps. I got mine at the Brazilian Consulate in Bangkok and they made the whole process pretty easy – at least compared to back in the States. Thanks for sharing!
    Dale recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2016

      Hey Dale, that’s really reassuring to hear as that’s exactly where I’m applying for the visa. Do you happen to remember how many days it took? Thanks for any insight!

  • Mark
    February 9 2016

    Great post!
    I went to Rio for carnival this time last year and as a Canadian the visa was almost comical to obtain! Brazil is worth it though!

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2016

      Ugh, yeah, I’m dreading the process. Doing it here in Bangkok. Wish me luck!

      • Dale
        February 10 2016

        It only took about 4 or so days Meihoukai and the person helping me at the window was great. I tried to have all my paperwork and photos all ready to go when I started because I needed to be in Chiang-Rai to start yoga teacher training. I told them I had limited time and I think they worked harder to make it happen faster. They’ll help you with finding local places for photos etc too.
        The consulate is up in a big office tower on Rama IV road not far from the metro station. It’kind of in the middle of embassy world there. Not nearly as painful as I thought it was going to be based on my experiences stateside. Good luck with it!!
        Dale recently posted..

        • Meihoukai
          February 11 2016

          That is very reassuring to hear. Thanks Dale!

  • Lucy
    February 10 2016

    Great post! But what would you recommend for someone from a country who doesn’t have a debit card available which return ATM fees? Here for every country outside Europe you have to pay a fee + a percentage of the amount you withdrew + an optional fee the bank of the country you’re in is asking. It’s absolutely ridiculous how expensive it gets.. Americans are very lucky with this!

    • Meihoukai
      February 11 2016

      Hey Lucy! Is it possible to get credit cards without foreign transaction fees? If so, I would try to focus on putting as much as possible on credit cards, often by pre-booking accommodation and transport online. If not, I suppose I’d withdraw a lot less often and just be a lot more careful with my cash. That would make me nervous though — this is one thing I don’t envy the rest of the world for!

  • Natalie
    February 16 2016

    Great post Meihoukai! If you find a good health insurance plan with international coverage, you should do a whole post on that. That’s one big question I’ve had personally and I haven’t done a lot of research because it seems daunting.

    I appreciat you addressing malaria meds too. When I was in the Peace Corps in Madagascar they were mandatory. I didn’t have too many side effects, but I know some people that had an awful time with them. We also had a lot of people in locations where medical care was hard to get, so it was necessary, but I don’t think people always realize the side effects they can have.
    Natalie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 17 2016

      Yeah, I definitely need to get on that health insurance train. Eeek! As for the malaria meds, some people seem so taken aback that I’ve never popped one. But nope, just not worth it in my books!

  • Izy berry
    February 18 2016

    Great post I love the advice to stay healthy in your trips
    Izy berry recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 18 2016

      Thanks Izy! It’s something I get a lot of questions on.

  • Michelle
    February 24 2016

    I love this! I actually bought the clearly filtered waterbottle for my husband and I and our upcoming trip to Thailand. Knowing how much water he drinks I figured that was the safest/cheapest option!
    Michelle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 3 2016

      Yay! That makes me SO happy to hear Michelle. The more people using these bottles, the less plastic waste polluting our planets. Thank you!

  • Anna Nunes
    February 24 2016

    Hey Meihoukai!
    Good to know you are coming to Brazil! If you have any plans of visiting Belo Horizonte (the 3rd largest capital of Brazil – Minas Gerais is home of the richest gastronomy of the country) I would love to be your guide even if just for a weekend.
    There are great historical cities nearby (Ouro preto, Mariana, São João Del Rey, Tiradentes), all worth a visit.

    As for the difficult of getting a visa for Brazil, is because of the reciprocity. It can be a nightmare for brazilians to get a visitor’s visa to the US (a protocol we don’t need for others countries as UK, France, Germany etc.). So the Brazilian government also increases the difficulty for US natives to get in Brazil.

    Anyway, I hope you enjoy my country.
    I’ll be going to NYC and Miami in June, for the first time. Your blog helped me planning many of my activities. I hope you write about both cities soon.

    Have a lovely day!
    Anna

    • Meihoukai
      March 3 2016

      Hey Anna! Thank you so much for the kind offer. I’m not sure if I will get to Belo Horizonte (it’s not on the current itinerary) but I will take you up on it if I do! And yes, the visa was quite difficult and expensive to obtain, and definitely gave me empathy for what others have to go through to travel. So happy to finally have it in hand!

  • Britt
    February 25 2016

    I swear since I’ve been travelling the only way to keep up is just binge reading your blog for hours when I have an afternoon free! hehe

    Packing is seriously the worst, I never seem to get it right. I forget things I really could have used (and its often the things I made an active decision not to bring thinking I wouldn’t need them) and lug stuff around that I haven’t picked up the whole trip. It’s terrible of me.

    I 100% can attest for trying to avoid foodborne illness. I was in Avignon hospital less than two weeks ago because of a terrible bout of food poisoning. It’s pretty ironic that I’ve been to Asia and African and been fine but this is my second time getting food poisoning in France. Being on a top bunk while vomiting your guts out is not fun- I think next time I’ll immediately look to move to an airbnb or hotel if I get it again. I’m lucky enough to have health insurance covered by my university for the two months before I start my international study program, during the program and afterwards!

    I almost pulled my hair out trying to find a card that wasn’t going to charge me fees while travelling. There isn’t a lot of options for Australian banking. Although if any Aussies are reading this the way to go is the Citibank Transaction Account!

    At the moment I’ve been tracking my spending in the notes section of my phone. I really should start thinking about using an app, it would probably work 100x better. I’ll check out the ones you recommend.
    Britt recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 3 2016

      Ah, Britt, thanks so much for the heads up on the Citibank Transaction Account — that’s awesome! Great to know of an option for some of my non-American readers! And yes — definitely check out Trailwallet and Mint.

  • Gina
    March 10 2016

    Meihoukai, this series has been amazing, especially the money management section at the end of this post! I’ve had a few friends go travelling and their money disaster stories kind of put me off so this was a great reassurance.

    After being put off long term travel I got into the development of a travel site though, it’s recently gone live and it’s called here we allow anyone wanting to book accommodation – even in the remotest parts of the world – to check out what their local surroundings will be like when they arrive. This is something that other travel sites don’t do and the idea is to reduce the anxiety and stresses that goes along with travelling unknown territories. If you could take the time to take a look at the site I’d really appreciate it. And carry on with the amazing blogs, I’m sure the memories are amazing.

    • Meihoukai
      March 12 2016

      Hey Gina, the new site sounds great! Feel free to get in touch via email about my app and site review options!