Have you been dreaming of a vacation to Europe forever? It’s time to turn your dreams into a reality. From three to six months before you depart on tour, there’s a lot that needs to be done. Do you know all there is to know about getting your documents settled? What about travel insurance and your passport? If you want to book for a particular season, there is no time to waste and you should get your travel ducks in a row.
Answer these five questions before you start planning your adventure so you do not get caught off guard!
Question 1. Will my passport be valid for more than three months beyond my departure date (and do I even have one)?
A valid passport is unquestionably the most essential requirement for international travel. In some countries, your passport needs to be valid for three and sometimes six months beyond your planned travel date. If your passport is not valid, border control can refuse to let you enter a country, transfer planes or leave the airport when you’ve arrived in the country itself. Make sure you get your passport renewed if the expiration date is soon after your planned date of travelling.
To-do: Take a look at the expiration date and amount of blank pages in your passport.
For advice on how many open pages you need in your passport, find out more as you start your visa application. Refer to your trip itinerary to determine how many stops and layovers you have for the duration of the trip as well as the amount of destinations you are travelling to.
If you plan to do anything interesting and out of the ordinary abroad, like getting married or driving a car, follow the advice of your foreign office. You will need certain documentation to do so.
Question 2. Do I need a visa (or visas) ?
A visa is an official document granting you permission to enter a country for a specific amount of time. Not all nationalities need a visa. If you have a US/UK/EU passport, for instance, you can go on almost all our tours (except the Northern Explorer that also travels to Russia). That said, many nationalities still require a valid Schengen Visa to enter Europe or beyond.
To-do: Make a list of all the destinations you want to include in your trip, even if it’s just for a day or an afternoon. Get online and research to see if you need a visa.
Take into consideration where you will be staying before and after the tour. (The amount of time you spend in a destination influences the type of visa you’ll need). If you do need one, allow enough time before your expected departure date to apply for the visa. This could be anything from 6-8 weeks from starting the application process to collecting/receiving your passport.
You can read all about our tours and the destinations and visa requirements here. If you have booked a tour with us, we will help you with the support documentation for your application process.
Question 3. Do I need travel insurance?
Like we tell all our customers, unexpected incidents happen… from flight and baggage delays to injuries and sickness. Very few people can afford to take an unplanned flight home for whatever reason. Or get medical treatment in a country that is not our own. Of course, we hope that any such incident does not happen, but out of experience, we know it’s better to rather be safe than sorry. For a small initial outlay, travel insurance gives you (and us) peace of mind, and for this reason we make it compulsory for all Expat Explore passengers.
There are numerous travel insurance types out there, and it is worth checking them out before you book your tour.
Non-refundable travel costs may occur if your trip gets cancelled due to sickness, death or if you miss a flight due to reasons outside of your control. Also, you get covered if your tour company goes out of business or can’t perform as promised. This is especially a good idea if you are paying a lot of money up front for a trip and you or a loved one have questionable or poor health.
Emergency medical insurance will cover medical emergencies, evacuations, repatriations and more. Check with your medical insurer as your existing plan might already have you covered.
To-do: Decide how much is at stake if something does go missing while you are on tour or if you get sick. Weigh up all your options, and decide what travel insurer would best suit your needs.
Investigate what travel insurance benefits your credit card includes and see if your credit card offers trip cancellation coverage. We strongly recommend considering World Nomads Travel Insurance if you need to get covered.
Question 4. Am I physically fit to travel?
For most of us, a trip to any part of the world is more active than we would be day-to-day. If you have a 9-5 job and sit in front of a computer like most people, travelling will make you sweat! On all of our tours, you will walk, climb steps and get up early. To see more of Europe, you have to keep moving!
Visit your health practitioner and find out if you need any vaccinations for the destinations you are travelling to. You might need to get these 1/2 months before departure.
To-do: Determine if you need to get fit for your trip. Choose a fitness programme, and get cracking at least 1-2 months before you depart.
Question 5. How much do I want to spend on this trip?
Timing is crucial. Figure out how much you need for the trip and if you’ll need to save money. You have to estimate, plan and give some thought to travelling costs. Europe can be expensive and without a budget you can easily spend more than you anticipated (or run out of money halfway through the trip).
Budgeting for the trip can be a great way to get excited about travelling. Look at the tour itinerary and research all the destinations and currencies you will need. Start with the biggest expenses – flights, accommodation and transport. Remember pre-travel expenses like travel gear, visa applications, travel insurance, airport parking and currency exchanges. With a little planning, you can get excited about the trip without worrying about a credit card bill waiting for you when you return.
Another question to think about – do you want to use your credit card or cash? Carrying only cash is not the best idea. Pickpockets are real. Look at different options like a credit card or cash passport and diversify how you carry cash. Check and understand the different exchange rates for the places you will be visiting, and determine how this will influence what you spend.
To-do: Get a ballpoint figure of what you want to spend. Work on a budget and apply for a credit card/cash passport from your bank.
Some travel documents and affairs you have to get in order before you travel. It’s smart to get it done long before you plan to travel! If you have any questions about how to plan for your trip and the support we offer, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.