>  Advice   >  6 of the best travel planning tips

No one wants to experience a travel disaster such as being denied boarding or having a credit cancelled unexpectedly when they’re heading overseas. Just like Santa, you should be making a list and checking it twice. These pre-travel planning tips will help to ensure you don’t get caught out on your next trip.

1. Passport and documents

Even the most experienced travellers can make mistakes when it comes to passports, travel documentation and visas. Recently a well-travelled family in front of me at check-in was denied boarding because they had less than six months remaining on one of their passports. While they were only going away for a week, they were unable to board the plane. Many countries won’t accept travellers if their passport isn’t valid for six months or more so check your passport’s expiry date when you book your trip.

Just because you didn’t need a visa last time you visited a destination, doesn’t mean you won’t this time around. Always check whether you need a visa for each country on your itinerary. If you’re going on a cruise, you must have the required visa for each country on the itinerary, even if you’re planning to stay onboard when the ship is in port. Having access to a digital or paper copy of your passport pages makes the replacement process easier if you’re unlucky and your passport gets stolen while you’re overseas.

2. Always have travel insurance

Even if you’ve visited a destination many times before, you should always have insurance when you head overseas. From lost luggage to medical emergencies, costs can quickly get out of hand when things go wrong. Shop around and do some research on the best cover for your trip. Look at reviews and double check the fine print so you know what you’re covered for (and what the insurer won’t pay for). If you travel overseas a few times a year, yearly travel insurance may be a more cost effective option than purchasing a policy each time you head off on a trip. A bonus with yearly policies is you’re also covered for domestic trips. If you can afford to travel, you can afford travel insurance.

3. Plan your outfits

Even if you’re not into fashion, you should plan your outfits in advance when you travel. Packing clothes which are multifunctional and can be swapped around to create different outfits is the key to travelling light. For example, the clothes you’ll need for a tropical flop-and-drop resort holiday are very different to those required by a foodie visiting New York’s top restaurants. Even if the temperature is going to be close to freezing, pack your swimmers as many hotels have heated pools. If you’re really lucky, you might even get to take a dip in some natural thermal springs, depending on where you’re going.

4. Think about your carry on

Weigh your carry on and make sure it complies with airline rules as some airlines charge exorbitant fees to check overweight carry on bags at the airport. If you’re going on a long journey, have a think about the essentials you will need for a comfortable flight and bring them with you: travel wallet, iPad, iPhone, headphones, chargers, medications and a toothbrush. A change of underwear and/or shirt is also a good idea in case you get delayed or want to freshen up during your journey. Losing your checked baggage won’t be such a big issue if you have the essentials with you.

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5. Tell your bank you’re going overseas

Make sure you alert your bank to your travel plans, either online using your bank’s website or by giving them a call. If you don’t do this, there is a good chance the bank will freeze your card when they see transactions on it from another country. This happened to me when I was in the USA and unlocking my card involved an expensive call back to Australia. Always have a back-up card and some local currency tucked away back at your hotel in case your primary card gets frozen, stolen or lost.

6. Switch off mobile phone data

Keeping your mobile phone turned on overseas can be a good idea in case family or friends need to reach you urgently. However, you should turn off your phone’s data as many apps are set to update or refresh automatically in the background. Even if you don’t surf the net while you’re away, this automatic update feature can cost you thousands. If you want to use data while you’re away, stick to free wi-fi or buy a local sim with a data plan to use while you’re overseas. While some Australian telcos offer global roaming plans which include data, a local option is usually cheaper.

Disclosure: The writer learned the hard way that bringing swimmers is always a good idea, no matter where you’re travelling to. 

Want to travel smarter and save money? Check out our tips for flying a low cost airline, keeping your luggage safe, visiting Europe in peak season, getting a great car hire deal, avoiding travel scams, saving money at the airport, staying at an Airbnb, finding cheap five star hotel deals, catching public transport overseas, staying safe in a big city, getting the best round-the-world airfares, making the most of a five star hotel stay, travelling during low season, visiting a theme park in peak season, packing a carry on bag, visiting a wine region, planning a romantic getaway, early morning flights, visiting the Great Barrier Reef, multigenerational travel, travelling in a motorhome, buying the best souvenirs, going on safari, visiting the Eiffel Tower, travelling with pets, holidaying with adult children, travelling with teens, and sleeping on a plane.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.