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Travelers Checklist for Moving to a New Location

9-Oct-2017

I’ve developed my own personal “Travelers Checklist” over the last few months. Every time I get ready to leave my current location and move on to the next, I bring up my checklist to make sure I am as well prepared as possible. I use it for moving to new hotels, new cities, new countries. Both for short quick hops and longer term stays.

Warning! This is a detailed information packed post. No pretty pictures to enjoy. “The facts, Ma’am, nothing but the facts.”

Where my travelers checklist came from

My travelers checklist is based completely on my personal past “learning” experiences. Usually that means when something went wrong, or I forgot something, or experienced undue complications. Or even if I just got really stressed out while moving locations.

After getting to my new place, I would then review and analyze events. Always looking for any sort of easy rule or procedure I could put in place to help avoid such unpleasantness in the future.

And that’s how I ended up with my current list. It’s a “living” list as well. I add more items, and modify existing ones as I keep on traveling. So far, I am well pleased. Each time I move I feel more confident, more relaxed, and better prepared for unforeseen circumstances.

One or two days before my move

1) Review check-in/out times

I note the check-out time of my current lodging. Will I be out by then? If not, will they keep my luggage while you take one last look around town?

What is the check-in time for my new lodging? Will I be there early? And if so will they store my bag so I can do easily walk around and explore until check-in time?

Is there an end to check-in time?  For example, do you have to check-in before 9 pm? This had honestly never even occurred to me for most of my traveling life. But recently, while traveling in Panama, I discovered it is extremely important! I encountered several places where there was no night-time staff at all. They simply lock the place up and go home. If you’re checked-in, no problem. You already have a key to the outer gates/doors and another key to your room. But if you’re not checked in, you’ll find yourself in quite a stressful situation.

Here’s what happened to me…

I was delayed getting started in my days move. Consequently I would be arriving at my new location much later than I anticipated. Gridlock traffic, road construction and pouring rain delayed me an additional 2 hours. Finally, my bus dropped me off at the main highway intersection nearest my destination. It was now about 9 pm.

I strapped on my pack and started walking down a narrow deserted dark road. Jungle growth lined both sides. I was headed to a small cluster of remote beach lodgings. Only an occasional territorial minded dog barked a loud challenge to my presence. And even though this might sound scary, I felt safe and calm. I was enjoying the quiet walk and was glad to be off the bus.

After about a 15 min walk, I stopped at a cross roads to check my location on Google Maps. I knew I was pretty close. Suddenly, a car came towards me, then stopped and the driver rolled down the window. He called out, asking if I was Suzann. I said I was. He told me he was the desk clerk and he’d be happy to drive me back to the hostel.

But then I got a huge shock… “I’m so glad I ran into you,” he said.  “I’ve already locked up the hostel for the night. I was actually on my way home.”

I sat in stunned silence for a few moments. The realization sank in of just how very close I had come to having a super stressful and unpleasant experience.

And that’s why this item ended up on my Travelers Checklist. It’s also why I now religiously take note of the earliest and the LATEST check-in times.

2) Confirmation email

I also now always send a confirmation email to my new lodging. I give them my reservation number, phone number (with country code), and expected arrival time. They often email me back saying they are glad I confirmed and are happily awaiting my arrival. Maybe this is unnecessary, but I feel better doing it, so I shall continue.

3) Review method of payment

I always double check my booking to confirm what methods of payment are accepted. I do most of my bookings using Booking.com and they will tell you in the confirmation email. Scroll down to the “Important Information” or “Payment” section towards the bottom.

And even if it says they accept credit cards, I don’t rely on it. Their card machine might be broken, or the line might be down. I have learned that it is best to be prepared to pay in-full, up-front, for my entire stay at the property!

Amazingly, the only time I actually got caught on this was in Scotland. I arrived at the hotel with very few GB Pounds in my pocket. Not a problem I thought, this was Europe, right? Just put it on a credit card or pay at check-out time after changing my money later.

But nope, they wanted it all, right now. I tried all my tricks, from sweet-talking to outrage, but no dice. I finally had to leave my luggage at the desk and traipse into town in search of an ATM. No cash, no room key, no exceptions! I could only be grateful that it was a nice day for a walk and town wasn’t too far.

4)  Count your money honey

I add up all my anticipated needs and then make sure I have enough cash. Meals, transportation, hotel cost, etc. Even if I plan to go entirely by bus, I will toss in extra for possible taxi fares. Especially if I have several bus connections to make, connections are tight time-wise, or bus stop locations unclear.

If I’m entering a new country, are there exit fees to include? What about incoming Visa fees? And what currency will I be needing in the new country? Do I need to change money in advance? Or can I “make do” until after I arrive and can get to a money-changer or ATM?

Whatever all this adds up to, I then add an extra fudge-factor. Enough to make myself feel comfortable and secure in my ability to handle contingencies. And on top of this, I add in some double-fudge… I always carry a stash of US Dollars tucked away, just in case.

5) Load up my phone with maps and details

Disclaimer — you may find me a bit more excessive on this item than most travelers. But I do it with one caveat/rule in mind…

I must be able to have access to all the information I need for my days travel without connecting to the internet in any way at all. This means no use of any phone data plan. And no use of even a free wi-fi connection anywhere.

The reason for this is that I don’t ever even have a phone data plan! I only subscribe to pay-as-you-go services that include voice calls and text messages. (Why and how I use my phone is a separate topic which I will write up later.)

In my normal everyday outings, I rely on free wi-fi at cafes and public hot spots. But for the critical task of moving to a new location, I want all the essential info at my fingertips, available no matter where I am, wifi or not.

If this level of budgeting and security is of interest to you, read on. But if you have a data plan and coverage that you don’t mind paying for while traveling, then you likely don’t need to be as obsessive as I am. Just connect to the internet and have at it.

Here’s what I make sure is stored on my phone before I go:

  • Booking confirmation details including address, phone number, etc.
  • Offline google map of area I am going to and areas I am traveling through.
  • All needed bus schedule(s) including connections and times.
    If more than one bus, I also check to see where my next bus departs from. Many times you’ll be switching bus companies. And if the town does not have a centralized bus terminal, that most likely means you’ll be departing from a different location. You could have a 10-block walk (or even more) to get to the right spot.
  • Of course, if not traveling by bus, then I make sure I have similar info for my train connections, or flights.
  • A separate closeup map (usually a jpg screen capture) showing arrival location and directions to lodging. I do this if it’s close enough to walk, like from the bus station to my hotel. But even if I’m arriving at an airport or train station and plan to take a taxi to the hotel, I like to have an overview map to show the driver. It really helps to give them an idea of how far they’ll be going. And for them to give me a good and fair quote/estimate for the fare.

General planning and miscellaneous

Here’s some additional things I consider when planning a move:

  • I travel in the daytime if at all possible. If I’m on a bus or a train I love to look out the windows and “feel” the country that I’m traveling through. For air travel I don’t mind overnight as long as I can depart during “normal” hours and arrive in the day. Trains are OK too at night if I’ve got a sleeping berth. But only if I really have to get somewhere and a night train is my only option. I have mostly avoided night buses. They really don’t hold much appeal for me.
  • I also avoid late evening or night time connections and arrivals / check-ins. I don’t like having to traipse around a town in the dark schlepping my luggage. Nor try to figure out where I am or explain where I want to go. Helpful strangers seem so much more friendly and plentiful during daylight hours. And there’s no “gotta hurry and get there before it gets really late” pressure. Possibly I get travel weary and less clear thinking later in the day. Or maybe just my personal bug-a-boo, but there it is.
  • Speaking of connections, I try to keep the number of “legs” in my journey to 3 or less. Maybe 4 if some are really minor. What’s a “leg”? Each time I have to grab my bags and get off one transport device and on to another. So if I have to take 2 buses to get to my next spot, that’s 2 legs — if the buses connect easy. But if the buses are far apart, or if I’ve got to get from bus station to train station, etc then I count it as an additional leg. Maybe it’s walking between the two, or maybe it’s a taxi, but I still have to figure out how to get from point A to B! I also add in legs for getting to the starting point and to the hotel at the other end. Are these easy walks? Or taxi trips? I have found that each connection is a stress point. Each with potential for errors, delays, confusion and uncertainty as I navigate my way through an unfamiliar transport system. Add in even more stress if you don’t speak the language.
  • Have a back-up plan for longer journeys. What happens if I miss a particular bus connection? Will I be in a town where I can quickly and easily find a safe bed for the night? Or did I fail to realize that my bus switching point was actually just a gas station on the highway in the middle of nowhere? Bottom line, if the schedule says there’s only 2 or 3 buses (or trains) to a particular destination, I’ll get myself onto the earliest one I reasonably can. That gives me plenty of slack and options if things run late or go awry.

 

Entering a new country

This requires quite an extra level of research over and above just hopping off to the next hotel or next city. I always want to make extra sure I’ve “done my homework” and know exactly what is required.

  • Do I already have a phone SIM for the new county? Or will one of the others I have work there? Find out before I go. It may be necessary to pre-register with my carrier to have roaming capability. Or I may have to plan on purchasing a new SIM.
  • Do I need a visa? Does it cost anything? How long is it for? Can I get it as I enter? Or must I get it (or apply for it) in advance?
  • Do I need proof of travel / health insurance?
  • How about proof of onward travel? Will a bus ticket do? Or must I show an onward booked flight?
  • Proof of funds / capacity to support yourself for duration of trip? And if yes, what is considered such proof?

There are loads of variables here, way too many to include in this modest Travelers Checklist. Everything depends on what country you are traveling into and which country’s passport you are traveling on. Even then, there are different options and costs depending on whether you arrive by land or by air, which airport you land at, whether or not you have filled out a particular online form or not, etc. Or you may have to apply months in advance and mail your passport off to a foreign embassy just to go there on a short tourist visit!

At this point I have experienced so many variations I am no longer surprised by the degree of complex hoops that one must sometimes jump through. My only advice is to do this type of country visa research early on. As soon as you get the inkling you might want to visit there. Then you’ll have a much better idea how much lead time is needed to get the paperwork done.

Finally, be sure to check back again before you really go. Countries can and do change their visa requirements. And it’s up to you to understand them and be duly prepared, before you show up at their border.

Packing and moving day

  • Make sure both my phone and computer are at full charge.
  • Make sure I have at least $15 to $20 balance on my prepaid USA phone. (This is purely an emergency backup. In case I absolutely need to make a call and none of my other SIMs work for some unknown reason.)
  • Did I pay a key deposit for my current lodging? If yes, be sure to get it back.
  • For my always-with-me small bag:
    • Water & snacks.
    • A sweater or something warm for super air-conditioned buses and airplanes.
    • My anti-motion-sickness wrist bands. Winding mountain roads are pretty to look at but hard on my stomach.
    • A/C phone charger.

 

That’s it for now, I hope my Travelers Checklist will assist you in some way on your future travels. Perhaps keep you safer, more relaxed, more confident, and traveling with ease. And especially, to enhance your joy and love of traveling. Happy trails!

 

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