Travel planning to-do list

Things to remember before embarking on a trip for first-time and forgetful travellers

International travel can be fun and exciting, but it can also pose many problems for the ill prepared. First-time travellers (and forgetful travellers) should remember these simple tips before their next trip to ensure an enjoyable, worry-free time.

Have an up to date passport (and a Visa, if necessary)

Don’t leave applying for your passport until the last minute! According to the Passport Canada website, processing times are currently 10 business days in person at a Passport Canada counter and 20 business days by mail or through a receiving agent such as Service Canada or Canada Post. Urgent and Express pick-ups can be arranged, but with additional costs of $70 and $30 respectively. Some countries require that your passport last three to six months past the beginning of your trip, so be sure to check your expiry date before you depart.

Leave your birth certificate somewhere safe and photocopy important documents

If your passport is misplaced, you’ll need proper identification to get yourself out of quite a sticky situation. Make sure to keep your birth certificate somewhere safe and definitely do not keep it with your passport—if they’re lost together, you’ll be out of luck. Ensuring your passport is photocopied will make it easier to replace if it gets lost or stolen.

Find out if you need travel immunization

Some countries require you have certain shots before visiting, while for others it’s highly recommended. You can find information about immunizations at your local public health unit and in some cities, entire clinics are dedicated to travel immunization. The Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health offers appointments to travellers where they can get immunizations and find out more about the health risks in the countries they’re visiting. Their website,, also provides useful information and links.

Look into investing in travel insurance

It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to medical insurance while travelling abroad. Accidents can happen, and your health plan may not cover all of your health care costs abroad. Your travel insurance will cover the length of your trip, though some companies place restrictions on trips longer than six months. Most banks offer travel insurance, and you can also purchase it at CAA or insurance companies. Make sure to ask questions so you know exactly what is being covered. Trip cancellation insurance can also be a good investment, especially if there are any circumstances you can foresee coming in the way of your trip.

Plan to bring extra cash

Plan your travel budget with the expectation that extra costs will arrive. Maybe you’ll lose your luggage and need to stock up in essentials, or perhaps you’ll to find new accommodations after you realize your hotel has more creepy crawly guests than human ones. You just never know, which is why it’s good to be prepared. You can exchange your money at banks or at foreign exchange centres like Wellington Foreign Exchange at 153 Wellington St. in downtown Kingston. Also make sure to research exchange rates and the cost of living in the places you’re visiting so you’ll know what to expect.

Consider how much duty and tax you’ll have to pay upon return

Upon return to Canada, Canadians are given personal tax exemptions depending on how long they’ve been away. This means that if you’ve spent under the limits set out, you don’t have to pay taxes on the merchandise you’ve purchased. According to the Canada Border Services Agency, you can bring $50 Canadian worth of goods back free of duty and tax for trips lasting more than 24 hours, $400 for trips lasting more than 48 hours and $750 for trips lasting more than seven days. Expect to be asked to pay tax on all of your items if you’ve gone over the limit.

Check the weather

Nothing’s worse than arriving in what you expect to be a nice, sunny locale wearing t-shirt and shorts only to find they’re going through a chilly, rainy spell. Doing your research ahead of time about upcoming forecasts and the yearly average temperatures (for longer trips) can help you avoid spending your trip cold, damp and miserable.

Purchase calling cards

If you’re going to be far from home, long distance fees will be astronomical. The best way to avoid saddling yourself or the recipient of your call with a pricey phone bill is to buy a calling card. You can purchase them in convenience and groceries stores for as little as five dollars Canadian and talk to family friends for as little as a few cents a minute. If you have a world phone (a phone that works internationally), you can also look into adding a long distance plan for the time you’ll be away if you don’t already have one.

Buy voltage converters and plug adapters

If you’re travelling outside of North America and you plan on charging your camera batteries or blow-drying your hair, you’ll need a voltage converter and plug adapter. Plug shapes and voltage change once you travel overseas, so you won’t be able to plug your electronic devices into outlets and use them safely without these tools. Check what voltage and plug you’ll need for the country or countries you’re visiting, but also keep in mind that universal converters and adapters are available.

Determine a meeting place

For those whose sense of direction isn’t up to par, travelling can be as stressful as it is exciting. If you’re travelling with others, it’s a good idea to establish a meeting place in case you get lost, and encourage everyone to carry a map at all times, It’s also helpful to learn a few phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting so you can ask for directions if necessary.


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