The moment you finally buy that cheap plane ticket to a country you’ve always wanted to visit is the one of the most satisfying feeling a person with a traveler’s soul can experience. Knowing that in just a few weeks or months away, you’ll be roaming around the beautiful night streets of Paris or kayaking through the rivers of the islands of Fiji is enough to make you burn all your time researching on various activities that you can do in your country of destination. There’s nothing wrong with that, after all, it’ll make you anticipate your much-awaited trip even more! But before you head to the airport for your flight, there are some important points that you need to remember to ensure a safe and hassle-free trip, including looking for the best hotel deals through online booking sites such as Traveloka. It’s very easy to use, has no hidden fees, and they even have an app you can download on your Android or iOS phones. These tips that I will be sharing with you are things that I have witnessed or personally experienced during my own travels.
1. Check your passport’s expiration date
It is very important that you do not forget to check the expiry date of your passport. I already know two people who have booked a flight and only found out that their passport was about to expire when they applied for their visas. You also have to make sure that the expiry date has the correct validity for the country you are traveling to. For example, your passport must be valid for six months when traveling to China or Indonesia, three months for France or Germany, and one month for Hong Kong.
2. Apply for a visa
If you are going abroad, check whether you need to acquire a visa to enter the country. If you do, then submit your application early because there are some embassies that may take weeks before they return to you your passport, hopefully with the approved visa attached. If the idea of applying for visa terrifies you, then it’s good to know that a Philippine passport can get you to around 60 countries visa-free.
3. Check the weather
Now that your passport is renewed and your visa application has been approved, you may now start packing your luggage. To ensure that you’ll be bringing the right things, don’t forget to check the weather conditions in your country of destination. It may be hot here in the Philippines during January, but in Seoul and Tokyo, it is their coldest month. Don’t let the weather ruin your wonderful trip!
4. Check the weight of your luggage
When booking for your plane ticket, you would be informed of the maximum weight that is allowed for your luggage. They would normally give you 15-20 kilos, depending on the airline. If you think that you’ll exceed the weight limit, then it is better to purchase the extra weight baggage before your flight. Overweight luggage will cost you a lot of money in the airport.
5. Pay your credit card bills in advance
If you’re traveling for two weeks or more, don’t foget to pay your credit card bills in advance. I personally almost forgot that the due date of my credit card bill was during my trip to Singapore. Good thing I remembered to pay a few days before my flight, otherwise I would’ve been charged a late fee.
6. Inform the credit card company of your travel plans
I know a lot of people don’t call their credit card company before their flight, but I always make sure to call and inform them of my travel plans. If you don’t notify them in advance, there’s a chance they might cut off your access to your credit card if an international transaction on your card gets flagged as a suspicious activity.
7. Be at the airport two hours before your flight
I cannot stress this further enough. With the heavy traffic we experience here in the Philippines on a daily basis, it is always safer to leave the house a few hours early. It is recommended that you be at the airport two hours before your flight. There are a lot of security and check-in counters that you must go through before you reach the boarding gate, not to mention the long lines at each counter. Don’t let your long-awaited vacation slip away just because you missed your flight.
8. Know the terminal number of your flight
There are currently four terminals in Manila that are located in different places. Don’t forget to remember the terminal of your flight and where it is located. Not knowing your terminal can make you waste a lot of time trying to find your way around the area in heavy traffic, especially when you end up in the wrong terminal.
9. Apply for roaming services for your cellular phone
Getting roaming services is very useful for emergency situations and for solo travelers. It’s not always certain that you’ll be able to buy a local sim card in the country you’re traveling to or easily get WiFi access for online communication services like Viber and Wechat. It will also give you a peace of mind knowing that you’ll be able to call someone if you get into trouble.
10. Compile a list of emergency numbers
Before I go to any country, I always make sure to write down their emergency numbers in a notepad or input them in my smartphone’s notes. The numbers I usually take note of are the hospitals, ambulance, emergency hotlines, police, Philippine Embassy, and my family’s contact information. Always travel safe!
11. Prepare snacks and drinks
I have already experienced a lot of delays during my travels, and with delays that last for two hours or more, it is very likely that you’ll get hungry. Instead of buying over-priced food in the airport, pack some light snacks and drinks in your hand-carry, like sandwiches or chips. Just be sure to finish your drink because you are not allowed to pass through the security screening point with a container of liquid or gel over 3.4 ounces or 100ml.
12. Download entertainment and helpful applications
Riding in long hours of flight can bore anyone to death. Get yourself entertained by downloading music and movies that you can watch on your smartphone or tablet. You can also install helpful travel guides of the country you’re going to in advance so you can read and check out other attractions and activities during your flight.
13. Confirm everything you’ve booked in advance
The day before your flight, make sure to confirm all your advanced bookings to prevent unpleasant surprises, such as flights that are canceled without you being informed about it. Here are some things that you might want to confirm: flight, hotel reservation, rental car, train ticket, and airport shuttle service. You wouldn’t want to happily arrive at the airport of your destination late at night only to find out that the hotel shuttle service won’t be arriving to pick you up.
14. Pay the travel tax
Some airline companies, like Philippine Airlines, will give you the option to pay the travel tax online when you purchase a ticket on their website. If not, you would have to go pay your travel tax at the airport before you check-in your luggage. The full travel tax is Php1,620.00 for business class and economy class, and Php300.00 for dependents of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
[EDITED: FEBRUARY 2017]
For Filipino citizens, you may now pay your travel taxes online directly through the official website of TIEZA (Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority). Click here and follow the simple steps: register, pay, and print. I find this system very useful for passengers who’s always on the run to catch their flights. If you’re like me who arrives at the airport hours before the flight, then this is a good way to skip the long queues and relax early.
15. Double-check the lock of your luggage
I would always double-check the lock of my luggage properly at the check-in counter. There were already some instances where I opened my luggage to get an item and then forget to properly mix the numbers of the lock. I was lucky nothing got stolen or that my luggage didn’t accidentally open when getting transferred to different areas. For laptops, be sure to put them inside your hand-carry because they are not allowed to be stored in the check in luggage.
16. Be updated on the country’s current events
There are a lot of things that can happen in a country within a day or even within a few hours! Safety is important especially when you are not in your own country, and it is better to keep yourself up-to-date regarding the country’s daily news via Huffington Post a week before your flight. Better safe than sorry!
Now that you’re done with all the preparations, you are now ready to take that flight to your dream destination! All you have to worry about from here on out is how to fully enjoy your trip and make the best travel memories of your life!