Welcome to our official travel guide that I hope will offer you some detailed insight into a more thorough planning process when you're organising your travels. I'll take you through some proven methods that'll give you the upper-hand when you're on an adventure.
Firstly let us start with our pre-travel preparation. A large amount of issues that are frequently encountered on our travels could be thwarted with a thorough pre-travel recce. With the internet we have unprecedented access to imagery and information that we should take full advantage of in our travel planning process.
Embassy, News & information
A great place to start your travel information gathering is with Basetrip. Basetrip gives you all the travel information about any country in the world. It includes information about time zones, weather, electricity sockets, currencies, exchange rates, costs of living, internet speeds, mobile data prices, health, vaccinations, road rules, embassies, visa information etc. together with travel tips from the community.
Once you have this baseline of information covered, locate your home-nation's Embassy details within the country you're visiting. Make a note of the appropriate Embassy contact numbers and store them into your phone prior to leaving - in the event that you may require consulate support. Your Embassy will typically have a strong online presence these days including a Twitter feed, which often covers real-time news and security updates on the country in question. The British Embassy holds a .gov webpage for each country it resides in which covers local issues, safety, security, local laws and customs to avoid the classic faux pas.
After I have a good grasp on the aforementioned points, I typically move to online community created guides/reviews to accustom myself to the local culture and environment. You really can’t go wrong with websites like lonelyplanet.com that benefits from a strong international community of travellers with years of experience providing detailed information of the entire planet. Embrace the wisdom of the hive mind!
Now let's assume you’re about to embark on a journey to a foreign land you've never set foot on. We don't always have the pleasure of our journey taking us to the best countries to live in and our planning must prepare us for the unknown. I find it a great advantage to get my head into online maps and begin to mentally familiarise myself with the ground. I’m typically making notes on key motorways, rivers and neighbourhoods which means I can get off to a strong start on my arrival. This is also a good time to begin storing maps on your person that you can utilise immediately upon your arrival. You can't really go wrong with Google Maps these days for this purpose. Google Maps is not only free, but it has the ability to store maps offline - No cellphone tower? Not a problem.
As much as I embrace humanity’s technological prowess I find one of my best methods for travel information storage is my good ol’ fashioned Moleskine. I have used many of these throughout the years for work notes and a general travel companion and I have yet to find a notebook that rivals the quality of these things. Easy to pick these up on Amazon, they’re typically a tad more expensive than your typical notebook but the Moleskine offer a very durable quality, provide a strong sturdy cover and have a nice little elastic binding strap with a pocket in the back (I typically keep an emergency stash of currency in here)
With the notepad in hand I typically draw out my plans ahead of my trip upon arrival with brief notes of my transport methods, contact numbers and contingency plans. (I’ll cover more on this shortly.) Thus allowing me a pocket reference guide which enables me to glide effortfully to each of my travel waypoints, with the exact duration times on hand.
Contingency plans [Advanced]
The following piece of advice is a more advanced travel planning technique, so it can be dismissed based on the importance of your trip/itinerary. But here it goes - There comes a point in life when you must take personal responsibility for the world around you and this means being empowered to take control and not rely on others should things go wrong. If you have a critical business meeting that is time critical - there are far too many factors outside of your control at play to assume that everything is going to go smoothly when you're traveling. Yeah I get it, you paid your money so your plane should depart on time, Your luggage should appear in the baggage reclaim and the train that you have planned to take you from the airport shouldn't be 30 minutes behind schedule. But guess what? Shit happens! But we can prepare for such eventualities and not become encumbered by such developments.
Lets take a hypothetical pre-planned appointment that you must attend, located 3 hours away from the airport. In your pre-travel planning you pre-paid for a train ticket online that would take you directly to your meeting in a suitable time to reach your appointment; Good. Prior to take-off you check your phone and the trains are all running ok, so no prior preparation can now take place. Upon arrival in your foreign destination you are immediately made aware that your train has encountered a long delay as a result of a tree falling onto the track - Shit.
This is the moment a Plan B comes into effect, perhaps a local taxi number is always suitable to have stored for short distance movements or time critical appointments but having a secondary train route at your disposal is often a smart move, which can offer us an alternative solution in the event of the destruction of our primary route. Local buses, rental cars and Uber drivers can also offer a suitable contingency solution. Feel free to trawl the viable options you have at your disposal and make a note to have a solution that can avoid a specific travel obstacle, for example:
IN THE EVENT OF A traffiC PROBLEM
- Solutions: Trains, Bike/Moped
- Problems: Rental Cars, Buses, Taxies
IN THE EVENT OF A RAIL PROBLEM
- Solutions: Rental Cars, Buses, Taxies, Bike/Moped
- Problems: Trains… (duh)
Choosing your aircraft seat
Airlines make an extra bit of coin allowing us to choose our seats, and for those of us who stand over 6 foot tall, sufficient leg room is a blessing. I typically grab the emergency exit seats on my pre-purchase options. (Also nominating myself to take an action role in the event of a catastrophe folks; You're welcome.) In addition to our leg room we have the choice of window seats (glorious views of earth) - but my favourite location is the aisle seats (more freedom to move around the plane without constantly hassling your seat buddies. And the first to grab their bag and leave.) Just don't grab the lame middle seats (lacking the advantages of either window or aisle seats) there are several other considerations for choosing a slightly more comfortable economy class seat.
How close you sit to the front or back end of the plane is a mixed bag of benefits and drawbacks. In most commercial aircraft, seats in the back experience more cabin noise; the difference can be significant enough to cause discomfort, and it's one of the reasons why first class is always located in the front.
In wide-body aircraft, rear economy window seats will provide you with a better view than in the front of the economy section, where the view is obstructed by the wings. The effects of turbulence are weakest near the leading edge of the wing, in the middle of the aircraft. Finally, using data from airline accidents in which some passengers survived and others did not, indicate that seats at the rear of the plane are statistically safer. Choose wisely.
Pre-book an airport lounge
If you’re traveling on a long-haul flight, pre-book yourself into an airport lounge. The lounge comes at a cost but the luxury of complimentary food, drinks, newspapers and magazines are often worth while. Before you leave the lounge, feel free to grab a few big bottles of water with some snacks. It’s a pretty cost effective and relaxing way to begin any trip.
Some developing countries either have no ATMs, very limited ATMs, or are not connected to the international networks. This includes Myanmar in Southeast Asia, as well as parts of Africa. In Japan, most bank ATMs don't work with international cards (the cards are even an incompatible size), so you need to look for a post office, 7/11 or Citibank ATM. In certain countries, not every ATM accepts foreign credit or debit cards. So check in-advance about what's available, and do what's necessary to ensure you have adequate cash during your travels. Mastercard, VISA, Cirrus, and Plus are accepted at nearly all ATMs worldwide.
When in an unfamiliar location and you have any choice, use an ATM in a bank lobby or highly public place, e.g., airport lobby. This helps to avoid scanners/cameras secretly installed by criminals, and it greatly reduces the risk that you might be robbed after securely withdrawing cash. In addition, "official" ATMs placed in such areas by major local banks tend to better protect your data as it is transferred between the ATM and your bank's account. Source: http://wikitravel.org/en/Money
ATM Fees by Country
Different banks will charge different amounts for making withdrawals from their ATMs and some local banks have no fee at all (you still may be charged a fee by your home bank.) Most debit and credit card issuers will charge a foreign transaction fee of up to 4% of the transaction amount every time you make a purchase or cash withdrawal in a foreign country. The exchange rate applied to a transaction is usually the rate on the transaction posting date, which can be up to 10 days after the actual transaction date. Therefore, unless currency prices are fixed, it is impossible to know exactly what exchange rate will be charged until the transaction is posted to your account.
Cash is the most versatile method there is. Virtually everybody takes cash. The biggest disadvantage to cash is the risk. If you lose it, you can't get it back, and if someone finds out you have a large load of cash, you become a potential mark on your travels. Some defences include creating a secondary wallet with small denominations and out of date cards/docs to use as bait in the event of getting caught out. Limit your chances for being targeted by maintaining strong situational awareness.
In some cases it may be better to exchange your money before you leave, in others it may be better to do it in your destination. As a general rule, the lesser-known currencies in the world have less favourable exchange rates abroad. In fact, they may first be converted to a well-known currency like the USD before being converted back into the host currency also at unfavourable rates. If this is the case, convert your home currency into a major currency (usually USD) before leaving then exchange that major currency into the host currency when you arrive.
Now we'll cover our equipment that we’ll be using during our travels. It’s fair to say that many people choose to travel encumbered with kit/clothing they will not use so they’re comfortable and have everything that they’ll need. I’ve always been a fan of traveling light and having the foresight to utilise things locally and only bring the bare essentials. If I can dodge waiting for my hold bag in the baggage section then that is a win.
So lets start with some of my carry-on bag recommendations:
Once we have established our travel bag, it’s time to decide what we’re going to bring. Assuming the administrative fundamentals of your travel are covered (visa, vaccinations and passport) we’ll now look at clothing.
To slip through luggage weight restrictions placed by airlines, travellers often throw on their heavy clothing to maximise their carry-on potential prior to airport security and boarding. This is certainly a viable option but our travels can often take many hours and during uncomfortable weather. I’ve always found being comfortable a necessity in my travel movements. But one can always reorganise their kit, attire upon arriving at their destination.
Smart appearances are often a necessity on business or pleasure and if we’re looking at bringing the suit, I suggest wearing the jacket during the flight. Regardless of packing guides I’ve read online, I find simply wearing the jacket and having your trousers packed achieves the best result. I'll leave you all with my typical travel inventory to use as a reference when organising your own gear.
My typical travel gear contains
- Suit Jacket (Typically worn to travel in)
- Trousers/Chinos (Typically worn to travel in)
- Shirt (Typically worn to travel in)
- Smart shoes (Typically worn to travel in)
- Heavy jacket (During winter) (Typically worn to travel in)
In the carry-on:
- Suit trousers x1
- Scarf/shemagh - Very useful travel accessory with many different applications. A makeshift towel, sun protection, carrying stuff around etc
- Light jacket
- Jeans x 1 - The trousers that can go with everything
- Shirt x2
- Shorts x 1
- T-Shirts x2
- Swimwear x1
- Underwear x7 - these take up little room, so no need to get stingy here!
- Flip flops/sandals
- Socks x4
- Towel: Read Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy.
Extras on person:
- Smart Phone/with cable - Eliminates requirement for laptop
- Headphones - With microphone for hands free calling
- Notebook/with pen - See above
- Passport/Docs - I have necessary documentation (driving licence, passport etc all digitally stored with encryption in the event of physical loss of documentation)
Extras in carry-on:
- First aid kit - Basic boo boo kit to conform to airline restrictions (plasters & alcohol free wipes)
- Portable USB charging unit
- USB Plug
- Plug adapter
- Ear buds - Don’t cheap out!
Toiletries (*under 100ml):
- Roll-on deodorant*
- Cologne* - If tight for space, simply use the airports duty free shops for free cologne upon arrival/departures
The founder of Capable Men.
Currently operating personal projects while he simultaneously attempts to develop the Capable Men platform. John served five years in the British army, with a tour of duty in Afghanistan before eventually departing the forces to begin a career in the private security sector.
John attended several private protection courses dealing with security strategy, close-quarters combat training, firearms and advanced driving. This new profession took him worldwide Including the protection of government assets in South America, VIP tasks on the Côte d'Azur and security work within the French Alps.
His interests include global affairs, philosophy, hiking, sports and fitness.