If I’ve ever considered myself savvy at travelling on my own, then I must consider myself a full-blown expert in the art of procrastination in the lead up to travelling.
I’ve repeatedly stated my woes on trip planning and preparation, and this year is no exception and, quite frankly, may just be my best ever.
I’m used to planning on the go, picking up information as I travel, and slowly piecing it together to form the ‘jig-saw puzzle’ of a six month trip. This usually results in some mild to major panic (and tears) when I think I may not be able to book last minute onto tours I’m hoping for; but oddly enough, it always happens to work out for me. So in my final weeks before I leave, I’m usually doing all the things normal people have researched and realized months before. I’ve discovered these “normal things” fall into four major categories of stuff you really really need to do before you get on the airplane. In no particular order:
This is no surprise. To get anywhere in this world across an ocean, you must book a flight. I am currently two weeks out from my hopeful fly date, and I currently have no flight booked. They say to book at least six weeks before you leave, as this is often the best time to get good prices. I usually leave my flights as a last minute purchase to “keep my options open” and then panic when I may not get the date I was hoping for as prices tend to cost more than the worth of all my worldly possessions. But somehow, and by somehow I mean hours upon hours of internet flight research, comparisons, and some creative flight schedule jimmying, I usually manage to book cheap and decently priced flights. The low cost of my flights this year look to be $2000CAD, and the average price: $4-6000. Please cross your fingers I can score the lower priced flight option.
The reason I’m two weeks out from my current fly date and not sooner, is because my passport is currently being processed on an express pick-up at my local Passport Canada office. That’s because I blissfully refuse to do anything on time. I also felt stubborn and didn’t want to renew it two years early, pay more money, and start my final trip with empty pages when I’ve worked hard to fill it up with beautiful and exotic stamps and visas the past three years. However, I was forced to when I realized that my passport was actually full, and that Africa has a lot of borders I plan on crossing.
*I would also just like to mention how annoying it is when a border control employee thinks stamping your passport in the middle of an empty page is an efficient use of passport page space. It’s not and never will be.
This one sometimes catches people off guard, but interestingly enough, many countries require a tourist visa to be obtained in advance before you ever step foot on its soil. That means I am currently researching how to obtain a Madagascar tourist visa without having a real passport since it is in last minute processing. My solution? Have the online tourist visa forms printed off and filled out, and wing it when I arrive in-country. As long as I’m okay with long delays and have proof of a flight booked out, they will (hopefully) give me a free 30 day tourist visa on arrival. That’s a bit more stressful than just preparing in advance months ago, but looks to be my current option at the moment.
What to Do
And last, but not least, is figuring out what you want to do in the country you’re traveling to, so you can figure out how long you should actually stay in said country. Also incredibly important, is figuring out how much things will cost while your there. Right now I’m blindly assuming all the fun and adventure I’m interested in in Madagascar will run me no more than my allotted $2000CAD a month. I really hope it’s not as expensive as I’m worried it might be or my budget might be stretched before I even hit the mainland.
If you haven’t picked up on it, I’m in a tiny bit of panic mode as I realize I should have been a little more proactive with my trip planning to ensure things work out the way I’m dreaming they will. To make myself feel better, I like to believe that stress and tears when doing last minute travel planning are just another form of extreme adventure activities that I like to partake in. But if all goes as it usually does in my life, with a little bit of invested planning time and clever strategizing, I’m sure all my travel plans will come off without a hitch, and in two short weeks, I will be flying high up and over three continents to land on one amazing island that will, quite simply, blow my mind.
So wish me luck, because I might need it this time!