The tickets are booked and you’ve managed to squirrel away enough annual leave to get off our glorious island home. Congratulations! But before you start organising goodbye drinks, have a read of our ultimate travel checklist. We know that going to Europe is a big trip, and this checklist is here to make sure you don’t overlook a key part of your preparations and ruin an otherwise amazing experience.
It’s also made by Aussies for Aussies — so we’ll try our best to not sound like your overly cautious colleague or your mum.
1. Book Accommodation Ahead Of Time
It can be tempting to be carefree or “see where the adventure takes you” through Europe, but there’s nothing worse than a late night search for somewhere to sleep (especially after the 25+ hour flight over). Book accommodation before you leave — if only for the first few nights. If you’re truly a free spirit, you can be more adventurous from there.
2. Get Insurance
Like booking a room ahead of time, this pointer can be easy to overlook for the rebels. Consider this, however: Have you ever lost your luggage, missed a flight and found yourself stranded in a city without a passport? No? Well, the Gods of Fate and All Things Unfair will likely make up for it on your Euro trip. Get insurance.
3. Read Up On Visas And The Schengen Area
Luckily, Australians don’t need a visa to travel to countries in the Schengen Area (which includes most European Union member countries, plus Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) for up to 90 days in any 180 day period. If you leave and return during those 180 days, the previous stay will count towards the 90-day maximum — so don’t think you can just pop out and back in! Learn the rules and regulations before you go so you don’t get stuck.
And just as an FYI: Ireland and the United Kingdom are not part of the Schengen zone, so their rules are slightly different (although you still probably won’t need a visa to visit). For their rules, you can check here and here.
4. Read Up On How Our Govt. Can And Can’t Help You Overseas
Think our PM is going to swoop down and fly you out of some strange European prison? Think again! But there are a lot of things our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can do if you get into a pickle. Learn them before you need them.
5. Learn A Bit Of The Local Language
You may be thinking that your native English is going to seamlessly carry you through your European trip but au contraire! You’d be very mistaken.
For one, English is not the most spoken language in Europe, and some places, like Russia, have very low English knowledge. Even if you’re travelling somewhere with high English proficiency, learning even the smallest amount of the local language can impact your trip tremendously. Even if you start just two weeks beforehand to brush up on some Spanish or French, you could open up your whole travel experience. We don’t need to tell you which app can help you out with that, do we? (It’s Babbel.)
6. Bring Your Medicare Card
Have you looked into the reciprocal healthcare agreement Australia has with some foreign countries? Needless to say, it’s very important you understand that places like the UK can give Australians emergency healthcare treatment. For countries that don’t, look into whether you’ll need to purchase additional insurance (especially if you’re planning on staying more than a few months).
7. Check Your Vaccinations
Speaking of healthcare, go see your local GP before you jet off and make sure you’re up to date with any vaccinations. Realizing you haven’t had your tetanus shot after you’ve been bitten by a street dog is not something you want to experience.
8. Bring Some Dollar Bills (Or Euros, Or Kronor…)
Bringing enough cold, hard cash to your chosen country can save you from being stranded in a small town or having an awkward encounter with your waiter. Credit cards are all well and good, but some of the more remote towns (or the entirety of Germany) might only accept cash in the local currency. Grab some euros (or pounds, or Swedish kronor, or whatever the local currency is) and keep them in a secure location — like on your person — rather than in your suitcase.
9. Make A Plan B
Does your flight home allow for a free change of date? If you can afford it, book this option, as you may find yourself wanting or needing to go home suddenly and without the means to do so.
10. Call Your Bank
Tell your bank that you will be travelling overseas so they don’t flag your purchases as being fraudulent. Many banks now allow you to do this online as well if you’d rather not call. You can take this time you would have spent calling your bank to call your parents or relatives instead and tell them how excited you are for your trip!
11. Pack For Weird Weather
Depending on what time of the year you’re going, it’s always good to prepare for something other than “bloody hot” or “bloody cold.” European countries tend to have more unpredictable weather than us, so try to pack for a few seasons.
12. But Don’t Overpack!
Speaking of packing, do your best to Marie Kondo your suitcase before you leave. If the third pair of shorts doesn’t bring you joy, keep it at home. Worst-case scenario, you find yourself doing a bit of local shopping. Best-case scenario, you’re not carting 20 kilos of luggage down narrow cobblestone streets.
13. Know Your International Phone Options
Researching whether you’ll be better off purchasing a SIM card overseas or organising an international package can be a tricky decision for many Australians. It’s all well and good for international roaming for a shorter trip but this can quickly become very expensive for anything over a couple weeks.
Many Australians will instead choose to purchase SIM cards overseas, as they can often work out cheaper over the long term. Read up on what your provider can offer you before you leave and make an informed decision. Or you could hope to always be close to WiFi — but that might not hold up for the more adventurous trips.
14. Look Into Train Fares
Australians are accustomed to having to catch planes to get anywhere. In Europe, a train can get you between countries both quickly and cheaply. Look into booking a Europe-wide train ticket like the Euro Pass. Not only will it take you to all these amazing countries, but it will also take you through dozens of picturesque landscapes that you’d miss while flying.
15. Get Excited!
The first trip (or any trip) to Europe is an eye-opening experience for any Australian. The food! The people! The places! Travelling across the globe can completely change your perspective on the world around you. You should be excited to see new places and meet new people, especially because experiences like this don’t happen every day.
We’ve covered the basics with this travel checklist so hopefully you’re now reared and ready for the trip of a lifetime!