Pre-Departure List

All of the trips I’ve taken in the past have been between a week or so (Nicaragua, Colombia) and three weeks (India) so the pre-planning has been fairly simple. NOTE: I probably would not have said this when I was trying to book an Indian train ticket online from the Upper West Side. I’ve also planned most of these in about a month. I’m beginning to feel that less time to plan is better. I avoid being completely bogged down thinking about things that I probably don’t need to think about. BUT, in the spirit of rationalizing having a whole page called “Pre-Departure List” I am reminding myself how much I love lists.

I’m now on the road and below is the status of the list:


  • Travel Insurance: Get some. I plan on looking into World Nomads, which seems to have good reviews. DONE!
  • Utility Bills: Change utility bill names. UPDATE: Electric is easy, Time Warner is annoying, still need to do National Grid. UPDATED UPDATE: National Grid is done, Time Warner will probably just be paid directly by the new apartment inhabitants through my account and may do the same with Electric. DONE!
  • Running: I need to look into the feasibility of running while on the go. If no, I can avoid having to pack my sneaks and running pants. Brought my sneaks and running clothes. I may even DO it one of these mornings!
  • Flat Iron with dual voltage: I’ve never done this, but I’m doing it this time. I know you’ll all think it’s not necessary and you’d be right. Except this is my ONE fancy thing to bring. That fancy underwear a few bullets above doesn’t count. Also, it will probably explode the first time I plug it in, so I’ll learn my lesson quickly. UPDATE: This is seeming dumber and dumber. I still haven’t given up and taken it off the list, but really – am I going to straighten my hair? Yeah, I gave up. I did re-think it when I found a straightener in the Singapore airport, but then decided straight hair wasn’t worth $55 Singapore Dollars. I’m au natural, friends.
  • Bronner’s: Is this the soap, shampoo, etc that I should bring so that I only have to worry about one bottle? Let’s think about this a bit. I brought shampoo, but already wish I’d brought an extra bottle of Bronner’s. I’m trying to conserve. Not sure what I’ll do when I run out. Probably just stop showering completely.
  • Money: I’ll be keeping a stash of money that I can’t touch while I’m away. I need to get access for H&D or open a new account with their bank so they can have access in case they need my last savings to bail me out of some terrible prison. That would only happen if I get on the wrong plane and end up in South America. But, I could die of Yellow Fever before word even reaches the US so I’m not too worried. I think it’s funny that I wrote this and did end up in a place that worries about Yellow Fever. Luckily we don’t worry too much about YF in the USA, so all good on that front. Yesterday I spent my entire week’s allocation of money in one day. Angkor Wat is extremely expensive. Add in some other expensive things that I considered necessities (like SPF) and budget is blown for the next 6 days. But, I won’t need to buy those things again and I’m hoping Angkor Wat is the most expensive thing here. We’re back on track now. Oh, also! Bank account access was handled. I also called Chase to tell them that I’d be traveling and I learned that they won’t put any notifications in my account for Cambodia since it’s on the list of places that they will NOT notify you of suspicious activity. Their explanation was that it’s high on the list of places where these things happen. While I couldn’t get them to admit that they were lazy, I did get them to admit that it happens too often in Asia to keep track of. Fine. I also found out that international travel comes with a $5 charge for ATM withdrawals and a 3% charge when making purchases with your debit card. I should have looked into this before leaving rather then calling them from the car on the way to the airport. This sucks, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. Famine is definitely worse.
  • Gift cards: All those things you were holding on to could be spent buying rice and beans on the street. Sell those. Or use them. Just stop carrying them around. (NOTE: You can buy more than just shoes with gift cards! I once left a Saks gift card as a tip in a hotel when I had no cash. Another time I traded a City Crab gift card for an unused NJ Transit ticket on the train so I didn’t have to get off in Secaucus.) DONE. I sold gift cards for Saks, Bliss Spa and Neiman Marcus. Fab.
  • Refills: Refill all those Rxs that are up for refill. UPDATE: These need to be filled in NY if I don’t want to pay a thousand dollars (that figure might actually be literal and accurate.) Not done yet. UPDATED UPDATE: Filled nothing. But did get a last minute prescription for Malarone that I purchased using a coupon code from GoodRx. This is a great site to find out where you can buy your prescription the cheapest.
  • Phone plan: I’m bringing my iPhone, but only to use when I have access to wifi. Alternately, I can sign up for a global plan but that sounds expensive. I need to look into that. I’d rather get a cheap phone with SIM card at the airport. UPDATE: I can get a phone for under $30ish US once I arrive. I’m going this route. UPDATED UPDATE: Verizon will unlock my phone for free. I just need to suspend my service, which I’ll do for the end of February. Then, I’ll buy SIM cards along the way. I’m a genius. Actually, the person who wrote the blog post on how much she loves her unlocked phone is a genius. I can just read. UPDATED UPDATED UPDATE: I blew this. I lost the special phone number that Verizon gave me and when I tried to call Verizon from the airport, I didn’t make it through to a representative before I had to get on the plane. Nothing like the last minute I always say! I’m going to do that today on Skype. Only bummer is that I won’t be able to use Whats App through my regular phone number. At the very least I need to call them to cancel my phone service so I’m not paying for it.
  • Backpack: I need to decide on the smallest backpack I can manage and then see if LLBean carries it. Right now, I like the Osprey Farpoint 40 L, but I also like the $150 still sitting in my bank account. I also plan on picking up compression sacks and packing cubes. What about the Patagonia bag I got from Outside Magazine a few years ago? Probably too big. UPDATE: Got the packing cubes and a travel towel at Paragon using a gift card. Only shelled out something like $20 to cover it. I may still get a sleep sack, toiletry bottles and a nalgene attachment from LLBean. And the backpack question remains un-answered. I checked out the Farpoint 40 at Paragon and loved it. But, then saw the Farpoint 70 and felt happy and secure knowing I would have 30 glorious more liters to fill with things I don’t need. I’ll probably settle on the Farpoint 40. ALTHOUGH. LLBean has two similar versions that are less expensive. UPDATED UPDATE: Got the Farpoint 40 at LLBean along with some other things I needed. This includes: Duct tape (in two tiny rolls,) tiny squeezy bottles for shampoo and stuff, and something else that I just sat here trying to remember but can’t. Guess I didn’t need that. Need to find a day-bag. UPDATED UPDATED UPDATE: Packed the Farpoint 40 to complete capacity and took it from Delray Beach to Sanford. When I got there I decided it was too small and went to Gander Mountain for a replacement. Ended up with a High Sierra Rappel 50, which feels much cheaper than the Osprey. It was on sale and significantly less expensive so I went with it. If I were traveling for a year I’d probably re-think it but this will do just fine for the next month in Cambodia and then a month in a half in Guatemala. The lesson learned here is that I should have tried packing much earlier than I actually did. If I had, I probably would have thought about the size more and ended up with the next size up in a more quality pack. Hindsight, friends. And planning. Turns our grown-ups are totally right about thinking things through in advance.
  • Addresses: I need to make sure I have addresses stored somewhere. I should start that process now so I’m not rushing to gather this information at the last minute. UPDATE: I don’t think I’m worrying about this. If you read this and don’t think I have your address, send it to me! If I feel like I need to send you something through the mail and don’t have your address, I can probably send you an e-mail. E-mail is great.
  • Cancel hulu
  • Change address: Wait! What happens in Albany? Will they still consider me a “resident” of NY if I do this? Need to figure that out. UPDATE: Albany doesn’t care where I live. Changed my address. Boom. Done.
  • Visas: What do I need for the places I’m planning on being? What do I need for the places I can’t imagine I’ll go? Just in case. UPDATE: Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras are all part of the “Centro America 4.” Or, the CA-4. This allows for more easy movement of people and goods between each country, but also means that the 90-day visa extended to Americans counts for all of those places. I can extend an additional 90 days in Guatemala City if I want to stay. I can also go to either Mexico or Belize for 72 hours and start all over again with 90 days. I’ll consider this bullet complete.
  • Vaccines: I have a bunch of weird ones already, but do I need malaria pills? If so, where do I plan on getting an Rx for those without health insurance? Does Obama just send them to me if I ask? Can I tweet him? UPDATE: Risk for malaria in Guatemala is considered “low” according to the CDC. I can probably skip the Rx for that considering I almost always forget to take them after about a week or so. I’ll miss the wacky dreams, but it’s one less thing to find crumpled at the bottom of my backpack on the flight home. I still need to call my doctor to confirm that I’ve got all the regular vaccines that are suggested – typhoid, polio, the Heps. Between Vietnam, India and Kenya, pretty sure I have all of those. The one vaccine I remember grappling with a few years ago is Yellow Fever. Looks like it’s generally not needed in any of the places I’d consider going in South America (no, SA is not on the itinerary but what if I get on the wrong plane and end up there?), so skipping that sucker as well.
  • Clothes: I need that fancy underwear. Maybe LLBean carries that too? UPDATE: I don’t need that. Why did I think I needed that.

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