Jet setting this summer? Taking a gap year? Before you skip to the travel agents or log on to EasyJet, take a few moments and read this to make sure you've fully thought your travel plans through.
Before you plan and book your adventure sit down with your bank balance and a calculator (and maybe a realistic parent) and work out exactly how much you can afford to spend. Remember that things normally end up costing more than you set aside, especially large-scale projects like travelling. There are hidden costs that you don't anticipate at the time; transport to get you around in the various countries, insurance, food and drink, any specialist equipment you'll need- it's not just flights, accommodation and activities, although just these in themselves can set you back a hefty sum. Figuring out your budget before you get excited means that you can book a trip that is appropriate for your circumstances. So it might not be that year-long world tour, but a month inter-railing in Europe is still pretty great right? If it turns out you don't have the funds you can either downsize your trip or wait until you have the money for your dream adventure. This is ten times better than booking flights but later realising you can't afford the rest, risking losing your deposit.
If you are on a tight budget there are wallet-friendly ways of traveling; seeing the Earth doesn't have to cost you the Earth. Consider whether you want to book a package bundle with a travel company or book each stage of your journey separately yourself. Both methods are fine as long as you are careful and consider the pros and cons of both. The latter option can work out cheaper (or, incidentally, more expensive with booking fees, hidden costs etc) but you sacrifice the security of booking with a reputable company. Your destinations and activities you want to do might also pay a part in your booking methods- some companies have ready laid-out timetables for popular places such as South-East Asia, Australia and South-America but if you fancied less-mainstream travel time it could be worth creating your own itinerary.
If you don't book a travel bundle that includes insurance make sure you purchase it separately. Although it can be, and probably will be, expensive it is definitely worth it. Not only do you need insurance but you need a policy that covers everything. Things of particular note are flight and accommodation details- missed departures, cancellations etc, excess amounts (some can be very high), theft and loss cover (especially for valuables- presumably you'll take your fancy camera for those up-a-mountain selfies?), medical cover and exclusions (pre-existing conditions) and alcohol use- some insurers will not cover any accidents related to alcohol intake. So, shop around and pick the best policy for you- it's worth spending an extra few bob for your (and your parents') peace of mind- you do not want to be stuck in the Amazon Basin with a broken leg, a stolen IPhone and a cancelled flight home.
The world is a big scary place with terrifying things happening all the time. In your university or home town bubble it's easy to forget that not everywhere on Earth is safe and nice and that extra care is needed in certain places. Before you plan your destinations check about the current political, financial and civil affairs happening in the country. You don't want to accidentally stumble into a war zone or riot town. Chances are you will (hopefully) have some idea of world events but it's worth a check before you get excited about your lovely, peaceful holiday.
Most places outside of the Western world require you to have injections before you travel. Ask your travel agents what jabs you need, double check with your GP and get yourself booked in for them asap. Sometimes you need a course of three before a vaccination is complete and effective or a few months' gap before you travel so you might need to be strategic with your planning. Of course it goes without saying that if the advice is to get an injection you MUST get it. There are some horrific illnesses that you could be exposed to and no matter how strong you think your immune system is it cannot handle tropical diseases. As well as injections you might need to take some medicine out with you like malaria tablets, so visit your GP to get clued up on anything you could get and everything you need to prevent and treat it.
Have you thought about who you will travel with? You might get on fine with your chosen companion at home but could you really handle months together without any arguments or disagreements that could possibly ruin the trip? Consider whether you want to travel alone, go solo but try and join onto another group you'll find, go in a pair or a larger group. All have pros and cons and will suit different people but the important thing is that you enjoy your time. Don't feel forced into joining a group that you know you might have problems with and chose companions that want to do the same things as you to keep clashes to a minimum, ensuring no one misses out on anything they are dying to do or see. There are certainly different types of traveling- hardcore backpacking around remote and cultural areas, getting involved in local life and really experiencing the world versus more light-hearted traveling to westernised areas for alcohol-fueled experiences. Both are surely amazing in their own way but make sure everyone who is traveling is on the same page in terms of what kind of journey it will be!
Once you've sorted all these six you are good to go! Just remember your passport...and check it's in date!