Finishing a Trip or Moving On? Before You Leave, Read This

by Brenna Holeman


Relaxed (and not thinking about going home at all) in Tel Aviv, Israel

There are dozens of resources that can help you prepare for an impending holiday, whether a quick trip or a much longer vacation (for example, how to pack for a long journey, how to plan for a long journey,  how to plan a short trip, and how to take care of the little things before a trip). If you are organized, the night before you leave can (hopefully) be a relaxing one. But what about at the end of your holiday or stay in a particular place? What should you do before you go home, or before you move on to another destination?

I thought of this months ago, while planning to leave Tel Aviv. Leaving a place isn’t as simple as just packing everything up and heading to the airport. Here, then, are some of the steps I personally take in order to prepare for the journey onwards, or in some cases, home.

Porto 2

Even when checking for my own flight I always start planning another trip, Porto, Portugal

1. Check your flight/bus/train departure time, and check again. Get it engrained. My flight back to London from Tel Aviv was at 8:20pm, and so, a few days before I left, I made sure to check how long it would take on a Saturday (Shabbat) to get to the aiport.

2. Find out how you can get to the airport/bus station/train station. It might be as simple as walking, or it might be a journey including multiple trains and buses that takes a few hours (I’m looking at you, London Luton). Find out exactly how much it will cost, how long it will take, and how easily you are able to book it. An early morning taxi, for example, might need to be booked the night before. All of this information is usually readily available online, but I ask locals or information attendants whenever necessary.

Porto 3

Hostel room at Gallery Hostel in Porto, Portugal

3. Calculate how much money you will need to adequately pay your final hotel/hostel bill (if they don’t accept cards) and get yourself to the airport. You might want to have a bit of change left over to buy water or last minute purchases. Keep in mind many countries also charge to use the toilet in bus and train stations, so have a few coins set aside for that. I also always have a bit of emergency cash on me, usually in American dollars or Euros, depending on where I am.

I was once with a backpacker who didn’t realise our hostel didn’t accept payment by cards, and she didn’t have enough time to go the ATM (at least 20 minutes there and back) before we had to leave for our bus. I was not impressed when I had to foot her bill. Don’t be that traveller.

Israel 2


It’s better to know… exactly how much you owe your hostel (forgive me for that one) Tel Aviv, Israel

4. When packing up your things, pack logically. Put gifts or other souvenirs either on top or in easy to reach locations – customs might want to see them when you arrive home. Also make sure that you are not bringing anything you shouldn’t be (check for that wayward apple you threw in your backpack, for example). Also check that you know how much of certain products you purchased; I was once searched at the airport in Montreal because I told them I was bringing back caviar from Russia, but couldn’t say exactly how many grams. Apparently “I’m not rich, so not very much… like, the size of an individual yogurt? Two of them?” isn’t an adequate response.

Also make sure you pack your carry-on bag with everything you need, including travel documents, medicine, chargers, warm clothing, fully-charged gadgets, books, whatever you need to make your time more comfortable. I wrote about it at length here, if you’re interested. My friend once travelled with her boyfriend on a ten-hour flight from South America to Canada; he was supposed to pack her books in his carry-on, but shoved them in his suitcase at the last minute. He instantly fell asleep on the plane, while she was left glaring at him for the entire ten hours. They broke up a few months later… I blame this incident.

5. Before you leave the room where you stayed, do a thorough sweep to make sure you haven’t left anything behind. Make sure to check under the bed, in the closet, in the bathroom, and in the drawers (even if you swear you never put anything inside of them). Watch out for leaving chargers behind; they’re easy to leave plugged into the wall.

Porto 4

Flying over Porto, Portugal

6. Make sure that all of your important documents are easily accessible; this includes your passport, boarding pass (if you printed it beforehand… and you should, if you are flying with EasyJet or Ryanair), and, most importantly, anything you may have been given by a customs agent when you landed. Some countries, especially in Central and South America, give you an arrival and departure card when you first enter the country. Make sure you keep that piece of paper somewhere safe – I generally keep it inside my passport. I didn’t realise this years ago, and so had to fumble through my entire suitcase and carry-on for ages in the airport in Mexico City. Turns out I was using the damn slip of paper as a bookmark.

7. Prepare yourself for customs. I’ve written about this before, but basically, know your own life. It’s harder than it might first appear, especially if you travel often. I can’t tell you how many dumb questions I’ve had to answer when going through immigration; my absolute favourite is still, “Did you fund your travels through Europe by playing the ukulele?” Here’s a tip: DON’T LAUGH, no matter what they ask.

8. Sit back and (literally) enjoy the ride. Sometimes, the actual “travelling” part of travelling can be extremely tedious and stressful. Making sure you’re as fully prepared as possible, and that you’ve done everything you can beforehand, certainly eases a little bit of the pain.

Porto 1

Just relax! At Gallery Hostel in Porto, Portugal

How do you prepare before heading on to your next destination/home?

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Emily February 5, 2014 - 5:18 am

“Did you fund your travels through Europe by playing the ukulele?” Hilarious. I would not have been able to keep any sort of straight face if asked that question!

Brenna Holeman February 5, 2014 - 12:06 pm

It was SO bizarre! I’m pretty sure I almost choked trying to hold back my laughter.

Tom @ Waegook Tom February 5, 2014 - 6:55 am

Amen to all of this! I left a charger at a hostel in Medellin once, when heading to Colombia’s Choco province for 5 days. Luckily I had a return flight to Medellin, and I’d called the hostel before my outbound flight, once I realised that I’d left it, and they kept it for me. I didn’t relish the thought of having to buy a new international adapter in Colombia.

I always keep my travel documents at the top of my bag, or in an easy-to-reach place. It just makes life so much simpler. I also keep my laptop and liquids at the top of my carry-on, too, so I’m not rummaging through my bag when it’s time to go through security.

I’m freakishly organised when it comes to catching planes anyway, and have never had to rush at an airport (fingers crossed). In fact I usually end up at airports way too early and have too much time to kill.

Anyway, your tips here are all spot on, and I think I’d shake anybody that travels regularly and doesn’t already practice these things.

Brenna Holeman February 5, 2014 - 12:06 pm

Thank you, Tom! I know that the tips are quite basic, but I’m shocked at how many frequent travellers I see not doing some of these things, or constantly making the same mistakes. I always end up at the airport way too early, too.

Kaelene @Unlocking Kiki February 5, 2014 - 8:46 am

Being fully prepared when I head to the airport is so important to make it the least stressful as possible. I don’t feel like I can relax until I have arrived and am waiting at my gate, but knowing how long it takes to get there etc makes me feel more at ease.

Brenna Holeman February 5, 2014 - 12:04 pm

Yes, definitely! It really helps to lessen the pressure of travelling.

Megan February 5, 2014 - 12:21 pm

yep, i agree on every point. i once had an incident when i was towards the end of my trip in tbilisi and moving on to abkhazia that the hostel had undercharged my friend (who had already left the country) so they decided to overcharge me on his behalf. i was so distraught about it because i was running out of money and heading into the unknown in abkhazia where i had NO clue how my finances would work. after lashing out at them from frustration, they decided to have him wire them the money, etc etc. it was a mistake on their behalf so it was frustrating it came back on me. i wish i had extra money at the time just in case so i could have paid them and settled later with him. now i always travel with extra just incase (sad i had to learn this the hard way and am not adult enough to have carried extra in the first place).

i just got back from central asia and i had a feeling by the end of the trip id be kind of broke due to the prices in kazakhstan. i ended up being wrong and came back with lots of money, but i was relieved to find 1100 NOK in my travel documents folder that i had set aside, forgot about, just to have when i got back to oslo for train tickets and food money to shop to last me until my next payday. thankfully, i didnt need it, but i was super shocked at the fact that i did that in the first place. maybe after all these years i am learning my lesson 🙂

excellent tips…so many of us forget about this part of the journey!

Brenna Holeman February 5, 2014 - 5:07 pm

Oh no – that is absolutely awful of the hostel! One tried to do that to me, too, in Honduras. I made it very clear that I wouldn’t be seeing my friend ever again (even though we were meeting up at a later date) and that she had no right to charge me. Thankfully she didn’t in the end…

And finding money is always a nice surprise! Thanks for your comment.

Alyssa James February 5, 2014 - 2:07 pm

I think I’m pretty good at all of these things! I’ve yet to leave anything behind at a hostel, though I’m sure it will happen eventually.

I’m hoping that my upcoming weekend trip will only be slightly stressful, since it’s my birthday and all!

Brenna Holeman February 5, 2014 - 5:05 pm

Once I left my phone charging in a hostel common room in Colombia… I was only out for the day, luckily, but I couldn’t believe that I did that! Thankfully it was still there when I got back…

Linda February 5, 2014 - 2:16 pm

Love reading about making the travel life easier in any way. And no matter how seasoned in travelling you think you are, it’s never too late to learn lessons. I just got billed the equivalent of $140 Cdn in a London hotel after making what I thought was a 65p local phone call. Turns out the mobile I called wasn’t classified as “local”…luckily the hotel front desk took pity on me after my anguished confession of ignorance, and only charged me a pittance. They were amazingly understanding, and I thanked them profusely, and consider myself lucky. So. What did I learn? Never assume! And BTW, I did laugh out loud at the books on the plane story – I once had a similar situation…!

Brenna Holeman February 5, 2014 - 5:04 pm

I totally agree – never assume! I’ve been shocked in the past when billed for certain things I couldn’t even imagine I’d be charged for.

Christine February 5, 2014 - 5:23 pm

I hate customs especially coming back to Canada! They ask the most ridiculous questions. I was coming back from a weekend in Chicago and I filled out the customs form and I bought one necklace for $20 and they asked me why I only spent $20?!? I had to tell the officer that I didn’t go to Chicago to shop but to go sightseeing and eat. He thought I was hiding something.

Brenna Holeman February 5, 2014 - 5:25 pm

They really do ask ridiculous questions. I’ve also seemed suspicious because I didn’t spend that much money!

Jackie D February 7, 2014 - 5:39 am

When I was coming home from Amsterdam a few years ago, I wrote “pot” on my customs form in a jetlagged/flu-induced state of delirium. I meant “flower pot.” Like a piece of pottery. Needless to say, customs was not amused.

Brenna Holeman February 7, 2014 - 12:03 pm

Haaaaaa that is amazing.

Zalie February 8, 2014 - 1:31 am

Good tips sister! Umm, was that “friend” travelling form SA to Canada someone I know by any chance? 😉

Brenna Holeman February 8, 2014 - 1:41 am

Ummm maybe?!? 😉

goingplaceswithj February 8, 2014 - 4:21 am

Good points! I can proudly say I do all these things mentioned, experience has taught me well and I have learned from past mistakes. Funny thing is I always find it less stressful leaving a place after a holiday/vacation than packing to go on vacation/holiday in the first place lol

A Lady in London February 8, 2014 - 4:35 pm

Great post, Brenna! Those are all really good recommendations. I once left my wallet in a hotel room in Spain when I was a teenager (it fell under the bed and I didn’t check the room thoroughly before I left), so I always make sure to do a careful inspection before leaving a hotel room.

Brenna Holeman February 9, 2014 - 1:50 pm

Oh no! That sucks. I am so paranoid about checking everything now, especially under the bed and in the seat pocket of airplanes!

NZ Muse February 10, 2014 - 7:29 am

Ahh yes, the sweep! Our problem is forgetting stuff in fridges/drawers so I try to never put anything in those places – out of sight, out of mind.

Brenna Holeman February 10, 2014 - 2:23 pm

I try never to put anything in drawers, either!

The Irie Explorer February 10, 2014 - 8:36 am

Canadian customs can give Canadians the worst time!

I went backpacking through Europe a few years ago and my mother decided to fly to Paris to come meet up with me for a few days while I was on the road – we spent our time sightseeing, dining out and just generally spending quality time together. We didn’t do any shopping (as that wasn’t the goal of our trip), and all my mom ended up buying were a few cheap souvenirs to bring home for her and my sister – a “Paris” scarf, key-chains, magnets, etc.

Upon my mother’s re-entry into Canada, the customs officer couldn’t believe that my mom had been in Paris for four days and had only claimed $65 in spending.

My mom has this gorgeous, fancy white coat she bought in Miami a few years ago (which she was wearing at the time), and the customs officer was convinced my mother had bought it in Paris and was lying about where she got it and thus not claiming it on her customs form. My mom had to wait over an hour while the officer searched all her bags, went through everything, questioning her about everything, and even took her coat back into the office to Google the label to see where it came from!

My mom ended up being let-off after the officer could produce no evidence that she was lying (as she wasn’t), but what a nightmare it was for her!

Liane xx

Brenna Holeman February 10, 2014 - 2:27 pm

Oh my God – that is so demeaning! I have had SO many similar experiences at immigration/customs in Canada and other countries: being detained, being searched, etc. I don’t understand why it’s so odd that someone wouldn’t buy very much while travelling.

Thanks for sharing this here, just proves that Canadian customs are extremely particular, at least with their own citizens!

Escape Hunter February 27, 2014 - 7:31 pm

Great tips there…
Hey, did they really ask you that about “funding your trips by playing ukulele”?
Why didn’t you say, “no, actually I earned by playing vuvuzela!” 🙂

Brenna Holeman February 27, 2014 - 7:50 pm

He did indeed ask me that… I couldn’t believe it!


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