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The Ungraceful Guide Top 10 Travel Checklist

By 02/20/2017July 17th, 2018No Comments

Go Home Phone, You’re (un)LOCKEDGo Home Phone, You’re (un)LOCKED What A BankerWhat A Banker We Can Insure You Won't Regret ItWe Can Insure You Won't Regret It Pack It InPack It In B Is For BitesB Is For Bites Ditch The HailoDitch The Hailo Ready Setup GoReady Setup Go Don't Clock It UpDon't Clock It Up Do The MapsDo The Maps Testing Testing 1, 2, 3Testing Testing 1, 2, 3


So you plan to jet off on a new adventure and have endlessly researched online into what you need and how to prepare for the big trip. You couldn’t be any more organised, yet you still have that hideous ‘am I forgetting anything’ feeling. Oh, I know it… too well. Whether it’s a city break, a sun holiday or a one way trip, can you be overly organised?

I had a month to prepare for my one way trip around the world meaning I most definitely over-prepared. It was probably my way of panicking about the big move, either way, I’m only two weeks on the road and already delighted that I did. It’s funny how the little things I did during my panic-mode have now been a godsend!

So I thought to put together a simple checklist. One you might want to tick off before you board the plane.


Go Home Phone You’re (un)LOCKED:

You know, it’s funny. I am more in contact with friends and family at home than I was when simply living down the road. The irony! Thanks to (disconnected) Skype calls, Whatsapp and the usual social meeja pages; I’m just a screen away from everyone, albeit living 6 hours in the past.

Although I am currently on a roaming plan with Vodafone and wiffy (WiFi) is my best friend (sure who calls and texts anymore), I’m so happy I unlocked my phone meaning I can pick up any sim and chuck it in if and when I need to. I have yet to do it because I’m country -hopping at the moment and find it pointless to get a Mexican sim when I’ll be arriving in Guatemala in three weeks. However, since I plan to temporarily settle and find work as a teacher, a local sim will be required at some point.

Before I left, I headed for my nearest Vodafone store and enquired about unlocking my phone to which they told me to call customer care. What happened to face-to-face customer service? Overall, the process was unnecessarily painful or maybe it was my impatience. So I decided to look elsewhere and succeeded – it was almost too easy!


I came across the website and yes, I was extremely weary of it until I read reviews and media coverage. At the cost of €20, we decided to try and test this method using an old phone I had lying around. Just in case it was a little dodgy. I did mention I was overly prepared. Thankfully, it was very realiable and the phone was unlocked within two hours.

  1. Before you do anything, be sure to retrieve your phones’ IMEI number by typing *#06# on the phone you wish to unlock. Regardless of what method you choose, you will need this number.
  2. Visit and enter your details: make, model, network and the IMEI number. It will then give you an estimate on price and rough timeline of when you can expect your unlocking code to arrive. In total, we unlocked three phones to include a iPhone and two different Samsung models, all of which cost €20 per phone.
  3. Click through to payment and voila. As per the estimated time, you should receive an email with your unlocking details and clear instructions. It’s extremely easy and any issues you might have, Eoin and the team are on hand to assist.
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The simple process of using

The unlocking code for one of our phones took longer than the estimated time and I simply popped an email to support {at} To my delight, I received a response within a half hour. An hour later, my email binged and there she was – the unlock code. I unlocked my phone there and then.

Also, if for whatever reason your phone cannot be unlocked, they guys will let you know and you will receive a full refund.


What A Banker:

For now, it is bye bye income, hello every penny you own and have to survive. You have your current account and you are ready to embed your bank card to your person with fears of losing it.

First of all, make sure you have set up online banking. If you don’t ‘do’ online banking, you mad man! It’s an excellent way of managing your buck. Online banking will allow you to add a travel note on your card (so your card won’t get blocked), transfer money and keep an eye on your spend. Frankly, it’s needed for travel.

Now that you have that sorted, I suggest you pop into your bank and set up a separate savings or joint account (if travelling with someone) and lodge or transfer all your funds into that account.

I’ll be honest in saying that since we planned to work on the road; we didn’t save an overwhelming amount of money to travel. What’s the point? We wanted to send money home to a savings account, not spend it all. So together we saved a total of €6,000 with plans to spend very little and, when we bag a job, save more. We also wanted to have all our money together in one account. So we opened a joint account and combined our resources. We received the debit card for that account, and we keep that in a very secure place, too cryptic to share where.

So while all our money is that account, at this very moment I have about €77 in my current and Luke has less than €100. This keeps our funds safe and it helps us budget. What if we lose our card? Or as the scaremongers will keep saying, what if you ARE mugged or held up at ATM’s. What if your card was scammed? Meh, they get my €77 while the rest is safely tucked away.
We do not bring our joint account debit card out with us. It’s as valuable as our passports. Instead if we need to exchange or withdraw money, we transfer the exact (small) amount we need to our current account. Again, it is a great way to budget and no hassle or effort in exchange for a peaceful mind.


We Can Insure You Wont Regret It:

I will never sound more like my mother than I will in the next few paragraphs. Guys… travel insurance. Love it or loath it, you need it. I cannot stress the importance of this. I mean, what if? What if we all lived our lives by what if, I hear the ‘you only live once-ers’ say.

Well, what if you stupidly trip, fall and need medical care. What if you catch a bad dose or something simple such as food poisoning, become severely dehydrated or burnt and need to see a doctor? What if you found yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time? What if your current drunken subconscious-self got your future self into trouble? Yeah, yeah, yeah we’ve heard it all before but you know what, just shhh and get yourself insured.

So it’s an extra spend you don’t need before you go, I get that. Especially since the hope is that you won’t need to benefit from it.
I paid €172 for one years’ worth of backpackers insurance. It covered all I needed from passport and money loss to cancelled flights, lost luggage and a lot more! Some random ones are thrown in there too like ‘hijacking’. Sorry, what?

“Hi Dad, yeah listen I’ve been hijacked. They have offered you €1,000 to take me back. I guess I’m that annoying!”

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Imagine I fell lads, imagine!

My insurance has reasonable excess fees E.G medical expenses of up to €6million have a low €75 excess fee or no excess fees for any hospital/doctor visits. We went with There are cheaper and definitely more expensive options out there, but this was fine for us.If you have private health insurance, well good on you as your travel insurance will be quite low.

Besides, think of the parents. WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE PARENTS?! Think how happy they will be to know they raised you as a responsible adult. So invest your time and do some research. If I can help in anyway, let me know. In the meantime, feel free to check out this regularly updated and resourceful website that I have used myself;


Pack It In:

Packing your entire life into a bag is no easy feat. I am no way a hoarder nor materialistic and did find it easy enough to rid of all my possessions. However, I wanted to bring a mix of clothes and my usual rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ method wasn’t cutting it this time.

In comes my saviour… vacuum bags. Head to Dealz and for €1.50 you can pick up a pack that includes two medium sized bags or one with two small sized bags, or simply one big large bag. The medium will do. Considering the price, I expected them to be lousy quality. Wrong, again!

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Get ‘The Henry’ Out, Folks.

It’s impressive how much you will fit in one vacuum bag. I highly recommend folding your clothes, stacking them on top of each other and keeping them down one end of the bag, so only half the bag is full. Suck it, and see. It becomes a small airtight box, rather than a long rectangle shape.

Shove it down the bottom of your bag and you will be amazed at the amount of room you have left BUT in saying that, don’t use this as an excuse to bring more.

I didn’t even bring much and already wish I brought half the clothes I did. Everything you need is available on the other end of the flight. It’s not only cheap to buy (we’re in Central America) but it helps to land and suss the weather and the local dress code. For example, wearing shorts around the midlands of Mexico isn’t something I’d recommend. Instead, stock up on ¾ leggings and loose tops. Laundry services are cheap and most hostels have the facilities. Clothes and fashion won’t be at the forefront when travelling anyway. It’s all about comfort.

Do bring a jumper or cardigan – now, just the one. Depending on the time of year, the temperature can drop at night, you will need to cover up if visiting certain religious sites, and you will be so grateful of it when sitting on an air-conditioned bus.

Oh, and even if you don’t have a hoover the other end. Close the bag and then apply the rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ method, or sit and stand on it. They’re durable and they’ll be your best friend.

Bring a spare vac bag, no harm.


B Is For Bites:

You are up to date on your vaccinations, right? Good!

Tangent: Whatever your feelings are on vaccinations, getting the 3-in-one Tetanus, Typhoid Diphtheria and a Hep A, and Hep C shot are worth it. IF heading to Central/South America you will need to get the yellow fever vaccination as you will be asked for proof when crossing borders. That’s all we got, and we’ve been fine so far (we also travelled Southeast Asia for a month in January 2016). Again, just be cautious. Like, if you see a dog foaming at the mouth and didn’t get the rabies shot, resist the temptation to pet it. Even if it’s a puppy! PREACH!

Anyway, do yourself a favour and pick up a Vitamin B complex. These little orange wonders will not only help you kick any fatigue or jetlag, keep you destressed and mellow, but they will stink your blood enough that mozzies will look at you like kids look at sprouts. While you will smell the tablets themselves, the smell won’t follow you around like, er, a bad smell. Only the mozzies get the whiff.

I find them extremely effective and have sworn by them ever since the first holiday without parents. Start taking them a week or two before you leave. One a day and continue taking them for the duration of your holiday. The only side effect? Your urine will illuminate from the toilet, so much so it looks like some nuclear fluid. It’s funny, if I forget to take one I realise it the minute I go to flush the toilet and notice my pee is, well, ‘normal’.

We all know about the dangers of malaria and we also know how bloody expensive malaria tablets are. There are not a favourite of mine. While traveling the depths of jungles in Thailand and Vietnam, I was so paranoid about mosquitos and being bitten, too paranoid. Along with my Vitamin B, I ate the malaria tablets like Mento mints and soaked myself in mosquito spray. The spray made me gag, and the malaria tablets had wars with my stomach while causing some issues with my sleep. They were ruining my travels and my stubborn self decided malaria had to be better than self torture.

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Look how angry he is with B.

All you need is love, all I need is Vitamin B. Luke himself will tell you how jealous he was of my untouched skin, and now he too joins me on this un-B-itten journey.

You can pick up a Vitamin B Complex in any health stores (Holland & Barret offer a 250 pack for less than €15). Or you can buy them in Tescos etc. Chuck them in a sealable bag and off you go, unscathed! While they may not B (OK, I’ll stop now) for everyone, they work wonders for me and always have done. It’s woth a shot, that’s not a vaccination.


Ditch The Hailo:

Hey Hailo, it’s been emotional but it’s time I trade you in for a worldwide model. Uber, nice to meet you, I’m sure this will be one helluvah ride.

I’ve been a loyal Hailo App user and it’s almost a pity I can’t bring it on my road trip since it is Irish and UK based. Hailo, get your shit together! So I decided it was time to download and set up a profile on Uber, which is appealing since it is worldwide and I can promise it will be your saving grace.

Similar to Hailo, you can pre-book, search and get estimates on time, distance and prices. It is also extremely safe to use, much safer than flagging cabs from the side of a street.

Set up an Uber profile and, if you have one, hook up your PayPal account to it. Otherwise just set up your bank card. Don’t always rely on the cash payment method since you could be changing currencies a few times and it also prevents you from carrying more cash than you need.

My two favourite features about Uber are that you can get a cheaper fare by car-pooling with locals. It does sound a bit awkward and you wouldn’t want to be in a hurry, but it’s such a cool way to meet people and possibly hear or share travel stories (shout out to Adrian the German!). Worst case, sit back and enjoy the awkward silences. My goal is to get our next carpool ride singing, James Corden style.

The other is that although you do need wiffy or data to Uber, head to a local café, pub or find a McDonalds (there is always one!), connect to their WiFi, select your pick up point and go meet them. Even when you disconnect, they won’t, and they will show up! So don’t do what I did, panic and run around trying to connect to every displayed WiFi, or be delusional and think you can crack the surrounding secured WiFi passwords.

Oh, and if travelling with someone, set up your profile and then click to invite them to set up an account. This way you will both receive free travel credit, it could be anything from $10 to $85, depends on Uber’s promotions. It’s a nice little extra.


Ready Setup Go:

Since we are on the topic of setting up profiles, it’s time to delve into the World Wide Web and prep your online life. As well as your bank and Uber accounts, take some time to set up profiles on any accommodation or travel sites you like the look of. Personally, in terms of accommodation, I have used the likes of Airbnb and many times before, so I’m happy to say I have a decent profile on both.

Building a nice little rep on Airbnb is a handy one, so do use it and be sure to give a review on any accommodation you stay in, it ensures you will receive a review from the host. I’ve only the two but better than none! Airbnb is such a fantastic site. It may not always seem the cheapest option but it’s a great way to save on costs such as eating out or laundry. It is also a great way to meet people, should you choose to rent a room in a house, or locate a quirky and well facilitated home or apartment, all to yourself. The customer service team are also really helpful and very quick to respond should you need them.

Another site I use is and by having a profile set up means I can make quick and effortless bookings via the app. Another appealing factor is that the more you use and review, the better your membership. If you have a genius membership, you will secure discounts! I’m sceptical and didn’t believe it at first so since Luke doesn’t have a profile set up, we tested it.

As I type this, I’m on a bus heading to our next destination and accommodation. We wanted to stay in a hotel this week, one where I secured 5 x nights for €70. Luke searched the same hotel at the same time and got a rate of €85. Saving only €15 might seem very little, but here in Mexico that is roughly 300 pesos. That can feed us for nearly 10 days. No joke!

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You wanna save some money? Be more like these two.

Other sites I set up profiles on are and, just to have the option of shopping around. Another vital one I would suggest is to research into local travel companies. Whether it’s an airline (start building your travel points) or the local bus/train company – log on, set up and then download the app with the objective of having everything you need just a click away.
For example, the main bus company here in Mexico is ADO. Downloading the ADO app means I can keep an eye on deals, securing the best one. Research and plan last minute journeys, all while having the option to chat live with the customer service. It’s all in the palm of my hand.


Don’t Clock It Up:

You’re (nearly) packed, you have all your travel documents ready and, at this stage,  you are craving the airport departures lounge. It’s one more sleep until the trip of a lifetime, or that well deserved break, begins. Is there a time difference? Regardless if it’s a long flight or a jump across the pond, set your clock to local time and start living it.

I’ll never forget my first international trip and hearing all about jetlag. Never having experienced it before, I was somewhat excited at the idea. Until it hit me. Even the thoughts of it now make my feet curl. I absolutely hate it, it reminds me of being down in the dumps with a head cold. Such an ass-kicker! I’ll never forget how messed up my sleep patterns were which ruined the first few days of my trip. Your fixated on sleep, whether you have over-slept or are sleep-deprived, it all sucks.

Instead kick its ass and live by the local time, starting the day before you leave. It is tough to do, you will become delusional and, in my case, trying to stay uncomfortable on the plane so I didn’t doze off was annoying. But the minute you land, you will want to high five your past-self and it will pay off.

24 hours of tricking your body, means no lost time the other end. So, remember to jet-leg it, lads.


Do The Maps:

All that is left now is to hit the airport and board the plane, but have you thought about what the plan is when you land at whatever destination you’re headed? Save yourself some stress and be sure to know how you are going to get from arrivals to your accommodation. The above Uber suggestion will come in handy, but if you would rather opt in for the local transport or simply walk, know where you are going and how you are going to get there.

Open up Google Maps, type it all in and then click the option to download the directions offline. This way, if you are disconnected or have no data roaming set up, at least you still have the map and directions to get to your new haven. I do this all the time. Even if I’m heading to a local tourist attraction or just want to wander around the streets, I always download the local area map for offline use. It will help you return safely and prevent you from looking like a target *ahem* I mean tourist by pulling out a big awkward map and standing at the corner bewildered or constantly having to stop to check street signs.


Testing Testing 1, 2, 3.

If you’re reading this (thanks and I hope the above tips will help) but this one might not be for you. Although, don’t diss it just yet.

I’m pretty sure this tip saved my life.

Whether you are a woman, or have a woman in your life, over the age of 25 (unfortunately!) have you or they had a recent smear test? If you care, ask them. It’s not an awkward topic. It was actually my Dad who reminded and demanded that I book one last smear test before I left. Dad, thank you.
I say unfortunately (above) because in Ireland you cannot get a smear test unless you are 25+. A little ridiculous in my opinion but to look for a silver lining, unlike some countries, smear tests in Ireland are free of charge. Did you read that?!


So if you have yet to have one, get your silly ass to your GP and get it done. It’s probably the one pre-cancer check we can have done and I’ll say it again… IT IS FREE!!!!!

I turned 25 on 22nd January 2015, by the first week of Feb I had my smear booked. Again it was my Dad who encouraged me to get tested straight away. Cancer is the main killer in my Hogan family, so I went. I do what I’m told. Besides, without good health, what is life? I’m also ‘that’ friend who hounds all the girls in my life to get tested too (you know who you are!) and I will continue to do so because I care.

After my first smear, they did notice some small abnormal cells and since then I’ve had to return for tests every six months. My third test turned into a colposcopy check (not painful whatsoever!) and then began the ‘every-six-month-colposcopy-check’. It has never been worrying and the doctor is always pleased with the results but would rather I return so we can keep an eye on it. I am grateful to her for that.

I had a colposcopy just before Christmas so I wasn’t due another until summer, but to abide by my Dad’s wishes I rang the Coombe Hospital in Dublin, explained I was leaving the country and hopped they could fit me in. They did. Thank god they did. I had another colposcopy 4 days before I left Ireland, and thought nothing more of it. I asked the hospital to direct the results or any correspondence to my Mam.

On Thursday 16th February, my Mam was in touch to say that my results were back and the hospital wanted to see me urgently. They detected CIN2-3 cell changes. That means they found pre-cancerous cells in my cervix. It does NOT mean I have cancer but if these cells are left untreated, well, my situation could become a whole lot worse. The hospital gave me an urgent appointment as I need a Lletz/LEEP treatment. This is basically a somewhat simple laser removal procedure where they will remove the abnormal cells. I hear it is quite uncomfortable.

And here I am, travelling throughout a Spanish speaking country in search of an English speaking doctor. Two weeks on the road and already I need medical attention. Urgent medical attention.

Too be honest, I think this story is for a whole different blog, one that has an ending. Besides, we were having so much fun in this one; I would hate to end it on a weird or worrying note. There is nothing to worry about! I trust myself enough to know that I will have it sorted before we say goodbye to February.

Moral of the story is to go get tested. Whatever test it is. I cannot help but think if I didn’t and instead I continued travelling completely ignorant to what’s going on inside my body.

Lads – if it’s a testicle or a prostate check, and ladies – if it’s a smear or breast check. Go. Get. Tested.

Leave the country and start your adventure with a full bill of health or in my case, the knowledge that something is wrong.

We pay so much attention to our dreams and wishes, sometimes we need to stop and pay attention to our heads, health and our bodies.

So on that note…. testing, testing, is this thing still on?

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*mic drop*

(If there is anything I can help with as you prep for your holiers or new life, feel free to email me on Katie {at}



Author Katie

I’m a self-diagnosed wanderlust sufferer who fell victim to the travel bug. As someone who has yearned for the freedom to travel for as long as I can remember in 2017, I decided to quit my dream job, run away from the "marriage and baby" queries and trade the societal life for a life on the road. Now, I spend my days wandering through the unknown, being nosy as hell while sharing stories, building websites, helping others plan their backpacking adventures, writing, filming, snapping and reminding myself to shut up and stop talking every now and again.

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