There's always a lot to organise before you head overseas: itineraries, accommodation, your packing list, and filling your device with entertainment for the flight. But in the rush, you shouldn't forget to notify some key organisations about your plans. Here are the five most important.
Picture by thinboyfatter
You've probably seen the incessant TV advertising campaign for the government-backed Smartraveller site running right now, which is just as well: it's an option many people ignore. Registering your travel plans with the site means that consular officials know where you are and how to get in contact with you if there's an emergency. You might think you're travelling somewhere relatively safe, but natural disasters or bus crashes can happen anywhere. The site also includes up-to-date information on issues to consider for different countries, and a useful travel checklist covering issues you might not think about otherwise, such as the implications of dual nationality for your travel.
2. Your bank
It's easier than ever to use your credit card or bank card when overseas, but it's very unwise to do so. To combat fraud, banks monitor every transaction that happens in your account, and if a bunch of withdrawals suddenly happen in Frankfurt but you live in French's Forest, the normal conclusion is that fraud is involved. If they can't get hold of you in a hurry (often tricky if you're overseas), then the likely outcome is that your card will be suspended — not what you want in the middle of your dream holiday. So ring your bank and notify it that you'll be on the road. Problem solved! This usually does involve a phone call or a visit to a branch — I'm not aware of any bank offering this option as part of its online services, but if you know different, tell us in the comments.
3. The Post Office
If you're going away on a brief trip, you can potentially get a neighbour or friend to collect your mail and stop it piling up as a burgle-me-now signal. If your trip is longer, however, paying to have your mail temporarily redirected back to your local post office makes sense. You can apply for the service online, though at least three days notice is needed. (The other alternative, if you travel a lot, is to get a post office box, which eliminates the need to have constant diversions.)
4. Your neighbours (perhaps)
If you're on friendly terms with your neighbours, then letting them know that you're hitting the road makes sense: as well as (potentially) emptying your mailbox, they can keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. If you don't know your neighbours, this is less wise: at best, it seems like an unfair imposition, and at worse, you might be merely advertising that your house is empty to someone with malicious intent.
5. Your social networks (perhaps)
A similar judgement call applies to boasting about your trip on Facebook, Twitter and the like. The obvious upside is that you can get advice on places to visit. But some people warn against this, arguing that it advertises your absence to burglars. Whether that bothers you will depend on a bunch of factors: can your address be easily discovered online? Are you confident in your household security? How big an issue is burglary in your neighbourhood? There's no hard and fast rule here, other than consciously thinking about it makes more sense than diving online without due precaution. (One strategy if you're paranoid: ask well in advance of the trip so you're not promoting when you're away.)
Got any additions for this list? Share them in the comments.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman sometimes feels like it would be easier to notify people when he is home rather than away. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.