For many, a safari is a lifelong dream, one they enjoy planning well in advance. But if opportunity knocks, you may have very little time to plan for an unforgettable adventure. I learned that firsthand when I had the chance to head out on safari…with only two weeks to prepare!
Here’s what I learned getting ready for the trip of a lifetime…with next to no time:
TO DO: BEFORE YOU BOOK
- Check Your Passport: In many African countries, your passport will need to be valid at least six months beyond your planned return date! (Luckily, I renewed mine a while ago just in case!)
- Look at Flights: Don’t book flights until you’ve booked your safari (timing can be tricky).
Do look into the cost and length of flights before committing. Flights add a day or more at either end of your trip, and costs vary significantly!
- Check Vaccination Requirements: Tanzania doesn’t require special vaccinations (though I decided to secure anti-malaria medicine); if you’re thinking of a safari elsewhere, make sure you have all required immunizations (for example, Kenya requires proof of yellow fever shots).
- Secure the Right Luggage: Soft-sided duffels with a max weight of 33 lbs are required, due to restrictions on internal flights. I was able to borrow mine from one of my team members.
TO DO: 1-2 WEEKS BEFORE DEPARTURE
- Tick Through your Packing List: I’m pretty type-A, so I make packing lists for most trips. Luckily, if you’re not, Thomson provides travelers with a thorough list. I started setting aside items as soon as I knew I’d be traveling to give myself plenty of time to secure everything! Be thorough; on safari, you can’t rely on popping into a pharmacy for things like toothpaste or over-the-counter medications.
- Alert Friends/Institutions About Your Trip: I planned ahead to make sure bills would be paid, financial institutions would know I was away, and pets and plants would be cared for. Safaris are remote, and may last up to three weeks; it pays to take extra precautions. Because communication might be delayed (or at times impossible), be sure someone trusted has a copy of your house key, and of your flight and itinerary information.
TO DO: 48 HOURS BEFORE DEPARTURE
- Tips and Souvenirs: Calculate how much cash you’ll need to tip guides and staff, and how much you’d like to spend on souvenirs and gifts. Merchants likely won’t take credit cards, and you won’t have access to ATMs!
- What Don’t You Need?: Overpacking is as big a risk as leaving something behind. Working at Thomson, I knew not to pack items I couldn’t use or wouldn’t need, like hair dryers, formalwear, and valuables. Non-biodegradable beauty products may not be allowed (check with your operator). I knew laundry was available, so I planned daily outfits to leave myself the most room for souvenirs!
- What Might You Need?: On a regular trip, I wouldn’t pack Bandaids, Pepto Bismol, or Advil, but on safari you need to plan for every possibility!
- Digital Disconnect: Even when you have WiFi access, certain capabilities might be limited. I checked emails and put up an away message (and caught up on favorite shows!) to prepare.
- Double (and Triple) Check your Itinerary: Know when you need to be at the airport, when you’re arriving, and who to contact upon landing. (Traveling with Thomson, I knew my driver would be waiting at the airport!)
- Build in Time for Visas: Last-minute travelers will need to spend extra time in their arrival airport dealing with visas.
When you choose Tanzania, you can take care of these upon landing. And if you choose Thomson, your driver will be waiting for you once you’re done!
The office wished me well with the traditional Thomson Safaris end-off. I’ll be back soon to tell you all how amazing Tanzania is – I can’t wait to see elephants!