You’re making a list and checking it twice. No, you aren’t Santa Clause; you’re just getting ready to leave on a bike tour.
If you’re going over your things and making sure you’ve got everything you’ll need while you’re out on the road, be sure you don’t leave home without the following ten pieces of paper:
1. Passport: If you’re going out of the country, you’re going to need a passport. Even if you don’t plan to leave the country, who knows, you might just get the urge to cross borders, so you might as well bring your passport along just in case. If you don’t have your passport yet and you’re planning to leave on tour soon, remember that the passport application process can take time. I would get your passport at least three months in advance, as this extra time will ensure that you do not have to worry about the passport coming at the very last minute. (Note: If you are not planning to leave the country, then you’ll need to at least carry your driver’s license or other form of valid ID.)
2. Journal: If you want to keep track of the events that take place on your tour or you simply want to record your thoughts from the road, then you need to bring a journal. I recommend you carry a hardback journal over a flimsy paperback journal, as the paperback can become worn and destroyed after a very short period of time out on the road. If you’re anything like me, your journal will be one of the most used items on your bike.
3. Maps: Whether you plan to use the Adventure Cycling maps, general AAA road maps, or maps printed off the Internet, you don’t want to forget these valuable pieces of information.
4. Itinerary: Whether your trip is planned down to the minute or you’re going to let the wind blow you where it may, you likely have some sort of itinerary for your trip (even if it is a rough itinerary). Don’t let this information float around in your head. Instead, put it all down on paper and stick it in your bags. By the time I leave on my tours, I usually have my itinerary memorized, but it’s useful to have that itinerary on you when you’re out on the road. Not only that, but your itinerary is a fun item to show people you meet along the way. They will be interested in where you are going, how far you will be traveling each day, and the other details of your ride. (Note: If you aren’t sure how to create an itinerary for your bike tour, please see my article on tour planning.)
5. Tickets: Unless you are starting and finishing from your home, you’re likely taking a plane, train, boat, or automobile to the point where your tour will begin. Don’t forget your tickets and be sure not to lose them once you’re out on the road.
6. Emergency Contact Information: Somewhere in your bag (or on your person) you should have a list of your emergency contact information. You want to list your name, your home address, your country, and the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of people who should be contacted in the event of an emergency.
7. List of Contacts: If you are visiting friends or staying with people along the way, you’ll want to bring their contact information along with you. And if you want to call friends, mail your family postcards, or do business while you’re out on the road, then you won’t want to forget your important list of contacts. Bring an organizer with your or keep this information stored in your cell phone or Palm Pilot. I usually type all of my important contacts up on a single piece of paper and then fold that paper up and stuff it in my bag.
8. Reading Book: There is going to be a lot of time on your tour when you will have nothing to do and no one to talk to. Having a reading book gives you something to do and gives you something to think about besides how sore, tired, and hungry you are. Bring along a book you’ve always wanted to read… your favorite book from your childhood… or a book that can help you become a better person. (One of my favorite books is The Catcher In The Rye)
9. Cash: I usually start my tour with about $200 in cash. It’s a large enough amount that it will last me a long time, but it is small enough that if I lose it or it gets stolen, I’m not going to have to cancel the tour and call it quits. Many campgrounds and other such businesses require cash, so you need to have at least some cash on you at all times.
10. Business Cards: You’re going to meet a lot of people as you ride and some of those people you’ll likely want to stay in touch with. If this is the case, you may consider bringing some business cards with you. I’ve met some cyclists who made special business cards just for their bike ride, while others used the same cards they use for their professional occupations. Whatever you choose to do is fine. What’s important is that you have a piece of paper you can write your information on in the event you meet someone you want to stay in contact with.
* In addition to the items listed above, you should also bring along the following cards:
Driver’s License: If you’re traveling within your own country, then you won’t need your passport, but you will need your driver’s license… or at least some form of valid ID. Without this ID card you may not be able to rent a hotel room, purchase a plane ticket, or use any sort of public transportation system.
Medical Insurance Card: If you get injured while you’re out on the road, you’ll want to be carrying your Insurance Information card (if you have insurance). Without it, you’ll end up paying out of your own pocket for any medical expenses you might incur.
Credit/Debt Cards: You’ll want to carry some cash on you at all times, but most of your funds can be stored on your credit/debt cards. Not only do these cards save you space and provide added security, but also, if you’ve got an airline rewards card or other such reward card, any expenses you make while on tour can be used to purchase the plane ticket for your next bicycle adventure.
Hostel Card: Planning to stay at a hostel? Then you’ll want to carry your hosteling card with you. It will save you both time and money at many locations around the world. And if you don’t have a hosteling card already, don’t worry. You can get one for just a few dollars at the first hostel in which you stay.
AAA Card: If you’re a member of AAA, then you may want to carry your membership card with you. Even though you won’t be in a car, you can still call AAA if you have an emergency and they’ll come to your rescue. You can also use the card to receive a number of discounts and benefits from numerous businesses, campgrounds, hotels, etc.
Student ID: Finally, if you are a student and you’re planning a bike tour, don’t leave home without your student ID. Many businesses, campgrounds, and organizations still provide hefty discounts to individuals who are in high school or college.