You have your basic gap year travel itinerary set and plane tickets bought… So what can you do now to better prepare yourself for your trip?

1. Read, read, read. You will probably want to purchase a guidebook from your favorite series. (I often travel with a Lonely Planet guidebook). But in the early planning stages, I go to my local library and check out a number of other guidebooks to compare and check for areas that LP might have overlooked. It can also be fun to read novels that are set in the country you will be visiting or written by authors from that country.

2. Make an appointment at a travel vaccine clinic, rather than with your family doctor. This way, you can get specialized advice on vaccines that are required or recommended for the region to which you are traveling and also suitable for your style of travel (e.g. urban or rural). Some vaccines need to be given in series, so you should look into this several months before the start of your trip.

3. Don’t wait to the last minute to check your travel gear. You don’t want to find at the last minute that you can’t find the rain cover for your backpack or your money belt. Sometimes it can be time-consuming to find specialized travel items that fit you and your budget. You especially don’t want to start a trip with a brand new pair of hiking or walking shoes… give yourself some time to break them in!

4. Make sure your passport will be valid for at least 6 months after the end of your trip. This is a common requirement for entry into many countries— even those that don’t require tourist visas. Give yourself some time, so you don’t have to pay extra for an expedited passport service. You will also need to look into whether the country you plan to visit requires you to obtain a tourist visa in advance of your arrival.

5. Get fit! Especially if you are planning on doing any major trekking during your gap year travels, it’s spring and it’s time to get outside and build up your endurance. Try some basic strength training exercises, like push-ups and sit-ups, as well as running or brisk walking. After you have purchased your backpack, it’s a great idea to fill it with some weight and go for walks outside or even just going up and down your staircase, to build up endurance.