Travel preparation? It sounds like work to prepare to go on vacation, right? After doing all the planning and itinerary building, you’d think the only thing left to do would be to go, right? You’re eager to leave work behind, get unplugged and get to the airport to start your much needed and deserved vacation.
But don’t rush off before making a few very important travel preparations first. There extra steps could save you time, money and even a few headaches. Taking the time to properly prepare will inevitably lead to a more satisfying and relaxing vacation.
Each time we leave for a trip, we run through the same checklist to make sure we’ve covered all our bases and aren’t forgetting something important. Below, you’ll find the list that we follow. It’s not incredibly tedious and it will give you a better peace of mind while you’re getting ready to go.
Up to One Month Before
- Go over your plans again to make sure there aren’t any missing pieces — have you booked all your hotels, car rentals, transfers and dinner reservations?
- Call or email all tour companies to reconfirm excursions and double check times and pick up locations.
- Give a copy of the first page of your passport to someone back home, along with your itinerary details. Also keep a copy in your carry-on bag, separate from your actual passport, in case it gets lost.
- Buy a travel guide and map for your destination. Read through and circle or highlight important information.
- Research and pack the proper adapters for the country you’re going to.
PRO TIP: Figure in buffer time. Don’t work right up until the minute you leave or arrive home the night before you return to work. Leave yourself a buffer on both ends. It’s a real relief to have extra day before heading back to the office so you can ease back in, adjust from jet lag and do an advance cleaning out of your email inbox before being slammed with work.
One Week Before
- Contact credit and debit card companies to alert them of your plans, so they don’t lock your account.
- Sign up online at USPS.com to have your mail held by the post office. Suspend paper delivery.
- Download any entertainment you might want onto your tablet, computer or Kindle for the plane ride or beach reading.
- Pay or schedule all bills that might be due while you’re away.
- Clean out the refrigerator. There’s nothing worse than coming home to a smelly house.
- Prepare meals that use up the last fresh food in your fridge.
- Transfer money into your checking account. Sometimes money in a savings account can’t easily be accessed through an ATM.
- Withdraw the cash you’ll need during your trip if staying in country. You can also pre-calculate how much you might need in foreign cash, so you’re prepared to pull out money when you arrive.
PRO TIP: The easiest and cheapest way to get cash in a foreign country is to use the ATM at the airport. Just be sure you’ve alerted your bank that you’ll be traveling overseas.
A Few Days Before
- Arrange for someone to water your plants, take care of your pets, etc.
- Begin to pack your bags, taking care not to over pack. Everything should be packed and ready to go at least two days before you leave. This will give you time to remember any items you’ve left out or to rethink unnecessary items.
- Print out all of your important travel documents, including flight, hotel and car confirmations, details for excursions, plus driving or walking directions you’ll need.
- Clean the house and do the laundry so you’re not overwhelmed by it when you return.
- If you live in a city with grocery delivery, order ahead for delivery the day you arrive home, so there will be food in the fridge.
One Day Before
- Pack snacks and/or a sandwich for the plane ride.
- Reconfirm your ride to the airport. Make sure you’ve left plenty of time so you’re not rushing and stressed about missing your flight.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Turn off all appliances.
- Turn off or down heating or air conditioning.
- Leave an away message on your work and home emails and phones.
- Check in for your flight.
- Print boarding passes, or use an online boarding pass on your phone.
- Confirm that your seat assignments haven’t changed (i.e. make sure you’re still sitting together)
- Take out the trash.
- Try to turn off your phone and go unplugged at least 2 hours before you leave for the airport to avoid unnecessary distractions and stressors.
PRO TIP: If you check in the moment it becomes available, you may be able to get better seats, or pay a small amount for premium seats — always double check the seating chart.
During Your Vacation
- First and foremost: Remind yourself that you’re on vacation. There will inevitably be things that go wrong, but you won’t let them ruin your mood because YOU’RE ON VACATION!
- Stay unplugged. Is there really any need to update your Facebook and Twitter every minute? If you must, keep it to 30 minutes per day.
If you really need to have your smartphone with you, make sure it’s travel ready.
- Out of sight, out of mind. If something is happening back home or in the office, there’s nothing you can do about it now, so don’t let home problems creep in and destroy your relaxation.
- Save the best activity for last. You’ll be so busy looking forward to that last activity that you won’t have time to dread the going home part.
PRO TIP: If you suffer from jet lag, follow these tips to minimize the effects. Ease back into your schedule. You can easily get back to normal by adjusting your bedtime by 15 to 30 minutes each night.
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.