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.
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.
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 or save all of your important travel documents, including flight, hotel and car confirmations, details for excursions, plus driving or walking directions you’ll need. I like to use Kayak’s Trip folder to keep all my travel docs in one place. When you get a confirmation, you can just forward it to Kayak for safe-keeping.
- 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 download an online boarding pass to 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.
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.
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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.