Even if you travel a lot, its easy to forget some of the basics of Trip-Taking 101. I know, because I’ve made all the “freshman” mistakes myself over the course of my travel-writing career.
And these days, despite — or because of — all the ever-changing technology and options available to travelers, it sometimes seems like you need a graduate degree in travel logistics just to get ready for a trip.
That’s why I’m glad to run this guest post by Jim McKinley with some simple reminders of what you can do to prepare for your next vacation, whether it’s halfway around the world or the next state over.
Which reminds me, I still need to make a bunch of hotel and train reservations for my trip to Europe next month…
By Jim McKinley
No matter what type of traveler you are, you’ll want to ensure that your trip is as hassle-free as possible. And the secret to that is preparation.
Here are some things to keep in mind before you leave home to help make your trip run smoothly and enjoyably:
Start making lists of things you need to buy and get done well before the trip, and space them out so you won’t feel overwhelmed.
Pay special attention to important tasks, such as getting a passport, since this can take several weeks or even months.
If you take prescription medications, make sure you have a sufficient supply for your trip (plus some extras in case of delays).
Strongly consider buying travel insurance if you’ve prepaid any portions of your trip or might take a financial hit in the case of delays, illness, etc.
If you’re making plans to travel around the holidays, check out this in-depth, comprehensive guide to ending each year on a high note; travel is just one of many topics covered in this excellent piece from GroomandStyle.com, a healthy living website.
If you’re traveling abroad, notify your credit card issuer of the dates and locations so they won’t deny your purchases. Check to see which (if any) of your credit cards don’t charge foreign exchange fees. Bring a list of pin numbers for credit or debit cards you may need to get cash from foreign ATMs.
And if you’re carrying your cellphone overseas, check with your carrier on data roaming fees and calling and texting charges to avoid unpleasant surprises on your bill.
Make sure everyone is on the same page
If you’re traveling with family members or friends (and even — or especially — your spouse), keep the lines of communication open. Before you settle on destinations, book your flights and lodgings, and make other arrangements, come to general agreement on some crucial issues, such as:
- What’s your travel budget like — economy, first class, or in-between?
- How flexible are you and the others when it comes to deciding on what activities to do? Where, what, and when to eat? Whether you favor one destination or several? How many miles (if any) you expect to travel in a typical day?
- Will you be using a travel agent to make arrangements or doing those on your own?
The time to work out any disagreements is well before you head off together — not after you’ve left and it’s too late.
Take care of the tech
Whether you’re a dedicated photographer with tons of equipment or just a sightseer who wants to document the trip with your smartphone — or if you’re bringing your laptop or tablet — you’ll need to make sure all your tech is in good shape and accounted for when you’re ready to pack.
Chargers, batteries, extra lenses, protective cases, and any other items you’ll need for taking photos or video or logging on while on the road should be accounted for and ready to go.
Plan for your pets
While some travelers want to take their pets along on vacation, others find it to be one more thing to worry about during what should be a relaxing trip.
While it can be difficult to leave your pets behind, doing so may make your journey easier.
Consider hiring a reputable, experienced pet sitter who can come go your house and spend time with them while you’re away. The pet sitter can also make sure the house remains secure and the mail and newspapers really did get stopped, and may even water your plants and take care of a few other routine tasks.
If you’ll be gone for quite a while, consider hiring a boarder who will take your pets in and love them like their own.
Secure your home
Make sure your home is secure before you leave.
Not only will it will keep your belongings safe until you return, it will take a weight off your shoulders so you can relax during your trip.
Let your neighbors know when you’re leaving and the date of your return so they can be on the lookout for anything suspicious.
You may also want to invest in a home alarm system and/or consider installing surveillance cameras that send a live feed to your smartphone so you can keep an eye on things from afar.
Start with a comprehensive packing list for each member of the family — but remember to keep it as light as possible (you’ll probably need to cull it toward the end).
Check with your airline for guidelines on items that can be carried on to your plane, and double check their policy on fees for extra pieces of luggage. It’s also important to keep up to date on the best carry-on luggage for your trip.
If you’re traveling with grandkids, bring individual bags to hold their entertainment items — books, coloring books and crayons, tablets, etc.– and keep them within easy reach. For young children, pack a new toy or book along with some of their old favorites.
Author bio: Jim McKinley is a retired banker who loves explaining financial issues; see his website moneywithjim.org.