- Check the expiration date on your passport. Most countries require you to have at least 6 months of validity left in order to enter the country. Since even expedited processing of USA passport renewals can take 2-3 weeks, you’ll want to make sure you have time to take care of this, just in case!
Two Weeks Before Your Vacation
- Confirm all travel arrangements. Look out for any schedule changes on flights or other transportation and make sure it still works with your intended itinerary (call the airlines to check on your other options if the changes are significant and no longer work for you!). While you’re at it, check with the hotels to make sure your reservation wasn’t accidentally lost and double check you booked everything for the correct day(s).
- Make arrangements with someone to watch your home while you’re gone. Having a neighbor or friend keep an eye on your home is just a smart idea, so make sure to leave your contact information with them in case they need to get ahold of you. If you’re traveling without your furry friend, make arrangements for pet care while you’re at it.
One Week Before Your Vacation
- Have print-outs of all confirmations packed to bring along with you. By this point, you’ve probably sorted out any issues with your confirmations, and are ready to get organized. I prefer paper copies to everything, since they’re easier to share with front desk associates if necessary, but if you prefer electronic versions, keep everything sorted in a way that makes sense to you, in email folders, saved copies, or other options.
- Gather maps and other essentials. Don’t wait for the night before a trip to frantically download maps to your GPS. I’ve done that, and the results either leave you stressed or end up costing twice as much as expected. And yes, atlases and other maps are still handy in a digital age.
Three Days Before Your Vacation
- Stop at the Bank to Get Small Change. In a world that’s becoming increasingly cashless, it’s still nice to have cash on hand for tips. Don’t find yourself at the airport needing to tip $1-2 when you only have twenty-dollar bills from the ATM. A few loose bills can go a long way.
- Empty your wallet and bring only what’s necessary. Do you really need a dozen cards in your wallet? I like to bring two different types of cards (i.e. a Visa and MasterCard) in case a merchant doesn’t accept all card types, but chances are you don’t need a ton of other options beyond the first two or three cards.
- Call your credit card company and notify them you will be using their card abroad so they don’t put a hold on your account for fraudulent use.
- Pay the rent and other necessary bills so you don’t miss any deadlines. Vacation is expensive enough without late fees!
Day Before Your Vacation
- Recharge any batteries you are bringing along – you’ll want that digital camera ready to go in case there’s a great photo opportunity right off the bat.
- Have your mail and newspapers placed on hold until you get home, at least when you’ll be gone longer than a few days.
Right Before You Leave
- Clean the house. Trust me, I’ve forgotten to throw out perishables in the fridge, wash the dishes, and empty the garbage before a trip and it’s not a pleasant smell when you return. Do it ahead of time; it’s twenty minutes well spent!
- Be Energy Efficient. Vacation is expensive enough as it is, so save a few bucks at home by turning off the air conditioning/heating, unplugging electrical devices, and turning your water heater down/off. There’s no reason to keep everything running when you’re not at home to use it!
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