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Ah, vacation! That beautiful word instantly conjures images of sun-soaked beaches, sprawling cityscapes, towering mountain peaks, or perhaps quiet, charming little towns that seem untouched by time.
We’ve all been there, feverishly marking days off the calendar, the anticipation building as the date draws nearer.
And yet, preparing for a trip can feel like a Herculean task, with a million things to remember and organize before you can even think of setting foot on that plane, train, or automobile.
So you’ve been yearning for a break from your regular routine and you’re excitedly counting down to your next adventure. Whether it’s a quick city break, a two-week holiday, or a months-long globe-trotting journey, one thing’s for certain: planning and preparing is a non-negotiable part of the process. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself all too often scrambling at the last minute, trying to make sure everything’s in order.
That’s why I’ve decided to put together this comprehensive guide, detailing the top 20 things to do before going on vacation. This is the checklist you didn’t know you needed, but trust me, by the end of it, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars that you stumbled upon it.
Because, after all, a well-planned vacation is the secret ingredient to creating those perfect, unforgettable moments.
Plan your itinerary
Embarking on a well-deserved vacation without a game plan can be like setting sail without a compass. It’s crucial to craft a thoughtful itinerary to ensure your time is well-spent and your journey, seamless.
Fortunately, there are a host of digital tools at your disposal to help streamline this process.
Google Maps, for instance, can be a treasure trove for travelers, allowing you to mark points of interest and chart the most efficient routes between them.
Websites like TripAdvisor offer invaluable insights and reviews from fellow wanderers to help prioritize your sightseeing agenda.
Moreover, services like Roadtrippers are excellent for planning road trips, letting you plot your journey, including stops for attractions, dining, and accommodation.
Likewise, apps like TripIt compile all your travel information in one place, from flight details to hotel bookings.
By utilizing these planning tools, you can ensure your itinerary is comprehensive, leaving you free to enjoy your vacation to the fullest.
Before setting foot on the airplane or hitting the open road, the key to a stress-free vacation often lies in forward planning, specifically making reservations. Luckily, we live in an era where securing your spot is just a few clicks away.
For flights, websites like Skyscanner or Expedia can help you compare prices across multiple airlines, ensuring you find the best deal. Once you’ve picked your destination, you’ll want to book accommodations. Tools like Booking.com and Airbnb offer a wide range of options, from budget-friendly rooms to luxury villas, fitting every traveler’s needs.
When it comes to activities, platforms like Viator or GetYourGuide are ideal for booking tours, tickets, or experiences in advance. They provide a vast selection of verified offerings, along with user reviews to guide your decision.
Making reservations ahead of time can mean the difference between a relaxing getaway and a potentially frustrating experience. So do your homework, use the tools at your disposal, and prepare to enjoy a smooth journey.
Getting around in a new city or country can be a bit daunting, but arranging your transportation in advance can take a lot of stress off your plate. To start, consider how you’ll get from the airport to your accommodation. You could opt for a taxi, a shuttle service, or a ride-sharing app like Uber or Lyft. Alternatively, many hotels offer airport pick-up services which can be arranged beforehand.
Next, think about how you’ll be getting around during your stay. If public transportation is reliable and convenient, this could be an affordable and immersive way to explore. Many cities offer tourist travel cards for unlimited rides within a specific duration. Tools like Citymapper can help navigate these systems with ease.
However, if you’re in a location where public transport is scarce or you’re planning to explore more remote areas, consider renting a car. Websites like Rentalcars.com or Kayak offer a comparison of different car rental companies to find the best deal.
By arranging your transportation ahead of time, you can avoid potential language barriers, save money, and make the most of your vacation.
Check travel advisories
Staying informed about the latest travel advisories is an essential step in preparing for any trip. These alerts can offer valuable insights about safety conditions, potential health risks, political unrest, or natural disaster threats in your destination country.
To access up-to-date travel advisories, you can visit the official website of your country’s foreign affairs department, such as the U.S. Department of State or the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. These platforms provide comprehensive information and advice about every country in the world.
Another useful resource is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, which provides health-related travel advisories.
Remember, knowledge is power, and being aware of the current situation at your destination will help you stay safe and make informed decisions while on your journey.
Buy travel insurance
Investing in travel insurance can be a lifesaver when it comes to unexpected hiccups during your journey. It can cover a range of issues from trip cancellations and lost luggage to medical emergencies, giving you peace of mind on your vacation.
When selecting a travel insurance plan, comparison tools such as SquareMouth or InsureMyTrip can be incredibly useful. These platforms allow you to compare policies from different providers based on your specific needs and budget.
Always make sure to read the fine print to understand what is covered and what is not. And remember, while it’s an additional cost upfront, the potential savings and security it offers can be invaluable.
A well-planned vacation budget can help you enjoy your trip without the lingering worry of unexpected costs. Start by determining a daily budget for meals, transportation, and activities, factoring in exchange rates if you’re traveling internationally.
It’s essential to inform your bank about your travel plans to prevent any unexpected card blocks due to suspicious overseas transactions. Online banking apps typically allow you to set travel notifications quite easily.
Consider carrying a mix of cash and cards for versatility. Some places may not accept cards but having a card is safer in terms of potential loss or theft.
Lastly, explore travel-friendly credit cards or debit cards that offer benefits like no foreign transaction fees or cash back on travel purchases, which could save you quite a bit in the long run.
Check your passport and visa
When preparing for an international trip, double-checking your passport and visa status is of utmost importance. Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned return date, a common requirement in many countries.
If you require a visa, start the application process early as it can sometimes take weeks, or even months, depending on the country. Websites like VisaHQ can provide valuable information on visa requirements based on your citizenship and destination.
For those with e-passports, make sure your digital chip is working properly to avoid delays at border controls.
Tip: Always keep physical copies and digital backups of these important documents in case of loss or theft. Safe travels begin with proper documentation!
Immunizations and health precautions
Before jetting off to your dream destination, it’s crucial to be aware of any health risks or vaccination requirements. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides updated health advisories and vaccination recommendations based on each country.
Ensure you’re up-to-date on routine vaccines like measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio, and your yearly flu shot. Depending on your destination, you may also need vaccines for diseases like Yellow Fever, Typhoid, or Hepatitis.
Also, pack a basic first-aid kit with essentials like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and over-the-counter meds for common ailments. If you take prescription medications, bring enough for your trip plus a few extra days.
Remember, being proactive about your health is the best way to ensure a worry-free vacation!
While the anticipation of your upcoming trip is likely to take center stage, don’t forget to secure your home before you depart. Investing in timer switches for your lights can create the illusion of occupancy, potentially deterring burglars.
Tip: Make arrangements for someone trustworthy to check on your house, water plants, and collect mail.
If you have a home security system, make sure it’s activated before you leave. Some modern systems allow remote monitoring through mobile apps, giving you peace of mind while you’re away.
Remember, secure home is a critical component of a worry-free vacation.
Plan for pets
If you’re a pet parent, planning for their care while you’re away is a vital part of your vacation preparation. Consider your pet’s personality and needs while making arrangements.
For independent pets like cats, you might have a friend or a pet sitter stop by daily to feed them, change their water, and provide some companionship. Websites like Rover or Care.com can connect you with professional pet sitters in your area.
For more sociable or high-maintenance pets like dogs, consider boarding them at a reputable kennel or a pet-friendly hotel where they’ll have regular interaction and care.
Before you depart, make sure your pet’s identification tags and microchip information are up-to-date. Planning for your pet’s well-being ensures they stay happy and safe while you’re away.
If you take prescription medications, managing them for travel is critical. Start by making sure you have enough to cover your vacation plus a few extra days, in case of delays.
Always carry medications in their original packaging to avoid problems at customs. It’s a good idea to have a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor explaining your need for the medication, especially if you’re traveling internationally.
Don’t forget to consider time zone changes and how they might affect when you take your medication. Use a pill organizer to keep track of dosages and timings.
Tip: check the legality of your medication in your destination country, as some substances are prohibited even with a prescription.
Download necessary apps
In today’s digital age, having the right apps on your smartphone can significantly enhance your travel experience. Start with the basics: Google Maps for navigation, Google Translate for language barriers, and currency converter apps for quick exchange rate calculations.
If you’re using public transport, local transit apps can make your commute easier. Similarly, Uber or Lyft are good to have for on-demand transportation.
Download entertainment apps like Netflix or Spotify for offline use during long flights or waits. Finally, consider a weather app for real-time updates on your destination.
Remember, while technology is a great aid, do not rely on it entirely. Sometimes, getting lost is a part of the adventure!
Arrange for a mail hold
A pile-up of mail and packages, while you’re on vacation, is not only a security risk, signaling your absence to potential burglars, but can also result in lost items.
If you’ll be gone for several days, it’s worth arranging for a mail hold with your local post office. This service is usually free, and your mail will be safely kept until you return and can pick it up or request delivery.
Tip: you could also ask a trustworthy neighbor or friend to collect your mail and packages while you’re away.
This small but essential task ensures your mail is safe and you don’t miss any important letters or packages.
Inform close friends and family
Keeping your loved ones in the loop about your travel plans is an essential safety measure. Share your itinerary with a few trusted friends or family members so they know where you’re supposed to be and when.
This includes details about your flights, accommodations, and any tours or activities you’ve booked. In the event of an emergency or unexpected situation, they will have a starting point to reach out to or provide assistance.
Consider setting up a regular check-in schedule, perhaps through a quick text, to let them know you’re safe.
Remember, your safety and peace of mind, as well as that of your loved ones, is priceless.
Before jetting off overseas, it’s important to consider how you’ll stay connected. Check with your mobile provider about international roaming options. Some offer affordable daily plans or special travel packages that include data, calls, and texts.
Tip: if international roaming seems pricey, consider buying a local SIM card upon arrival at your destination. This is often a cost-effective way to access mobile services abroad.
Another solution is to rely on Wi-Fi, which is available in many public spaces, cafes, and hotels. Just remember to secure your data while using public Wi-Fi with a VPN (Virtual Private Network).
Staying connected allows you to navigate, communicate, and share your travel experiences with ease.
Empty your refrigerator
Before you embark on your vacation, don’t forget to give your refrigerator some attention. An untended fridge can be the source of unpleasant surprises and odors when you return.
Start by using up perishables in the days leading up to your departure. Plan meals around what you have on hand, focusing on items with the shortest shelf life.
Dispose of any food that will spoil during your absence. If it’s a significant amount, consider giving it to a neighbor or donating to a local food bank.
Lastly, for longer trips, it may be worthwhile to clean your fridge before you go. You’ll return to a fresh, ready-to-stock refrigerator, making your post-vacation transition smoother.
Packing can be an art form, balancing between taking just what you need and being prepared for various situations. The first step is to check the weather forecast of your destination during your stay. This will guide your clothing choices.
When selecting clothes, opt for versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched, and remember to pack comfortable shoes for exploring. Don’t forget essentials like toiletries, chargers, travel adapters, and any specific gear for planned activities.
Remember to keep important items and valuables in your carry-on in case of checked luggage mishaps. Lastly, leave a little room in your suitcase for souvenirs or shopping finds.
Proper packing of a lightweight suitcase ensures comfort, convenience, and the ability to enjoy your vacation to the fullest.
Pack travel documents
In the whirlwind of packing and planning, it’s easy to overlook one of the most crucial items – your travel documents.
Ensure you have your passport or ID, visa documents if required, flight and hotel confirmation, travel insurance, and driver’s license if you plan to rent a car. It’s a good idea to print hard copies and also have digital backups accessible on your phone or email.
If you’re traveling with prescription medications, having a copy of the prescription is advisable.
Having all necessary documents at your fingertips can help prevent any hiccups during your journey and ensure a smoother travel experience.
Charge your devices
In this digital age, ensuring your devices are fully charged before embarking on your journey is essential. This includes your smartphone, tablet, laptop, camera, or any other tech gadget you’re planning to bring along.
Ensure you have all the necessary chargers and consider investing in a portable power bank for on-the-go charging. If you’re traveling internationally, don’t forget a travel adapter suitable for the plug sockets in your destination.
Having all your devices charged and ready to go means you can navigate, communicate, capture memories, and entertain yourself during transit without worrying about running out of battery.
Remember, while our devices are powerful tools and aids, don’t forget to disconnect and fully immerse yourself in the travel experience!
As your departure date approaches, amidst all the planning, packing, and last-minute preparations, don’t forget to take some time to relax. Vacations are meant to be a break from our routine life, an opportunity to recharge, explore, and enjoy.
In the days leading up to your trip, try to wind down. Engage in activities that help you de-stress, like reading a book, practicing yoga, or simply taking a leisurely walk.
On the day of your journey, arrive at the airport or train station early to avoid the rush. Take a deep breath, and let the excitement of the forthcoming adventure sink in.
Remember, a relaxed mind will enhance your travel experience, enabling you to fully absorb and appreciate the new experiences that await you.