You completed your travel trifecta – the airline tickets are booked, hotel is reserved and car rental reservations are complete. Now it’s time to get organized. The trip planning process includes everything from buying your plane tickets to packing to making reservations at your destination. But before you head to the airport to catch your flight, make sure you’ve tied up all the loose ends.
Call your credit card company
Many credit card companies have identity protection plans in place that help protect travelers from theft and fraud. In some cases, this means travelers must contact their credit card companies before traveling to ensure the card will work in another destination. This is usually only necessary for international travelers, but it can’t hurt to place the call for domestic travel, too:
American Express® 1-877-325-2639
*Check the back of your credit card for more customer service numbers
Place a “stop” or “hold” on mail and deliveries
Daily newspapers, magazines and mail will pile up while you’re on vacation. Do yourself, and your neighbors, a favor and place a stop on all automatic deliveries. Simply call the newspaper circulation department and let them know you’ll be placing your delivery on hold for the time you’re away.
In an effort to keep your mail from overflowing in the mailbox, and to help protect against identity theft, have the post office hold your mail for the time you’re traveling. Your nearest post office branch will have a form for you to fill out and you can pick up your mail upon your return. You can also reduce the risk of break-ins by placing a hold on deliveries, as a pile of newspapers and magazines in front of your home alerts burglars that no one is there.
Emergency phone numbers
This rule applies for those who might need to reach you while you’re away, and those you might need to get in touch with while you’re traveling. Before you leave, take some time to write out two lists: one for home and one for away.
Home: Leave contact phone numbers with family members and friends in case they need to reach you while you’re traveling. Examples include:
- Phone number of the hotel(s) where you’re staying
- Airline flight information and phone numbers
- Phone numbers of the people you’re traveling with
- If you’re traveling with a group or tour company, leave the company’s contact information
- Phone numbers for doctors/veterinarians, if necessary
Away: While you’re away, it’s a good idea to keep a list of emergency travel numbers with you. Those contacts include:
- Credit card companies
- Doctor’s office
- U.S. Embassy in the country you’re visiting
- National Passport Information Center: 1-877-487-2778
- Airline phone numbers
Set up pet care
If you have furry friends at home, make sure they are well provided for before you leave town. This includes leaving emergency phone numbers, and also some extra tasty treats to keep animals happy in your absence. Here are a few other must-do’s before you drop off your pet:
- Confirm your reservation at the local Doggie Day Care or pet kennel where you keep your pet.
- Make sure all medications for your pet and the veterinarian’s phone number are packed with your pet before you leave.
- If your pet has particular rituals, make sure to leave specific instructions with the pet care provider.
Never leave town without some cash, whether it’s domestic or foreign currency. If you’re traveling within the country, make sure to hit the bank before you leave. Taking cash with you will ensure you don’t pay ATM surcharge fees in another destination.
If you’re traveling overseas, it’s a good idea to carry some of the local country’s currency with you. Take enough cash for cab fare or transfer fees so you don’t have to go in search of an ATM when you arrive. Use our currency converter to determine the best rate of exchange for your money.
Pack maps, guide books, public transportation schedules
Before you head out into the unknown, do a little research and bring along some guides. Do you know what to do in the event the public subway system is not working? What happens if your commuter train is delayed? If you missed the bus at one bus stop, how do you get to the next stop? Maps, guide books and transportation can be very handy when it comes to travel.
Most public transportation maps are also available online; it’s a good idea to print out a map of the area before you leave. Your guide book will serve as the bible for the trip, especially if you’re traveling somewhere new or to a foreign country. Consider printing out specific sections from travel guides online. There are also a number of downloadable apps for your smartphone that can come in handy if you don’t want to lug around a bunch of heavy books. Use them to do some research about your destination so you’re not overwhelmed when you arrive.
Check the weather
Before you zip up the suitcase and head to the airport, do one last check of the local weather in your destination. Just because you’re traveling to a beach destination doesn’t mean it’s going to be sunny all week; you don’t want to be caught in rainstorm without waterproof shoes and an umbrella. The day before you leave, check the weather conditions and make any necessary adjustments to clothes and amenities.
Whether you’re planning a spa vacation, golf getaway or just a romantic dinner for two at your destination’s top restaurant, it’s a good idea to make reservations before the trip. Check out the local entertainment guides, city newspapers and online entertainment sites to find the best restaurants and hottest shows. The hotel concierge is a good source for recommendations if you’re unsure of where to book. Call the hotel before your trip and ask the concierge to send you a list of restaurants, golf courses, spas or other entertainment activities in the area.
Pack your essentials
Double check before leaving the house that you have all necessary essentials to travel with. Do you know where your passport or driver’s license is located? Did you pack all your necessary medications? The best way to ensure you’ve packed everything necessary for your trip is to make a list of your daily needs for one week. List everything from your medications to the credit cards you use. When it comes time for packing, refer to your list so you don’t forget anything important.
Plan your first days at your destination
This is especially helpful if you’re traveling somewhere new and unfamiliar. If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll need a list of things to do at your destination to help fight off jet lag. Take a look at local guides and find out what shopping, attractions and restaurants are near your resting place. Take a walk around your hotel and get familiar with amenities like the health club, spa, fitness center, swimming pool, restaurants and bars. Planning ahead will help make a hectic first day seem a little more organized.
Making a to-do list and checking it is the only way to ensure everything is done and the only way vacation stress free.