Getting ready for vacation can be stressful! I’m getting ready to head out on a 16-day cruise to Hawaii and Tahiti, and there is so much to do. Taking care of things at work and at home is enough to stress you out. And on top of that, you have to pack!
While it can all be overwhelming, staying organized and being prepared can make the whole experience much easier. To help you out, I’ve put together my top 10 list of things I do before my trip and while I’m gone to make it go smoother. Check it out!
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Tip #1: Hire a travel agent and get travel insurance.
I am not a travel agent, but I love to arrange and book my own travel. While that’s fine for some people on some trips, it’s not ok for everyone. If you aren’t a seasoned traveler and you don’t have time to figure it out yourself, you need a travel agent. A good travel agent is invaluable and will alleviate a lot of stress on your part. They will arrange everything for you, and they will be there for you if things go wrong while you’re on your trip. You should also consider travel insurance for bigger trips. Again, a travel agent can help you understand your options and whether it makes sense for you. Be sure to read the fine print on any travel insurance policy, so you understand what it does and does not cover before making a final decision.
Tip #2: Check your passport and make a copy.
If you are traveling outside of the country, you will need a passport. Be sure to check the expiration date well in advance of your trip. Each country and situation is different, but many countries will not let you travel on your passport if it expires within 3-6 months of the dates of your travel. Also, make sure you make a copy of your passport to take with you. If your passport gets lost or stolen while you are traveling, it can be helpful to have a copy with you.
Tip #3: Call your credit cards and banks.
This is particularly important if you don’t travel frequently or if you will be traveling out of the country. Your credit card company’s fraud department will flag any charges that look unusual. Some companies will simply contact you – by phone/e-mail/text – and ask you if a charge is legitimate. Others will decline the charge and temporarily shut down your card. There is nothing worse than being on vacation and not being able to use your credit card. This also applies to your bank if you plan to use the ATM when you travel.
Tip #4: Check your cell phone coverage.
This mostly applies if you will be traveling outside of the country. First, check to make sure your current plan covers international charges. Then, make sure you understand exactly how you will be charged when you use your phone outside of the country. When traveling outside of the country, be sure to connect to wi-fi whenever possible to minimize roaming and data charges. There are a number of apps out there that allow you to text and call through the internet rather than using your data.
Tip #5: “Vacation-proof” your house.
Thieves look for houses that are empty. You can take a few easy steps to give your house a “lived in” look while you’re gone. Timers are great. Set a few timers on lights inside and outside your house (and make sure you leave them on all the time, so it doesn’t look strange when you travel). Click here for a very simple and inexpensive timer that you can buy for inside your house. If possible, leave at least one car parked in the driveway. Make sure you stop your mail, newspaper, etc., so you don’t have items sitting around. Also, make sure a neighbor that you trust knows you will be away. Ask them to keep an eye on things and pick up anything that might be delivered and laying around. It’s also a good idea for them to have a key to your house, in case they need to get inside. And, be sure they know how to contact you if necessary.
Tip #6: Try not to look like a tourist.
One of the rules I like to follow when traveling, is to try and look like I belong. Depending on where you are traveling, that can be a challenge. But, there are some very basic things you can do. Get rid of the fanny pack (you automatically look like a tourist). If you are traveling outside of the U.S., it’s probably not a good idea to wear your “Make America Great Again” hat or a U.S. flag t-shirt. Do some research on the way locals tend to dress and try and follow suit as much as possible. Don’t walk around with your nose in a map. Be aware of your surroundings.
Tip #7: Lock up your valuables.
Never walk around carrying your passport. If you are staying in a hotel, lock it up in the safe in your room. It’s a good idea to take a copy of your passport and carry that around with you, but leave the original in your hotel safe. Also, only carry one credit card with you. Leave your back-ups in the hotel safe. And don’t carry all your cash with you either. Some countries are notorious for pickpockets. If you get hit, you don’t want the thief to take everything you have, including your passport.
Tip #8: Pack as lightly as possible.
Think about things that you can get by without. Does the hotel have a hair dryer? If so and you aren’t picky, leave yours at home. If I’m going somewhere that will be chilly, I find layers to be my best friend. Pack different colors of light weight t-shirts, and then a few sweaters/jackets to layer on top. Scarves and other accessories are also great. Limit the number of shoes you take. When packing, roll your clothes to save space and minimize wrinkles. And, if you are traveling with a companion, split your items equally between the two suitcases. That way, if one suitcase gets lost, you both have some of your items. A luggage scale is the best investment you can make. I never travel without one. No one wants to be standing at the airport to check in and have to transfer dirty underwear between suitcases, so you don’t get charged for going over the weight limit. Click here for a link to a great luggage scale.
Tip #9: Have back-up credit cards and cash.
I always travel with at least two completely different credit cards. If one gets stolen or gets turned off for fraudulent activity (see Tip #3), you have a back-up card. I also always travel with my ATM card. If something happens to your credit cards, you can always take money out of the ATM. It’s always a good idea to travel with some cash anyway. You may need it for miscellaneous small items. If you are traveling to another country that uses a different currency, the most inexpensive way to get cash in the local currency is a cash withdrawal through an ATM.
Tip #10: Relax!
If you’ve followed all my tips, you should be in good shape for your trip. So, relax and go with the flow. Know that things are not always going to go as expected. There will be glitches. There will be travel challenges. But, if you are prepared you will be able to overcome anything that comes your way!
Do you have some favorite travel tips? If so, share them with us. Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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