As you all have probably noticed, I am an extreme planner feeling most comfortable when organized and prepared to take on any and all situations. That being said, traveling tends to add an extra layer of stress onto my normal anxiety ridden craziness. Not only am I planning and packing the perfect outfit for every possible occasion (who knows when you may need that LBD or a sparkly pink boa?), but will also be leaving behind a life, job, home, and (sometimes) pets to fend for themselves.
From placing various services on hold to prepping your family and household for your absence, these are a few tasks most often forgotten while prepping to leave for vacation.
Things to do during the week or so before departure (don’t leave it all to the last minute!):
1. Hold your mail.
No longer do you have to ask the neighbors to check your mailbox to keep it from overflowing. You can now hold your mail from 3 up to 30 consecutive days by signing up online with the USPS. You can choose for them to deliver it on the last day, or if you prefer, can pick it up at your local Post Office upon return.
2. Pay all bills and/or set up automatic payments.
You may be headed off to a Caribbean paradise for a week, but that doesn’t mean the mortgage will pay itself. Be sure to pay any bills available ahead of time and/or set up automatic payments through your bank or the individual vendor. You could come back to a nasty fee when you get home.
3. Print important documents for travel and back up.
I like to have all plane flight itinerary, invoices, reservations, travel vouchers, etc. printed before leaving the house. We rely on the internet so much these days. Often keeping all information stored via email, you never know when your phone might die or a foreign airport doesn’t offer WiFi. Having hard copies is the best plan, even if it seems out of date or inconvenient. You can always use electronic versions and simply have the print out versions as a back up.
Take it a step further and back up all documents in your preferred “cloud.” I always PDF all important documents and add them to a folder under my Gmail Google Docs for safe keeping. Then of course send to my mom in case of an emergency (and for her piece of mind).
4. Call credit cards/bank(s) to inform of travel locations and dates.
Most credit card companies will cut off credit or debit cards as part of their fraud protection features when used outside of their normal area. Avoid issues by preemptively informing them of travel locations and dates.
5. Make copies of identification and credit cards you plan to bring on your travels (and clean out items you won’t need).
Think drivers license, passport, credit cards, and insurance cards. I like to bring a physical copy (be sure to store it in the safe with other valuables upon arrival) and back a copy up to my Gmail Google Drive for safe keeping and future references.
6. Arrange for care of your pets and landscaping.
Pets – Options include: boarding, having a family member or friend take care of them, or hire a pet sitter. Our favorite is having my best friend house/pet-sit. The animals are in their own environment and have a familiar, loving face to combat the stress of your absence. Of course we pay her in wine, Pirate’s Booty, and frozen foods.
Landscaping – If you are savvy enough to have an irrigation or sprinkler system, make sure the scheduled timer is set accordingly. If not, hire a service or ask a friendly neighbor.
7. Don’t forget to remind your supervisor/manager at work of your travels several weeks in advance (even if it is already on the firm calendar)…
It’s better to CYA than feel bad for taking a vacation you’ve planned for months, just because your superior didn’t check the calendar before planning a client meeting or new project while you are supposed to be gone.
Check calendar for upcoming appointments or commitments and re-schedule, if needed. Don’t forget any non-work appointments, as well.
8. Make a detailed packing and to do list.
I like to keep this list on the kitchen counter about a week in advance of a trip. This way, you can add on as you think of new items or tasks. See my “beach house” version here and my “all inclusive” version here.
1. Set timers for lights (and choose which to leave on completely).
I suggest leaving a few outside lights on the full time you’re away (i.e. porch light) and setting a timer for a few indoor lights, helping portray that your home is not empty for an extended period of time.
2. Wash sheets and laundry.
It is always wonderful to return home to a clean bed and no dirty clothes (besides the ones you bring home from your trip). No one wants to wash sheets and clothes after a long day of travel.
3. Clean perishable items out of fridge/bread box/pantry that will go bad during your leave.
Who wants to come home to moldy food or a smelly fridge? Not me!
4. Inform neighbors of your travel dates.
They can keep any eye out for your house and any packages that will not be held by the USPS (i.e. FedEx or UPS). Make sure they have a contact for emergencies, especially if you are going out of the country and will not be available by phone.
5. Update and backup iPhones, iPad, laptops, etc.
Don’t forget to fully charge and backup all electronics for travel!
Night before/morning of departure:
1. Double and triple check your detailed packing and to do list (mentioned above).
I often highlight or circle items that are “last minute,” such as toiletries you cannot pack until after getting ready the next morning or hang-up clothes from the closet.
2. Take out trash (not forgetting all of the smaller waste baskets throughout the house).
You may also want to arrange for a neighbor to take your large trash bins to the street and return them by your house, depending on the timing of your trash service and how long you will be out of town.
3. Run and unload dishwasher.
Dirty dishes (especially a week or so old) are yuck.
4. Fix air conditioning and place it on “hold” mode.
No reason for the AC to be blasting while no one is home!
5. Unplug any important electronics (i.e. computers, TV, Roomba, etc.).
This conserves energy and money…as well as keeping batteries in tip-top shape.
6. Check for any last-minute changes to travel itinerary.
No one wants to miss a flight due to a last-minute gate change. I like to double check all booked itinerary items before leaving the house.