There are a handful of things I do at home before I leave on a trip just to make life easier and to launch a pre-emptive strike against near disaster. I offer these up as helpful hints. The “why” part might help you decide if you need to do them too.
1) Keep a copy of your passport in your luggage and at home.
Why? If on the odd chance you lose your passport, I have heard that it is infinitely faster to get the passport replaced with a copy rather than the Embassy having to research your data.
2) Call the credit cards you’ll be using on vacation and alert them; don’t talk to the first person to answer the phone, ask for the fraud department. Tell them where you’re going, where you may be passing through along the way and for how long. Tell them you expect to be shopping and charging hotel stays. Ask them to confirm the collect number on the back of the card in case you need to call them from your destination. Then, write your account numbers and that phone number down on a copy of your passport that you leave at home so someone could get it to you in the event you need it. Pack another copy of your passport and credit card collect phone number in your carry-on luggage.
Why? My first stop on one trip to Florence was to buy a leather jacket and briefcase. I hadn’t let the credit card company know about my trip and they shut my card down for suspicious/unusual activity. When I tried to call the collect phone number on the card from Italy (remember 800-numbers don’t work outside the US), it was out of service.
3) If you’ll be using an ATM card, get your daily withdrawal limit increased.
Why? If it’s set at $200, that’s roughly 120 euro now, which is about enough to eat for a day. Let the bank know the same thing I just wrote in #2 above. Then switch it back when you get home.
4) Cancel the newspapers, get someone to gather your mail, make provisions for the cat.
Why? Kind of obvious, Pookie needs to eat!
5) Confirm all your hotel reservations and flights.
Why? Please tell me I don’t have to explain...
6) Do the bulk of your packing the weekend before, especially if leaving mid-week.
Why? I usually work right up until about 4 hours before departure, so being able to go home, grab my bag and leave for the airport, without a last minute rush, is key to starting off relaxed and ready. Plus I’m less flustered/nervous/excited on the weekend, so I am thinking more clearly about what’s going in the bag.
Overall, just stop your planning and start to get into vacation mode about a week before. If you haven’t read it, planned it or booked it a week before you go, chances are it wasn’t high on your priority list. Learn to do what you can do with the time you have. Just go and enjoy!