The night before flying out on vacation used to be pretty chaotic around here.
It would usually involve me running around the house finding random things I’d forgotten to pack and uploading photos from my phone while finishing laundry, emptying the dishwasher, and planning what to wear. It was almost certainly a late night, as the list of things I suddenly remembered to do would go on and on!
And let’s be honest, it’s still a little chaotic before leaving on vacation. But we’ve gotten pretty good at a pre-travel routine by now. We generally know what needs to be done before we leave and plan to do a few things here and there, little by little.
Here are 20 things you should always do before leaving on vacation and when to tackle them, so you’re not left feeling rushed and stressed at the last minute!
2-3 Months Before
- Double check that passports and necessary travel documents are up to date. The worst thing you could do is plan your whole trip, only to forget to renew your passport! Also, if traveling out of the country, don’t assume that a passport is all you’ll need either. Be sure to check the Department of State website for any extra visa or immunization requirements.
- Secure a rental car if needed. If you haven’t done this already, don’t wait much longer. You’ll run the risk of limited availability and having to pay for a more expensive car than you need.
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1 Month Before
- Start planning your travel outfits. Buy any clothes or accessories you might need to complete you or your kids’ wardrobe. (i.e. rain boots for Seattle or a new swimsuit for the beach!)
- Research the city’s public transportation system. If you’ll be using public transportation, make sure you familiarize yourself with the routes you’ll use. Download an app like Transit, which will help you navigate the different systems.
- Buy tickets online for busy attractions. If you see the option to purchase tickets ahead of time, it’s probably a good idea to check and see if it’s recommended. Some big cities have popular attractions that must be booked weeks in advance! And even if not totally necessary, booking online in advance can also usually help you get a little bit of a discount and/or skip long ticket lines.
2 Weeks Before
- Make restaurant reservations. I usually do all of our reservations at once online (typically through OpenTable). More popular restaurants might be booked up sooner than you expected on certain nights, so I like to have the flexibility to move things around before it’s too late. Having reservations locked in means you’ll never have to think about when and where you’re going to eat – a big relief when it comes to traveling with kids who can go from hungry to hangry in 5 minutes!
- Ask a friend or neighbor to check on your house. Or feed the dog, pick up the mail, scoop the driveway, etc.
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1 Week Before
- Line up a ride to the airport. If you can find a friend that’s willing to give you a lift to the airport, you can save big on that airport parking. If not, now’s also a good time to request a shuttle service.
- Pay bills and move funds around. The last thing you want to do is come back from vacation to a stack of overdue bills. Make sure you have plenty of cash available (and in multiple accounts, in case one of your cards isn’t working). Speaking of which, now’s also a good time to inform your bank if you’ll be traveling out of the country (or possibly even out of state) to avoid any freezes on your account.
2 Days Before
- Wash and put away all laundry. It’s time to start packing! Start with a fresh look at your closet and set aside any items you know you’ll definitely want to pack.
- Download a local area map via maps.me. It’s the easiest way to get turn-by-turn directions in a new city without having to use your cell phone’s data plan. (and yes, it even works abroad without wifi!)
- Take photos of important documents. Losing your travel documents could absolutely ruin your trip. Take one step to protect yourself by taking photos on your phone of confirmation numbers, ID’s, credit cards, etc. That way you can at least prove your identity and help you get back home in the case that they are lost or stolen.
- Free up space on your devices. Clear your camera’s memory cards and delete old photos from your phone so you’ll never have to worry about running out of storage for those all important travel photos.
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1 Day Before
- Check into your flight. This especially important if flying Southwest, where checking in at the earliest possible chance will ensure a better boarding position.
- Throw away any perishable foods. You don’t want to come back home to moldy leftovers in the fridge. Take the trash out to the dumpster while you’re at it…
- Clean up clutter around the house. You don’t have to do a full house clean, but there’s nothing better than coming back to a nice, clean home after a long trip away. Pick up toys, put away clean dishes, and clear counter clutter. You’ll have enough work to do with unpacking when you get back.
- Charge and load up devices with entertainment. We make sure we have at least 1 or 2 kids shows on each of our phones and the iPad (what a tragedy it would be if we only had one and it died!) Go ahead and download a new ebook or some music for yourself too. Keep everything plugged in the night before so it’s fully charged and ready to go!
- Set out your travel day outfit. From earrings to socks, I like to have everything out and ready to go so I can pack the rest. And since, we’re usually flying out early in the morning, having everything ready means more time for precious sleep!
- Finish packing your carry on and luggage. While I usually get our bags out a few days in advance, setting things aside as I think of them, there’s some things you just can’t pack until the last minute. I keep a running list on my phone for those last packed items that would be tragic to forget (like the blankie or sound machine!)
Do you have any pre-travel routines you always follow?
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