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Getting Ready with a Stress-Free Vacation Preparation Checklist

Updated on July 2, 2013

Getting Ready for Vacation with Checklists

Going on vacation is supposed to be fun and relaxing, so why does getting ready for a vacation always seem so stressful? This vacation planning checklist will help you have a less stressful pre-vacation week and ensure you don't forget anything important!

What's the weather like at your destination?
What's the weather like at your destination? | Source
If you're going to the other side of the world, it could be a different season!
If you're going to the other side of the world, it could be a different season! | Source

Read up on your Destination

If this is the first time you've visited your particular destination, read up on it. You probably did some research before buying your tickets and reserving a room, but dig a little deeper. You probably already know if you need a passport or specific vaccines, but these may be things you haven't thought about. Pay special attention to things like:

  • Typical weather at your destination during the time of year you are visiting.
  • Whether your cell phone will work/if it will incur roaming fees.
  • The availability of internet/wi-fi. Americans are used to free internet everywhere, but in a lot of countries, internet access still costs extra at hotels.
  • The type of power/electrical plugs used at your destination.

You should also read up on entertainment options, restaurants, and other things to do. Most destinations have tourist guides available for free, but the restaurants and sites advertised in them are not necessarily the best - they are simply the businesses that paid to be featured. These booklets are frequently a great way to get some free coupons, but I've always been disappointed when I only used these free brochures to plan my activities and meals! Plus, researching ahead of time on the Internet can tell you if particular sites or restaurants are only open on specific days. You don't what to put off going somewhere only to discover it's closed on your last day!

I love lined sticky notes. Bigger than regular sticky notes, these lined notes make it easy to post lists and reminders where they can't be overlooked.

Make Lists

I love making lists! With my hectic lifestyle, lists are the only way to can keep track of all my obligations. I suggest making a couple of different lists to get ready for your vacation:

  • Make one list of things you need to do before leaving. I like to include a lot of things on this list, including: bills that will come due while I'm gone or shortly after my return; projects for school or work; perishable food items that need to be eaten or disposed of before heading out of town; calling the bank and credit card companies to let them know you're going out of town; and making arrangements for pet care. Sure, you can pay your bills while on vacation, but it's way better to set up auto pay or get them dealt with ahead of time to avoid trusting a questionable internet cafe with your financial information! Notifying your bank and any credit card companies you plan to use on vacation is extremely important. I once had my bank card turned off on a Friday night when I was buying gas to get home because it triggered some sort of 'suspicious activity' alert, and my mom once had a stressful time in Canada with an un-usable card! Your bank is just doing its job when they turn a card off for out of area use, but it sure doesn't feel like a helpful security feature when it happens to you around the world. Call and let them know!
  • Make a shopping list of things you need to buy for your vacation. Do you need travel sized shampoo and conditioner? Sunscreen? A new bathing suit? Don't forget that, if you're visiting a remote area, some things make be hard to find. If you're going to a foreign country, your favorite products might not be available! Even if you're going somewhere you know has your everyday essentials, items tend to cost more in popular tourist destinations, especially if you resort to buying your toothpaste at the hotel shop. Trust me - I used to work at a resort hotel's store - you'll pay more for a trial size at the hotel shop than for the full sized product at your usual store!

There's a lot to do before you reach this point!
There's a lot to do before you reach this point! | Source
  • List what you need to pack. Include everything you don't want to forget and check it off as you put it in the bag! I love listing potential outfits a week or two in advance. It helps me mentally prepare for my trip and makes the time pass more quickly. I list everything I might want to bring and then go through the list taking out things that make no sense. Then, I try to see if I can remove a few more pieces from the list by doing double duty with a few basic pieces. Can I dress the same pair of jeans up once and down another time? Can I mix and match separates for different outfits? Then, 10 days out and 5 days out, I check the weather forecast and make modifications, as needed. Lastly, I check the day before to make any last minute wardrobe adjustments. This may seem like overkill, but I've made the mistake of assuming the weather would be the same where I lived and in my destination a few too many times! Even if you're just going one state over, the weather can be dramatically different.
  • A day or so before you leave, make a written, physical list of everything you have to accomplish and check before locking your door and heading out. Put everything you need to throw in your bag or remember, including locking the front door. Write it down physically and post it somewhere visible, like on the door you'll use to leave. It is simply too easy to become distracted when you pick up your phone, so I do not advise making a phone list (no matter how handy it may seem). List everything, even things that are part of your usual routine. In the hustle and bustle, it can be easy to forget everyday tasks and items you wouldn't normally overlook. I was once so excited about a trip I left town without the key for a lock on my carry on. We had to buy a hacksaw blade to cut into my case. Don't let this be you!

Planning ahead can help you feel like this guy.
Planning ahead can help you feel like this guy. | Source

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Packing for your Vacation

When packing, you have a big choice to make - do you want to rely on only a carry on bag, or do you need to bring a check bag? I've had too many bad experiences with checked baggage to automatically choose it, even though no carry on does make running through the airport to catch a flight much easier! To help you make this decision, check your flight's policies. Most airlines no longer offer free checked bags for domestic flights. Last summer, I was surprised to learn that flying all the way from South Carolina to Hawaii did not earn me a free checked bag. Most international flights do award you one (or more) free checked bags.

If you decide to use a carry on, make sure to follow size restrictions and regulations. If you're traveling internationally, check other country's laws and regulations to make sure you don't end up being forced to ditch your belongings halfway around the world. I am a huge fan of carry ons and have an entire hub on how to best pack your carry on bag. Even if you intend to use a check bag, I recommend throwing at least a change of clothes in a carry on item. I once got stuck overnight in Chicago with my bag already loaded up on a plane to Charlotte, NC. I ended up arriving in Atlanta the following day and it took almost a week to get my bag back! Last spring, I was stuck overnight in Atlanta and had everything I needed because of a well-packed carry on. I learned my lesson - please let my hard-won knowledge save you from an unpleasant situation!

Your flight, itself, can be dangerous! Flights that are longer than 4 hours can double your risk of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. A simple pair of compression stockings can prevent these life-threatening conditions.

Have a Healthy, Safe Flight and Vacation

Airports are like petri dishes for stress. After you battle your way through the security line to rush on to your plane, your flight, itself, can be dangerous. Long flights have been proven to increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Shockingly, flights that are only four hours long can double your risk! To read more about how to travel safe and smart and make your actual airport experience easier, please look at my airplane flight travel tips.

I hope these tips help you banish vacation planning stress. Just make sure you don't forget critical details by taking care of obligations well in advance, making physical lists and posting reminders, exploring your entertainment and activity options ahead of time, and considering your luggage in advance. And, of course, don't forget to have fun!


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    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      No kidding! I post lists on my walls just to keep work and school in line! Glad I'm not the only one =)

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Natasha - This was great and very helpful. I live by my lists, not sure how other people do without them. :) Sharing. Theresa

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      What I need to figure out is how to readjust to 'normal life!' And get over the sleep depravation and dehydration air travel give me. Hope you find the time for a vacation soon!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Great advice and tips for a vacation checklist. I hope I can use it sometime soon.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Maybe I should go into greater detail about power - I mention it, but don't extensively cover it.

      I've had to do some last minute shuffling of bags to get things underweight, too!

      I saw about the charging overweight people - my first thought was "Can I get a discount for being short and light?" I'm all about it if it could save me some money.

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 5 years ago

      I am reading this - and laughing! WHY? Because for the LIFE of me - i CANNOT get my luggage under max weight!

      I'm good in every other category - LISTS being my specialty. One important thing that i didn't see you mention is power cords! I put my phone, computer, etc power cords on the list, cause - i've good reason to...LOL..

      i even put 'toothbrush' 'pillow' and 'passport' on the list, cause..well..just cause!

      I've traveled since i was 14 years old - extensively, and lately - only to HOT! Even places where all i need is sundresses and bikinis - my luggage is overweight...(it's a conspiracy i tell

      great hub - made me smile!

      (hey - i hear they're gonna start charging by the pound - the PEOPLE pound...maybe then i can get a discount, or - a child's fare? LOL)

      yippeeee - i got 100% on your quiz! Now - where's my badge? Chest?

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I love making lists! I make a weekly schedule and post it on my wall so I can check things off as I accomplish them.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks for the comprehensive overview of this topic! I am a list maker as well and always feel better when I have things sketched out ahead of time.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I usually get someone else to pay for it, so I'm the wrong person to ask!

      Thanks for stopping in.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Excellent preparation checklist. There is only one thing missing....where do I get the money for a vacation???? :)


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