Most people love going on vacation, and it’s easy to see why. For some people, vacations are the perfect opportunity to finally relax and take a break from their busy schedules. For others, vacations are a chance to explore and go on adventures. No matter which kind of vacation you prefer, there is something that everyone should do to ensure a stress-free vacation.
Planning. According to Benjamin Franklin, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Even the more extemporaneous out there need to do a measure of planning, even if it’s only to make sure that everything will still be in one piece when they return.
1. Passports and Paperwork
Yes, it’s painful and boring, but the paperwork does matter. If you mess up here, you might not even be able to travel, especially if you’re going abroad. Let’s start with passports.
If you’re planning on leaving the country, then you’ll need a valid passport, it’s as simple as that. Without it, you won’t get any further than the airport. Nobody wants to be in a situation where they’re ready to leave and have managed to make it to the airport in time, only to learn that they aren’t going anywhere. You also don’t want to discover that your passport has expired when you dig it out of storage that morning. It’s also recommended to have up-to-date emergency information documented in it. These include the contact information of your next of kin.
Rather, check your passport well in advance of your vacation, ideally when you book it. Passport renewal by mail typically takes up to 8 weeks, although you can pay a fee to have this process expedited to about 3 weeks. Otherwise, you can apply in person or use a passport expediting company to speed things up. For a less stressful and expensive experience, just check your passport well in advance of your vacation.
Your passport isn’t the only paperwork to have prepared in advance. It’s often a good idea to get travel insurance. While travel insurance does cost money, things can get far more pricey if something were to go wrong on or before your vacation.
This ranges from emergency medical expenses, legal costs, and stolen property to issues with your accommodation or travel arrangements. If your plane is delayed and causes you to miss the next one, for example, your insurance can help out. Some policies even cover sudden cancellations, in the case of an emergency.
Nobody wants their vacation to go wrong, but insurance can mitigate the damages.
2. Do Your Homework
It seems obvious, but you should know where you’re going. You don’t just need to know the geographical area, although that will help, you should research the country and area that you’re traveling to.
The most obvious reason to do this is your safety. Some parts of the world are unsafe and you need to know what potential dangers there will be and what precautions that you should take. You should also have a basic understanding of the local laws because nobody wants to get in trouble with the law for a simple mistake.
Also, a bit of research will inform what you need to pack. Check out the weather forecast for the area, so that you won’t be blindsided by any nasty surprises. If you’re going to a hot country and don’t know that it’s monsoon season, you will quickly regret not looking it up. If you research before you book, you can plan your trip around your ideal weather conditions.
Look at local prices and customs. For example, some countries have different ideas about tipping for services. Tipping may be unexpected or even offensive, even if it’s something that you’re accustomed to. As for prices, you might be unpleasantly (or pleasantly) surprised by the cost of something you’re used to paying a certain price for.
You can also look for any nearby attractions or activities, to help you plan adventures while you’re there. If you can, try to pick up a little bit of the local language. Even greetings and basic questions will get you much further than repeating yourself slowly and loudly.
3. Planning The Trip Itself
No, this doesn’t mean that you need an iron-clad itinerary for your entire vacation. Some people do prefer to plan things out in detail, while others like to be as spontaneous as possible. Most are somewhere in the middle, but regardless of where you stand, you will need to do a little bit of planning.
This starts with the aforementioned research, where you find out what the area has to offer. At least look up which activities interest you and check for opening times. Being spontaneous stops being fun when you turn up when everything’s closed.
Also, plan any walks or day trips. Getting lost is bad enough at home, but in an unfamiliar country, it can be far more stressful and potentially dangerous. If you have a hike or adventure in mind, get a map and either pack supplies or find a nearby place to stock up. A touch of planning can make things both more relaxing and more fun.
Speaking of packing, pack with a measure of care. Whether you like to take as much as possible, or you’re a light traveler, there are some things to remember. Medications and necessary paperwork are at the top of the list, but you should also remember to take chargers, appropriate clothing, and any toiletries you don’t want to buy at the location.
One of the most important parts of planning a trip is the budget. A vacation costs more than just the transportation and the accommodations, you also need to factor in living expenses and any fun money that you’re planning to spend. Don’t forget about any currency changes and the cost to convert your money over.
Avoid getting into significant debt over a vacation and remember that there is almost always a cheaper option. If you need to, travel within your home country as there is bound to be somewhere you haven’t been before.
4. For When You Get Back
Sadly, every trip must come to an end. You can make this part of your vacation far less painful by doing some quick preparations beforehand. One important thing to consider is your home warranty. When you go away, you can’t control what happens at home, so good insurance will stop you from worrying while you’re away.
You can, however, control the state of your house before you leave. Take the opportunity to give the place a tidy, so you have a relaxing environment to get back to. You will not be in the mood to clean your house after your vacation.
Unplug all your appliances and set the heating and cooling system. This has a two-fold effect. It’s safer, reducing the chance of fire or any other electrical problems occurring while you’re away. It will also save you money on your utilities. However, you should make sure that your house doesn’t reach any temperatures that could increase the chance of damp. If you can, set it so the temperature goes back to normal before you return, so your house is as comfortable as possible.
If you have plants that need maintenance or you simply don’t want to leave your home completely unattended, then give a spare key to someone you trust with instructions. A friend can also look after any pets, or you could send them to a kennel to be taken care of.