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9 Important Things You Must Do Before Vacation

There’s a lot to do before heading on vacation. It can be easy to miss things, so lists are your friend! While that list might vary a little bit from trip to trip, there are some key important things you must do before vacation.

A quick weekend away doesn’t require much, but for longer trips or [especially] heading abroad, checking these off will ensure smooth travels. There’s nothing quite like discovering a major misstep at the last minute.

suitcase on a bed packing for vacation one of the things you must do before vacation can start

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Things You Must Do Before Vacation Anywhere

The 5 things you must do before vacation whether it’s domestic or international.

Double Check All Bookings

This is the opportunity to catch mistakes or chase down last minute upgrades. Flights, hotels, rental cars, and tours should all be double checked at least a week in advance – more if they’ve been booked through a third party travel service.

Travelers with status can often snag last minute upgrades too. Even without status, discounted upgrades are sometimes offered close to travel dates. While less common in high season, if traveling in shoulder or low season it’s more likely. It can be a great way to go bougie on a budget!

While upgrades to first class (or presidential suites) are what dreams are made of, you may still be able to get a bulkhead seat or room with a view.

I’ve caught flight changes (looking at you Brussels Air and ITA Airways) that somehow I never got any notification about by directly logging in to the site. It’s also good to have the airline’s app downloaded with push notifications turned on. Most airline apps will create notifications about delays or gate changes.

Make Document Copies

In a digital era, many travelers make digital copies of critical documents. I recommend also carrying physical copies and keeping them secured separately. Passports, credit cards, and visas are the top travel documents you should make copies of.

Other documents important to have copies of when traveling include important prescriptions or medical info and contact details for the nearest consulate. In regards to medications, check to see if you need additional paperwork or permissions as there may be restrictions in certain countries.

An unexpected addition to this list is important phone numbers and contact details. Jokes abound about barely having ones own phone number memorized. But should an emergency arise, it’s less funny when getting in touch with someone is next to impossible.

It’s a good idea to keep a collection of important phone numbers and emails as backup. I’ve learned that tech can’t always be relied upon to store info. Digital devices can break, malfunction, or (worst of all) get stolen.

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Get Trip Insurance

This is probably the most skipped step – but one of the most important things you must do before vacation. There are many options for travel insurance. Some cover everything from trip delays to serious injuries.

Be aware that extreme activities are often not covered and need to be specifically added. Places like Bali have been cracking down on unlicensed scooter drivers. Generally travel insurance will not cover injuries from a scooter accident if the driver doesn’t hold a motorcycle license.

Older travelers may also find age limits in place. Those with some pre-existing conditions may need to select additional coverages. Be sure to read everything thoroughly! Add the contact numbers with your other important info during travel.

Make a Packing List

It doesn’t need to be fancy, but in the often chaotic days leading up to a trip I now consider this one of the things you must do before vacation. There are few things more annoying than realizing something was forgotten in the shuffle. The worst is forgetting something critical and not easily replaced on arrival.

For specialized trips, a packing list is even more important. From safari to surfing adventures, it’s easy to forget an item not typically packed for most trips. It doesn’t need to be fancy – scribble it on scrap paper if you must.

There are tons of options for travel planning notepads, checklists, and journals. I’m working on my own series which will include discounts for my subscribers. It will launch just in time for the holidays too!

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Make Local Reservations

Depending on time of year and destination, it may be necessary to book activities or restaurants ahead of time. Exclusive restaurants or experiences may need to be booked months in advance. In most cases though, a few days to a couple of weeks is plenty of time.

It’s not just famous restaurants that necessitate planning ahead. Many museums have limited access and require booking ahead. For example, Borghese Gallery in Rome does not sell tickets on site.

It can be a bummer for travelers that prefer winging it, but if your heart is set on something be sure to double check.

Send Your Itinerary to Someone Back Home

Some may say it’s over cautious, but it’s still wise to give someone responsible back home a copy of your travel itinerary. Knowing when and where you’re expected means two things. The first is that someone will notice if you’re not home as expected.

The other is that if there is an emergency back home, it will be all but guaranteed you can be reached. This is even higher on the list of things you must do before vacation mode kicks in when traveling solo or to remote areas.

Be sure to notify this person if your plans change or you’re significantly delayed during travel.

Things You Must Do Before Vacation Abroad

The 2 Things You Must Do Before Going to a Foreign Country

Check Your Passport

The internet is filled with stories of travelers denied boarding because they didn’t realize their passport needed to be valid well beyond their travel dates! This is usually caught by the airline, but if they don’t it can also mean being turned back at customs upon arriving abroad.

It’s a good idea to check the expiration date on passports a few months before travel. If a renewal is needed it gives plenty of time. Passport services (in the U.S. at least) can hit delays, especially as more and more people travel internationally.

Check out these top reviewed passport and document holders:

So how long should a passport be valid for when traveling internationally? Generally 6 months or more, though some countries have a 3 month requirement. If it’s within a few days of the requirement period (i.e. expires in 178 days with a 180 requirement) just go ahead and get it renewed. Better safe than sorry!

Be sure to check if any visas are required in advance. Not every country offers visas on arrival. Some may take a good amount of time and extra documentation. Other simply require going online, paying the fee, and printing or downloading the visa. For example, starting in 2024 visitors to 30 countries in Europe will need an ETIAS. This will include visitors from countries like the U.S. and Canada.

Make Sure You Can Use Your Phone

Of course if traveling domestically using your phone won’t be an issue. But one of the things you must do before vacation abroad is ensure you’ll be able to communicate. While most phone major phone carriers offer international add-ons, they’re expensive and often slow.

As long as the cell phone is unlocked it’s super easy to use swap or add a SIM card. As long as the phone is paid off, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be unlocked. Each carrier’s process is a little different, so it’s best to take care of this at least a couple of weeks in advance.

Using a smartphone internationally is easy. Since most newer smartphone models come with dual SIM options, it’s not even necessary to remove your primary SIM. Just be sure to turn that one off while abroad, so it doesn’t accidentally incur astronomical roaming charges!

Depending on the exact phone model, there are options for physical SIM cards or e-SIM cards. Be sure to read the details thoroughly to avoid hassle on arrival. E-SIMs have become much more popular and common in recent years.

If swapping out SIM cards sounds like too much or your phone isn’t unlocked, you can carry a global hotspot. This allows you to use your phone in Wi-Fi only mode wherever that hotspot gets service.

Rechargeable GlocalMe SIM Card

Bonus: Make Coming Home Relaxing!

Thinking about coming home might be the last thing come to mind as one of the things you must do before vacation. After years of travel though, there are a few things I do before departure to make coming home feel less chaotic.

  1. Clean sheets and towels. Coming home to fresh sheets and clean towels is worth its weight in gold when getting home after a long travel day.
  2. Tidy up! Do this to personal taste: I’m hardly a neat freak but taking a little time to control clutter and do some simple clean up makes coming home feel like a treat not a drudge.
  3. Clear out the fridge – double check to make sure you won’t be coming home to spoiled food!
  4. Put a few things in the freezer or pantry: since no one really wants to make a grocery run immediately, have a few things in the house so you’re not relying on delivery or scrounging like a hungry alley cat

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