Planning a vacation or going on business out of town? Whether this is your first trip or the fortieth, a nod to common sense and a few practical pointers will not only streamline your journey, but also enhance your experience by making it safer, easier and more fun.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with your destination. The Internet is an excellent resource for researching the area you will be visiting, and many visitor centers will also send a welcome packet for a nominal fee – as well as answer any questions by phone. Things that you should know before you leave include: the address and specific location of your hotel, the exact route to get there and hotel check in time. Also be aware of any specifics you might need en route, such as money for cab fare or toll roads, and carry a decent map of the region in case all else fails and you get lost. A cell phone is always a good idea in case of complications as well – be sure to have emergency numbers handy to contact your family, employer, etc. if necessary.
Consider your transportation needs. Is this an extended stay? Will you need a vehicle to drive or does the area have adequate public services such as buses, subways and commuter trains? Familiarize yourself with available transport as well as related costs and be sure to keep a copy of the bus or subway schedules with you if you plan to ride instead of drive.
Select your lodging with your specific desires and needs in mind. For example, if you want the convenience (and lesser expense) of being able to store and prepare your own food, choose accommodations with a kitchenette, or at least a refrigerator and a microwave. If you are traveling with small children and want to lighten your load, many hotels offer cribs, which will save you the trouble of packing one. In the U.S. hair dryers, irons and ironing boards, personal toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner and lotion, as well as optional laundry and dry cleaning services for an additional fee have become standard in many hotels, though you should first verify with your specific location before relying on any of these options.
Be certain that you have adequate funds for any emergencies on your trip. Always keep enough cash to call home, get transportation and a meal. Keep your money safe and on your person in a money belt or small wallet and don’t display needlessly. A credit card or access to traveler’s checks for unforeseen large expenses or emergencies is also necessary. If you are outside of your country, be certain that you have an adequate grasp of currency conversions.
Before you leave properly prepare for your journey. If you are leaving your country, you must have a valid passport, be current with your immunizations and should familiarize yourself with relevant foreign customs regarding appropriate behavior. Also become acquainted with all pertinent laws according to your destination. Many books are available to give guidance for new visitors to just about every country in the world.
Take care of business on the home front. Put your mail and newspaper delivery on hold and leave a light on in your home for an “occupied” look. Also, ask a neighbor or friend keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. For a very extended vacation, consider paying someone to house sit – to attend to pets, plants, lawn care and other incidentals. Adjust your heating or air conditioning to minimum levels while you are gone and verify that all appliances and electrical equipment are turned off. Double check that your doors and windows are secure and don’t leave extra house keys in obvious places such as under the welcome mat or above the entry – would-be thieves are as aware of these places as you are. Remember to give your itinerary, destination and several contact phone numbers to someone that you trust. Get plenty of rest the night before you depart – last minute planning and packing is not only stressful but leaves you prone to forgetting something. While traveling, wear comfortable clothing and shoes, but dress well enough to appear respectable in case of an unforeseen situation. Always keep your wallet, keys, ID, necessary medications and anything of importance, value or difficult to replace on your person, this is especially important when flying as airlines do occasionally make mistakes and lose luggage.