Last updated on April 4th, 2019 at 06:02 am
Well, the first thing that I suggest you do is to go back through our blog posts to make sure you are really ready to travel.
To make that easier for you, I have cut and pasted information from one of our earliest blog posts, but have made some modifications since this trip is a land based vacation, not a cruise.
Here’s a Timeline for A Vacation to a Foreign Country
Although we are only going to Cabo, not to Europe or the Middle East, or Africa, you still need to take some of the same steps to really be prepared so that you can fully enjoy your trip.
So, if you are anything like me, you booked your October 2012 vacation in October of 2011. You’ve already made sure that you have your passport, etc… But, not everyone is like me. So, for everyone else, if you are planning to take a trip to a foreign destination next year, I am providing you the long version of the planning timeline. After your first foreign destination, you will probably start at the 3-month section and move forward from there.
Also, if you have not traveled overseas before, you will soon learn that most travel agents need to have some documents up front when they are processing the booking, such as copies of the front and back of your driver’s license or other state identification as well as the front and back of your your credit card and the facing pages at the front of your passport. It is much easier for your travel agent to get the names spelled correctly and to handle the booking process as well as payments for you. In fact, most will ask you to complete a form, either in person or online, to capture much of the information needed. Here is an example of that type of form. So, we will start our process about 13 months out to give you time to take care of all of these first-time issues.
Some of the things I will cover here may not apply to every trip you take, but there are things here to review to ensure that you don’t miss something important. Also, as part of your trip planning process, we will touch on a very important issue later that is just as important as planning your trip. That is, making sure that you did the things at home you needed to do before you left. You really don’t want to have to call your neighbors and ask them to go to your house to make sure you unplugged the iron before you left, so we will have a checklist for that too.
13 months before your trip
- Why 13 and not 12 months out? Because if you are a timeshare owner, you can often book out 13 months in advance so if the place you want to visit is in high demand, you want to make sure you have your location before you do anything else. If you are using a timeshare that is not in your club, you may have to wait until 10 or 11 months out. Check your timeshare options so that you know your time tables.
- I assume that you will pay for the trip using your credit card so that you get the miles, etc… along with other types of coverage. If you will be renting a car, check your credit card’s rental car insurance coverage. You can get stuck with a huge, unexpected, charge for car insurance in a foreign country. If your card does not give you the coverage, now may be the right time to look into a new card or maybe only moving up your card from gold to platinum or something as simple as that. Also, make sure to bring the proof of coverage from your credit card company. Bring it in writing!!! I have a little more info about insurance here.
- If you are still working, put in your vacation request. In most companies, first come equals first serve.
- Check the weather. What? My wife really likes to know the weather before we go do something, so if we are going to be in Rome next July, she wants to know the weather so that she can plan on what to wear. So, by checking the weather when you start your plan, you will have a good idea of what it will be when you arrive. Check this link and you will see. If you try to check the weather three months out, it won’t be accurate for the time that you will be there.
- Pull your passport out of the safe and check the dates. Now, check with the State Department as well as the Consulates for the countries you will be visiting. Some countries won’t let you enter on a passport that is brand new or one that is about to expire. So, check it out to determine if you need to renew your passport or not. Also, if the kids are traveling with you, check their passports too. The kid’s passports are only good for 5 years, so they will expire before yours do. Go to our website links. On that page there is a neat drop down link on the left side of the page. When it opens, it is on the TSA page. Great info here. Click on the down arrow then click on US Passports.
- Oh, I was just making the assumption that you already had a passport. If not, then it’s time to apply. Here is a link to download the passport application. As one of the guys on TV says, “Get ’er Done!”. See link in previous comment.
- Gather the necessary identification needed. If you need to replace a lost birth certificate, apply for a new passport, or renew one that is about to expire, start the paperwork now. Doing it at the last minute is stressful and often costly.
- Apply for any visas required by the countries on your itinerary. Use this link, following the instructions above, to get on the Visas page. You will see a link to Visas on that page. If you are taking a river cruise while you are on your European vacation, often times you will need a letter of intent from the river cruise company to present at the consulate to get the visa. Don’t forget to ask your travel agent about it.
- While you are on our links page, click that down arrow I pointed out a minute ago and click on the Travel Abroad, Travel Warnings, US Customs and the Travel Health links before you go any further.
- Speaking of Travel Health, remember that when you book your cruise, you want to make the travel insurance decision at that time. So take the time now to talk with your travel agent about travel insurance. You can buy insurance through the travel agency as well as through a separate company such as Travel Guard. Lots of options so now is a good time to think about it. You can check out the Travel Guard Insurance link here so that you have already made that decision before you talk with your agent. You are spending good money for this trip, don’t loose it because health issues or some other emergency requires you to cancel the trip.
- Go ahead, book your vacation now, especially if you are staying in a timeshare resort. You will get the best prices and of course, for some destinations, you won’t even be able to find an available timeshare resort unit if you don’t book at least 13 months ahead.
- International Driving Permit. Not now, look at 3 months before your cruise. They are generally only good for 1 year.
- If you don’t already have your Global Entry in place, do it now. If you forget to get it, at least do Pre-Check. As a last resort, load Mobile Passport onto your phone to simplify your return to the US.
6 to 9 months before your trip
- I like to make monthly payments toward the vacation after making the initial deposit, or I start setting money aside in my travel savings account, so that I don’t need to worry about a lump sum later, especially if I am making my own air arrangements.
- I want to be sure that I have most of the trip paid off before I have to order my air package and rental car, if I am going to use one.
- Also, if you have meal preferences, special dietary needs, will need a wheelchair, oxygen, or medications while traveling, talk to your travel agent now so that they can make the appropriate arrangements for you. Your travel agent will have you complete a form similar to this one.
- Get your walking shoes and backpack. Later in this blog I talk about using a backpack rather than dragging a suitcase as your carry-on. We will also talk about carry-on essentials later. It is a good idea to get it now and get used to it. Also, to do that, you should start walking so that you will be in shape for all the walking you will do on those exciting excursions. So, get that new pair of walking shoes now so that they will be broken in before you start the trip. You don’t want a bunch of nasty blisters on your trip. You will even want to start wearing your backpack on those walks to get used to it, and break it in, as well. Fill it with a couple of water bottles for a little weight, or just walk to the market with an empty backpack, pick up a few items, like a bag of apples, and walk back home. Great exercise and you will have saved the cost of gas. You will even have an apple to munch on as you walk back home.
3 months before your trip
- Just in case I did not mention it earlier, if your camera uses specialized batteries, you may want to order a couple of extras. Hopefully you and your partner use camera with the same batteries and lenses so that you can share if needed. Modern cameras can burn through batteries if you are shooting video as well as stills.
- International Driving Permit. If you plan to drive and need an international driving permit in addition to your home driver’s license. They are generally only good for 1 year. You can get it through AAA. You can type in the boxes on the form then print it out and mail it to AAA or take it to your local AAA office. Read the document carefully and it will explain what you need, such as photos, etc… Again I will say, go to our website links, and click on the International Travel link and to see if there are any special requirements for the country in which you will be driving. If you are planning a European vacation you really want to make the best of the expensive air fare so you should probably plan to spend more than just a week there. A great plan is to schedule a Mediterranean Cruise or a River Cruise as the core of your European vacation. That way, you can plan for a few days before a cruise and then a few days after a cruise to see part of Europe by car, or better yet, by train.
- If you have not already done so, make the final payment on your vacation, if it were able to set it up on a payment plan. If you have a cruise as part of your exotic foreign vacation, you will need to make the final payment for your cruise. Due dates vary by cruise lines and certain itineraries, but your travel agent should remind you when the payment date draws near. Failure to submit the balance due on time can result in the cancellation of your reservation. Wouldn’t that be a bummer, after you went to all the trouble to get your passport.
- Look over your Packing Lists and print out a list for each person for whom you will be packing. Check out our tips page for more info. You can also check out some earlier blog posts for great packing lists. There is a list for men, and women, and travel essentials.
- Start planning your wardrobe now. Try things on to ensure they fit and are in good repair (it’s amazing that they fit the last time you wore them). Set things aside in your closet. In fact, if you have an extra bedroom, start putting your travel clothes in there, so you won’t accidentally pull them from your travel wardrobe. Please understand that I am a guy, although my wife does edit these posts, and I may miss out on some issues that are important to women but not to us guys, so, please don’t hesitate to make a comment below if you notice that I have missed something important.
- If you are a woman and need to shop, get started so you have time to find just the right thing (and perhaps to return or exchange just the right thing). I don’t think us guys really know anything about just the right thing. You may also need to allow time for alterations. Start early—last minute shopping for just the right thing can be hazardous to your nerves and your pocketbook. (This is an example of what I noted above. I have no idea about just the right thing, but my wife insisted that it was really important. Hey, shorts and a nice guayabera and some sandles and I’m set for Cabo.)
- If you have pets, it is time to make kennel reservations. (If you are traveling during a holiday period, you may need to do this even earlier.)
- If you are going to have a house sitter, make your arrangements now.
- If you purchased your vacation package through your travel agent, call for the details of your airline schedule. Request seat assignments and any special airline meals. Ask your travel agent to sign you up for email or text notifications of any flight changes.
- If you did not purchase an vacation package from your travel agent and are going to purchase your own air travel, you should be on Kayak.com checking out the airfares and or car rental info. If you don’t know it already, domestic air service (non-international air service) does not support the travel agent industry if you buy just airline tickets by themselves, so most agents will recommend you buy the complete package, so that they can get you a discount, or having you do your own air or car rental. If you are traveling overseas, buy the complete package, including the excursions. Also, you need to pre-purchase your Euro-rail pass from home to get the best rates.
If you are vacationing, but your kids are staying with a trusted family member: (I don’t know about you, but we never had one of those around, so we waited until the kids were older, or we took them along with us.)
- Make childcare arrangements.
- Go over children’s schedules to ensure they’ll have everything they need while you are gone (a gift for Jimmie’s birthday party, supplies for school project, a permission slip for the field trip). You may need to check in with the children’s teachers to get field trip permission slips ahead of time.
- Ensure the person who is taking care of your kids has been signed up at the school and the after-school program and with your daycare provider, so that they can legally pick up your kids. You have to authorize it with your provider beforehand. It is a good idea to take the person in and introduce him/her to your after-school provider.
- If you have small children, you may want to put together a small bag of treats for them to open each day while you’re gone—tape yourself reading a favorite bedtime story or singing a lullaby (as long as it’s you, it will sound fantastic to them).
1 month before your trip
- If your children are going with you, start laying out their clothes now. I did not suggest it earlier because they grow so much when they are little; the ones you would have laid out 3 months ago might not fit them now.
- Make appointments for any personal services you wish to have prior to your cruise. For example, a haircut, manicure, pedicure, spray tan, etc.
- Get out your luggage, and check the locks and zippers. Check for anything that might have spilled inside on a previous trip. (Yes, you should have done that before you put everything away, but just in case you didn’t, do it now.)
- If you need new luggage or want an extra piece to bring home your souvenirs, do it now. I sometimes pack the smaller suitcase full, then pack it inside the larger suitcase with clothes around it, so that I can take it out and fill it with souvenirs or new clothes on the trip home. You might even plan on packing a lightweight backpack in your suitcase to haul the souvenirs home. One of the other things I have done is to pack my old undershirts/t-shirts, and tossed them out after using them so that I had room for gifts to bring home. Hey, I was going to toss them or use them as rags anyway, so what the heck.
- If you did not book those excursions when you booked the trip and did not add them 2 months ago when I discussed it again, do it now. Go back and read the 3 months before your trip and you will remember why.
2 to 4 weeks before your trip
- If you have planned a River Cruise or a Med Cruise in the middle of your European Vacation, pick up your cruise documents from the travel agent (or receive them by mail or emailed e-documents). If you have not already done so, you should order any excursions you take during your port visits. Talk with your travel agent about these excursions. Examine the documents for accuracy (correct cabin number, sailing date, and dining arrangements) and make sure that names are spelled correctly. If there is something you don’t understand, ask your travel agent or the cruise line now. Read all the literature in your document package for suggestions specific to your cruise. Most cruise lines include helpful information.
- Go over your personalized packing list again. Finish shopping.
- Do you remember earlier, about a year ago, I suggested that you check out our links page, click that down arrow I pointed out and click on the Travel Abroad, Travel Warnings and the Travel Health links before you go any further. Well, this is a good time to do it again.
- If you will need ground transportation from the air port to the resort, make arrangements now. You can check with your travel agent or go to TripAdvisor.com and look for some options. You may find out that doing it ahead of time will save you a lot of trouble and money.
- I like to order a little cash for the countries that I am visiting so that I am ready for a taxi, Uber, Lyft or train. I even carry a few dollars because they are accepted most places. In fact, at some locations, that is all they accept. If you are going from Kenya to Tanzania, you have to have about $100 in newer clean crisp 20 dollar bills to pay for your visa. They don’t accept credit cards or old worn out money. Forget the traveller’s checks, no one uses them anymore. Get a supply of one-dollar bills for tipping baggage handlers (at the airport, hotel, pier, etc.). Keep in mind that you can use your ATM card to get cash at most banks abroad. Make sure to check with your bank before you leave.
1 week before your trip
- Finalize your packing list, and continue organizing everything in that guest bedroom.
- Buy extra media cards and check the batteries in your camera if it uses AAA or AA batteries. Since you don’t want to carry a lot of extra weight, leave the rechargeable batteries at home because you would have to carry the charger too. Plan on using disposable batteries during the trip. If your camera does not use these types of batteries, I hope you ordered a couple of extras earlier so that you can shoot pictures all day.
- If you take medications, make sure to refill prescriptions so that you don’t run out during the trip. Bring along a copy of the prescription, if this is critical medication and put medication in your carry-on bag. It is not a good idea to take the medications out of their prescription bottles and dump them together to save space. If you are taking prescription drugs for pain, such as morphine sulfate, you might want to check with the to see if there are any special travel restrictions for carrying these types of medications. Also, check with your doctor about these since they usually only issue a 30 day supply. Your doctor will be able to adjust your prescription for travel to cover you until your get home.
- Make two photocopies of your passport or ID and credit cards. Leave one copy with a friend and carry the other separately from the originals.
- If you are visiting Ports of Call other than in the Caribbean, you might want to exchange some money ahead of time. (I will be writing a blog about exchanging dollars later.)
- You may also want to put valuables and jewelry that you won’t be taking with you on the trip in your home safe or in the safety deposit box while you’re at your bank. (You may want to put some of the contents of your wallet, like your extra credit cards, in the safety deposit box as well.) In fact, I don’t carry a wallet while I am travelling. I put a credit card and a credit card in my pocket while I am out and about.
- Did you contact your bank to let them know that you will be using your credit cards and ATM cards overseas? If not, do it now.
- Arrange to have your mail held at the post office, or ask a neighbor to pick it up.
- Stop newspaper delivery, or ask a neighbor to bring it in for you.
- Arrange for lawn and houseplant care, pool maintenance, or snow removal, during your absence (if necessary).
- Leave your itinerary and a house key with a relative or friend. If you are cruising, leave the ship’s telephone number (plus the name of your ship and your stateroom number) as well.
- If traveling with small children, purchase little games or toys to keep them occupied while en route to your embarkation port.
3 days before your trip
- Confirm your airline flights; departure times are sometimes subject to change.
- Put a card with your name, address, and itinerary inside each suitcase.
- Fill out your luggage tags, and follow the instructions in your cruise documents regarding attaching them if you are going on a cruise.
- If you taking a cruise and took our advise and are flying into the port city the day before, always a good idea, don’t put on the cruise luggage tags until you are at the hotel the night before your cruise. Complete any other paperwork that the cruise line included with your documents (foreign customs & immigration forms, etc). Do NOT wait until you are standing in the pier check-in line to fill them in! You can now buy very nice luggage tags that allow you to slip the cruise baggage tags into them. Much better than trying to stable paper tags onto your bags.
- Do last minute laundry and tidy up the house.
- Pull out the luggage and begin packing.
- When you lay out your clothes prior to packing, don’t pack all of your stuff in your bags and all of your partner’s stuff in their bag. If two of you are traveling and you are taking two bags apiece, in addition to your personal carry-on, then divide your stuff into four equal piles and put one quarter of it into each bag. Your partner does the same. That way, if a suitcase is lost by the airlines, each of you will have clothes to wear.
- Finally, when you pack your carry-on bag, make sure to follow our carry-on checklist because it will suggest that you pack your swimsuit, etc… in your carry-on along with your personal stuff, like your medications and a book to read on the airplane, because your luggage may be awhile before you get access to your cabin or your condo. And remember, this is vacation.
- While we are talking about your carry-on bag, I highly suggest that it is a backpack-style bag rather than a suitcase style bag. When you get on the airplane, you don’t want to be carrying or dragging a small suitcase with you. A backpack is so much easier, and you will love the freedom it gives you. If you don’t have one, look for the narrow ones so that you are not banging the seats as you walk down the isle.
The day before departure
- Take pets to the kennel.
- Water houseplants and lawn (if necessary).
- Dispose of any perishable food in the refrigerator.
- Mail any last minute bills.
- Set timers for indoor lights.
- If you didn’t already to it, clean out your wallet/purse. Remove anything you won’t need (check cashing cards, department store, or gas credit cards, etc), and put them in your home safe, or in your safe deposit box at the bank.
- Finish packing and lock your suitcases. If you are flying, make sure the locks are approved by the TSA.
- Adjust the thermostat and double-check the door locks.
- Turn off the water if there is danger of frozen pipes while you are away.
- Unplug the iron.
- If you didn’t already, read my “Leaving Home Checklist” to ensure you didn’t forget to do something before you leave.
- Arrange to be at the airport a minimum of two hours before your departure time. (Or earlier for international flights—follow the airline’s instructions.)
- Have photo ID and/or passport ready for check-in.
- Slip your car keys, parking claim checks, and airline tickets into your (backpack) carry-on luggage. Never check these items.
You’ve arrived! RELAX! Now is a great time to get the beverage of your choice, find a place on deck or patio where you can enjoy the view, and say goodbye to the rush!
Turning Dreams into Memories,
One Vacation at a Time.
As you might guess, this document is a compilation of information from our travels as well as from other travelers. I hope it has been of value to you. Check out the important links below.
- Packing Checklist
- Parent Authorization Letter For Unaccompanied Minors
- Medical Treatment Authorization Letter
- Travel With Minors – Permission Letter
Don’t hesitate to email us when you return from your trip with any suggestions that will make this document better for you and your fellow travelers!
You may also want to visit our Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/TeamEdwardsTravel