By Vicki Barnes
Headed on the vacation of a lifetime? These tips will help you rest easy while you’re gone.
If you’re traveling or not, the bills have to be paid, the mail has to be collected (or held at the post office), the plants have to be watered and the pets have to be fed and walked. These things can be arranged with a little planning now that will save you plenty of headaches later.
Depending on how long you’ll be gone, you should arrange for a friend or neighbor to check on your house, collect the mail and do those basic feeding and watering tasks. If you will be gone for an extended time, you should (like we do) arrange for a house sitter or even consider subleasing your house or apartment.
Often, you can find a friend who would be willing to take care of your house in exchange for a place to stay for a little while…college students or vacationing relatives are a good place to start.
You might also consider home exchanges. Sites like Home Exchange or Couch Surfing offer databases where you can find people who are willing to let people stay at their homes while they are out of town in exchange for the opportunity to have a home to stay in when they travel.
If you can arrange for automatic payments on your bills, this is probably the best way to make sure you don’t miss a payment. If this is not an option, try to pay as may bills as you can in advance or set up an account from which a trusted person can pay an unexpected bill for you.
On rare occasions, certain loan companies (student loans, for example) will allow you to defer payments for a short time.
Arrange for someone to take you to the airport and to pick you up when you return. Send a copy of your travel itinerary and contact information to a few family and friends and leave a photocopy of your passport with someone you trust. In addition scan a copy of your passport and other ID and email them to yourself. If you need to pull them up in a hurry, they’re right at your fingertips.
Before you go, arrange for some way to regularly stay in touch with people back home. Set up a specific time that you will call, FaceTime, Skype, etc. Make sure someone has an idea of where you are at all times.
Make sure you have enough of all of your prescriptions to last the full duration of your trip plus a few extra days. Do you want to be running to the pharmacy on the way home from your trip? Probably not.
Visit your doctor before you go to make sure you are in good health and up-to-date on all your immunizations. Getting sick is no fun when you’re far from home. If you take precautions, your chances of traveling illness-free are much better.
Also, go to the dentist to be sure everything in your mouth is in ship-shape.
CALL THE BANK AND CREDIT CARD COMPANIES
After you’ve told your friends and family when you’ll be gone and where you’ll be going, there are a few more calls to make with that information: the bank and the credit card companies. Why do they need to know? If someone starts spending money in another city or another country, you’d want your money watchers to let you know, right? Well, if they don’t know you’ll be traveling, they’re going to be alarmed when someone starts spending your money in Costa Rica. Let them know ahead of time that that someone is you.
And keep their numbers handy when you travel. If you lose your cards, you will want to contact them as soon as possible to make sure someone else isn’t able to have a good time with your money.
If you’re traveling abroad, make sure there are no international fees or other hidden costs that could multiply your expenses as you travel.
MAKE SURE YOU’RE READY FOR THE PLACES YOU’RE GOING
The US State Department has a good site that lists all the information you’ll need for the places you might be traveling abroad. In addition to basic information about the country, they list entry and exit requirements (including immunizations you might need), overall safety issues, health information, information about crime and even traffic and road conditions. These are important things to know before you go.
HAVE A PARTY
If you haven’t arranged for a house sitter, you are not going to want to leave perishable items in your fridge. If the power goes out and your refrigerator and freezer are stuffed with perishable items, you are going to come back to a real stinking mess.
Have a party right before you go. Make a big meal with everything in the fridge…and send everyone home with the leftovers. Leave a little money with a trusted friend and ask them to buy you some basic groceries right before you return.
TAKE A TEST TRIP
Pack your bag and go away from home. Just go to a friend’s house and unpack. Do you have everything you need? Are the things you need most immediately easy to access? Do you have your toothbrush, your medicine, your money.
RIGHT BEFORE YOU GO (if you don’t have a house sitter…)
- Make sure there are no wet clothes in the washer or dryer.
- Unplug your computer and your television.
- Water the plants
- Turn off the water at the source
- Put some baking soda in the toilets (so it smells less stale when you return)
- Set your lights on a timer
- Lock the door