Getting ready to travel…

Magnetic Compass On A World MapMy husband and I love to travel. I’ve made it a goal to visit all 50 states in the US (38 and counting), and all seven continents (four so far).  We’ve seen a lot of the world, but there’s so much more to see. We haven’t been on a “big” trip in a while, because in recent years we sold our house, moved half way across the U.S., built a house, and moved again. Discretionary income was diverted to the house project. But we expect to take another big trip this fall, a European river cruise through Prague and Budapest.

Our trips tend to be at least two weeks long, and we’ve taken several three-week and even four-week trips. To be gone that long takes some planning beyond arranging the trip itself.

Here’s my pre-travel task list:

  • Arrange to pay bills. For a week long trip, nothing really needs to be done. But for a month? Bills have to paid. Now that I have electronic bill paying, I can schedule payments in advance. Before I had electronic bill paying, I used to double the previous month’s payment.
  • Pet care. For a week, I can leave our cat Hannah alone with a supersized litter box and food and water dispensers. Longer than a week, I have someone check on her every few days to scoop the poop and freshen her water. I used to have two cats specifically so one wouldn’t be lonely when we traveled, but Mikey died last year.
  • Clean the house. The house can easily get that ransacked look when we’re getting ready to leave, but I don’t like to come home to a messy house. So a couple of days before we leave, I clean, and we take care to keep the clutter corralled. When I’ve had a housekeeper that I felt comfortable to leave alone in house, that was the best! We’d leave the house in a whirlwind and come home to a clean one. It was like magic!
  • Do whatever laundry exists. There will be a huge mound when we return so I want to minimize what I can.
  • Mow the lawn. (Husband does this). If it’s summer and we’re gone a long time, we might arrange for a lawn service to mow it while we’re gone.
  • Plan for the first meal. When coming home from a trip, we’re tired and don’t feel like stopping at the store, so I’ll plan that first dinner at home in advance. In the weeks before a trip, I’ll usually cook a big pot of something and freeze some to have for that first meal. I also make sure that we have milk for my coffee and cereal the next morning. Milk (at least the 1% stuff) freezes well.
  • Grocery planning. I adjust my grocery shopping schedule so that we run out of food about the time we’re ready to leave. I also have a grocery list prepared for when I get back because after two to four weeks, I’ll never remember that we need eggs or potatoes or light bulbs.
  • Contact the bank and credit card companies. If we’re traveling out of the country, I notify our credit card companies and the bank so our credit/ATM cards aren’t frozen due to “unusual activity.”
  • Make a “to do” list for when we get home. I leave myself a reminder of things that will need to be done upon return (appointments, phone calls to make, upcoming events, etc),
  • Holding & rescheduling the mail and newspaper. If it’s a short trip (one week), I’ll have the mail delivered so that it’s there when we get home. If it’s been a long trip, I’ll often delay delivery by a day to give me a chance to get other stuff done before tackling the mail. I note on the calendar when I have the mail and newspaper are scheduled to resume, because I forget. Dealing with the mail is my least favorite task.
  • We put lights on a timer and arrange for neighbors to put out and bring in our trash can. If it’s winter, we set the thermostat low, but high enough to prevent pipes from freezing.

I think that’s it! What sorts of things do you do to plan for vacation?

As for the fun part, the actual traveling, today I’m talking a little bit about that on SJ Maylee’s blog—including the one trip that changed the way I think about travel. You can check out the interview here.


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16 Responses to Getting ready to travel…

  1. Rollin Hand says:

    You are so damn organized I hate it. My trip planning usually consists of a conversation on the way to the airport like this:
    Mrs Hand: “You did turn off the coffee maker, didn’t you?”
    Me: (thinking furiously) “I think so…no wait…I don’t know…”
    Mrs Hand: *sighs* “We’ll be lucky to have a house to come back to.”

  2. S.J. Maylee says:

    A cruise. I’ve never been on one. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it this fall.
    We are taking a vacation in a couple of weeks. So, this post is perfect timing. My to do list is in full swing and has almost everything you’ve listed. I do meal planning before, but not much for after. Although our freezer always has options. We have a timer on a lamp in our front room, but I’m going to add one to an upstairs lamp this time. Contacting the credit card company is a really good idea.
    Thanks, Cara! 🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Hope you have a wonderful time! Not everyone likes cruising, but we do, because we are lazy travelers. We buy travel guidebooks, but never read them. I put more planning into leaving, than I do in the vacation itself. When you do a cruise, the only thing to have to do on your own is get yourself to your departure airport–and then everything else is done for you.

  3. We don’t get t travel very often. But when we do, I like to bring my own filtered water and snacks, so I still feel in some semblance of control of my environment.

  4. That’s a great idea to plan your first meal for when you get back. I hate being tired from a trip and then feeling like I need to stop at the grocery on the way home.

  5. Laurel Lasky says:

    When we were younger we did a lot of traveling including a five week cross country many states and some countries like China, England, Scotland, Wales, Cyprus and so on. We lived in Israel for six years and travel to other countries was easier and less expensive.
    Do you take a computer or tablet with you? If you do is it for reading, email?
    We’ve done cruising but never a river cruise. That sounds great. I hope you have a wonderful time and write about it when you return.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I do take my laptop with me. If we’re gone for only a week or so, I just use it to check email and my blog. If we’re gone for a month on a cruise, I’ll write while I’m gone. There’s a lot of downtime on a ship. We’ve done two transatlantic cruises–6 consecutive days at sea. I don’t spend much time online when we’re on a cruise because the internet is very expensive to use. We’ve never done a river cruise either, this will be our first. The ships are much smaller, much more intimate. We did a stop in Dover, England on one of our cruises, but I would like to see much more of England–and visit Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.

  6. Laurel Lasky says:

    I just realized that you aren’t going anywhere until the fall. ☺️

  7. Holy moly, you are more organized than me! I am a total list person and many of these things sound familiar, but I picked up a couple new ideas in your post. The hubby and I leave one week from tonight for Miami to pick up our eastern Caribbean 8-day cruise that leaves next Saturday. I can’t wait. Planning on catching up on sleep, seeing some awesome sights, eating great food and finishing Traci’s story. 🙂 I’m jealous of your trip in the fall though. I haven’t been in that neck of the woods yet. Can’t wait to hear your stories when you get back.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      This is a great time to get away–leave the winter behind. The water in the Caribbean is amazing! Have you been before?

  8. Woah… I never think how much planning is involved when going away on vacation – but it’s pretty mega. That’s without packing, the hassles of getting to the airport, sorting out vaccinations, visas etc!!!

    I hope you have a fabulous time in Europe 🙂 Venice, Barcelona, Vienna, Paris and London are top of my list 🙂 Riga is also good fun…

    • Cara Bristol says:

      And the stuff people have to do at work to be able to leave is worse! Fortunately, writing at home is my only job, but I do have to navigate around book releases.

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