Yesterday I posted the process I followed for planning a trip several months in advance. But before any major trip, there are always last minute details to take care of in the weeks leading up to a vacation. Since today marks 1 week until we leave for Europe, this post comes at a good time to make sure we’ve covered all our bases!
Several weeks in advance
3 weeks: Review Bookings and Plans
Now is the time to do one last check to make sure you’ve booked all of the major components. After reviewing my emails and my trip planning spreadsheet, I realized I had never booked lodgings for our last couple nights in Germany. We are flying into Dortmund from Poland, and fly out of Dusseldorf a few days later. Those two cities form a small triangle with Cologne, which was highly recommended by anyone I talked to. So I booked one night in Cologne via Airbnb, and I booked a hotel in Dusseldorf for our last night in Europe.
2 weeks: Finances and Communication
At two weeks out, it was time to start getting our finances in order. I made sure all upcoming bills were scheduled to be paid automatically, we spoke with our banks to let them know we were leaving the country and would need to access our debit cards while in Europe. I also called my credit card company (Chase) to let them know I was leaving the country, and to confirm that the cards I planned to take had no foreign transaction fees.
It was also time to confirm that we had our communication plan in order. After doing research into the cost of international plans, we determined that it made the most sense for my mom NOT to pay for an international phone plan for her iPhone. While prices are steep without the plan, we’ll use the Skype Wifi app for most of our calls back to the States. Since everywhere we are staying offers free wifi, the phones will be used primarily for emergencies or in case we get separated and my mom gets lost.
In conjunction with our communication plan, I also created a packet of emergency contact information for our loved ones here at home (who will be our emergency contacts). I created one detailed spreadsheet with the dates and times of flights, addresses and contact information for lodgings, the confirmation numbers, and the contact phone numbers for the booking companies. I shared this with my dad, my brother, and my husband – all of them have digital access in case of emergencies.
I also learned the interesting fact that you can check into flights in Europe MUCH earlier than you can in the United States. The check-in window is something like three weeks, instead of 24 hours. So far, I’ve checked into 2 of the 3 flights within Europe (one is just over the three week threshold right now), despite the fact that I can’t even check into my trans-Atlantic flight! I included our boarding passes for those two flights in the packet of information.
1 week: Miscellaneous Errands and Packing
Now that we’re only a week away from our trip, it’s been hectic and crazy trying to wrap everything up before I leave.
– I went into the bank today to order Euros for our trip. It is cheaper to order them here (where I only pay the 3% conversion fee) then to take money out of ATMs abroad, where I’ll pay at least a 3% conversion fee plus any ATM or transaction fees.
– I’ve also made sure my projects at work are taken care of for the 2 1/2 weeks I’ll be away. I’ve been tying up loose ends all week and making sure everyone knows who to contact in my absence.
– I need to make sure my husband has decent food options while I’m gone – while he could and would subsist off of pizza and fast food for two weeks, I’d rather he have healthy options.
– One important thing that can be done one week or several months in advance is checking your footwear for comfort. I recently purchased some new shoes and sandals that I wanted to bring to Europe, and I wore them for a week straight (including 4 days walking around campus in Ithaca) to ensure I’d be able to comfortable walk in them for hours at a time. Luckily, they were comfortable enough – I started to get a little sore in one pair of shoes after 6+ hours of walking in rainy conditions, but after switching to the sandals, my feet were happy again.
< 1 week: Fun and Excitement!
– Last but not least (and perhaps the most fun) is packing! When I start to pack my bags, the pre-trip excitement really settles in. Until then, it seems so abstract, despite all of the planning that goes into it, but once I set aside clothes in my bag, gather up my passport, etc, the vacation seems real and imminent.
– I like to load books and music onto my phone now, for reading on the plane and train. Also great for tuning out distractions and loud noises.
– I’ve also emailed myself a copy of my driver’s license and passport. You never know when you’ll get pickpocketed, and having that copy accessible electronically (through Gmail, Dropbox, etc) means you’ll be able to print a copy to bring to the embassy.
With only one week to go, we can’t wait for our once-in-a-lifetime trip to begin!
What are the last minute items you make sure to do before you travel?