The thrill of going on vacation has everything to do with the anticipation of new surroundings, different cultures and great memories, and almost nothing to do with the actual preparation. However, since we can’t pack light and blow all of our savings on a spontaneous trip across the world (not yet anyway), there needs to be some room for practicality—I know, I know, not first on your list of vacation excitement, but it will make for a much better trip!
So, before you set off to sandy beaches, historic cities, aging ruins and bustling metropolises, there are just a few Ps to remember.
Whenever possible, pack light. Pack as though you will be living a nomadic lifestyle for the rest of your life, even if you won’t. There is nothing worse than lugging an overstuffed suitcase through Grecian streets and over Roman cobblestones, knowing that you don’t need half of what’s in there. Besides a major hernia, you risk having to resort to stuffing your souvenirs in the pockets of your jeans. Before throwing in that fifth pair of shoes, “just in case,” make sure your essentials are there and make a list—one that includes a camera, toiletries, pajamas and undergarments, as well as an adapter, if necessary.
Flying regulations change all the time. From what is allowed in your carry-on, to the necessary security measures, look into the rules and regulations before you head off to the airport. Some things to keep in mind when you prepare to travel are as follows:
- Do not, under any circumstance, try to get it all done right before you leave. Be prepared in case your alarm doesn’t go off, your ride is late, etc.
- Always aim to be early. Airports usually recommend being there two hours in advance.
- Confirm with your airline that flights are on time.
- If your journey takes you from airport to airport before your final destination, prepare your carry-on with an extra set of clothing and currency for each country.
- Keep your money on you at all times. Don’t tuck it away in a sock, or slip it into an envelope deep in the back of your suitcase—keep money,
passports and other important documents on hand wherever you go.
Visas, passports, citizenship papers, green cards…the documents are endless. The most frustrating part can be figuring out what you need and what the difference is. Making sure everything is up to date is important if you want to avoid an awkward conversation at the check-in counter. Also be sure to leave information about your traveler’s insurance, flight times, itineraries and hotel numbers for everyone back home.
For a great checklist, visit Snowbirds.org
Prepare for trips in developing and tropical regions by researching the risks and arming yourself with the necessary vaccinations. Some of the most common include:
- Malaria: caused by female anopholine mosquito bites.
- Hepatitis A: most common in developing countries (particularly in Africa, South America and Asia) and contracted through poor hygiene and contaminated drinking water.
- Traveler’s diarrhea: contracted through contaminated food and water, the culprit usually being E coli. It is estimated that 50 of travelers to developing countries will suffer from traveler’s diarrhea.
- Jet lag: caused by long-distance flying east or west where time zones begin to mess with our normal sleeping patterns. There is no vaccination for jet lag, but there are some things you can do to minimize the effects:
– sleep long and well the night before departure
– move around as much as possible while waiting in airports or while in the aircraft
– sleep during longer sections of flights
– avoid caffeine and alcohol before and during flights
Just one more thing…
(okay, not a P—just go with me on this one)
Going continental may not be the greatest culture shock, but if you’re jetting off to an entirely different continent and culture, take the time to research. Learn about the customs (for example, cathedrals in Italy will not admit you if you’re wearing shorts or you have bare shoulders), Figure out if you’ll be at your destination during any important holidays and research foods you may want to try.