When you start planning a long trip, there are so many moving parts that you’re sure you’ll be on the plane when you realize you’ve forgotten some crucial detail. Taking some time to get organized from the start is especially essential for long-term travel and travel that will take you off the beaten path. Start with these four travel tips and you’ll be well on your way to a fun and smooth adventure.
1. Lock in The Big Travel Details
Once your travel dates and destinations are final, book your essential transportation and lodging. If you want to leave some room for flexibility on your trip, that’s great, but get the necessary bookings locked in. For example, you wouldn’t need to plan every stop on a camping road trip, but you would want to book the rental car and get reservations for campgrounds in busy national parks like Yosemite or Acadia that fill up well in advance. The transportation and lodging details are the framework of your trip, and you’ll have a better idea of what the trip might look like (and how much it will cost) once these parts are in place. Keep track of all the details with a travel planning app like Google Trips or TripIt (or just a good old-fashioned spreadsheet).
2. Do Your Research
There is something to be said about leaving some space for spontaneity while traveling, but there is a difference between keeping yourself open to possibilities and embarking on a trip unprepared. If you take the time to research your destination — from the food to must-see landmarks to tourist traps to avoid — you’ll be better prepared to take advantage of what’s out there. For example, if you have dietary restrictions or just want to make sure you are able to find a healthy meal, it’s useful to have the names of a few great restaurants or markets before you go. Doing a little research on the regional cuisine will ensure you don’t miss something unique and delicious, and it will also help you avoid foods not in your diet. Websites like Eat Your World and BBC Cuisine will help get your started on your food research.
3. Take Care of Things at Home
The last thing you want to have to think about while you’re away is whether you’ve paid your electric bill or how your favorite orchid is faring, so have a plan in place to make sure everything is taken care of at home. Make a list of everything that will come due while you’re away and either pre-pay all bills or set up automatic payments. Enlist a friend or neighbor to help or hire a house sitter if you have pets or plants that need to be taken care of. Put a hold on your mail through the post office website.
4. Pack the Essentials
Packing is exciting because you know your trip is around the corner, and it’s also when you need to pay special attention to detail. Your particular trip will determine what you’ll need to pack, but there are a few universal travel essentials. Check out the comprehensive packing lists at Real Simple and Eagle Creek. In addition to clothing, here are a few things you absolutely must bring:
- Smartphone. A good smartphone is a traveler’s best tool; it can serve as a phone, map, camera, document holder, and so much more. Choose a phone like the iPhone 7 Plus that is splash, water and dust resistant so you can still get great pictures or make important calls no matter what adventures come your way.
- Medications. Not only should you bring enough of any medications to last the whole trip, but visit your doctor before you leave to get a copy of your prescriptions just in case (this includes your glasses prescription).
- Daypack. Bring a good quality smaller bag to take on shorter excursions. Choose a backpack like the eBags Weekender that is versatile enough to bring on outdoor adventures but won’t be out of place on a city tour.
- Plastic Bags. Before you go, throw a few Ziploc bags of various sizes in the bottom of your carry on. Whether it’s to pack a quick lunch, store shampoo, separate dirty clothes, or keep your phone dry while you’re on a rafting trip, they always come in handy.
Don’t let the stress of planning a long trip keep you at home. Taking some time to get organized at the beginning will help you avoid missing any important details and get you out the door for your next adventure.