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Trip Checklist

Pauline Kenny and Lisa Byrne

This is my personal list of things to do before I leave for a trip. You may think some of these items denote a neurotic traveler - but I like to call it "cautious". :) Lisa Byrne from www.italyperfect.com has added her extra recommendations to this page.

Prepare Your Documents

  • Make sure your passport is valid for 6 months past your return date (many countries require this).
  • Make two photocopies of all your credit cards and your driving license and passport. Keep a copy at home. Take a copy with you and carry separate from the originals.
  • If you will be driving in Italy, get your IDP (International Driving Permit). I am not sure how necessary this is in other European countries, but in Italy it is required by law. Check with your Automobile Association for more information.
  • Get all your booking documents organized for the trip. I make a file folder with all my documents for each booking and keep them in the order we will be needing them.
  • Print out the information from your country on what to do if your passport is lost or stolen:
    - US State Department (Lost and Stolen U.S. Passports Abroad)
    - UK Passport Service (Lost & Stolen Passports)
    - Passport Canada (Lost or stolen passports and travel documents)
    - Australian Government - Passports (Lost or stolen passport)
  • Check with your country's Transportation Authority to read the regulations for carryon items. Many of these changed on August 10, 2006.
    - United States - www.tsa.gov: Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
    - United Kingdom - www.dft.gov.uk: Department for Transport, airline security
    - Canada - www.catsa-acsta.gc.ca: Canadian Air Transport
    - Australia - www.smartraveller.gov.au: Australian Government Travel Advisory

Make a Very Detailed Itinerary

  • I write a complete itinerary with all the addresses, directions and contact numbers that I will need for every place I am going. I even include contact information for people I am planning to meet on the trip. This way you will always have all the important information you need in one place. Be sure to carry this with you at all times (do not put in checked luggage, see Lisa's point below).
  • Give a copy of the itinerary to each person traveling with you and leave an abbreviated copy for the person who will be looking after things for you at home.
  • Go to www.viamichelin.com or another trip planning website and print out driving directions for all your main drives for the trip. Do this as backup even if you have a GPS. Always have good driving maps with you.

>> Read Lisa's More Recommendations for Your Trip Itinerary (below) for extra tips.

Make Sure Your Money Works!

You do not need travelers checks. We stopped using travelers checks a few years ago and now rely on ATM cards for cash on our trips.

  • Contact the bank that issued your ATM cards and tell them you will be traveling.
  • Be sure your ATM cards will work in Europe. Check with your bank to see if the ATM card and PIN will work in Europe. (In the past people found than ATMs in Europe could only be used with a 4 digit PIN that does not start with zero, but according to people on the message board, this has changed.)
  • Use each ATM card once before you leave to be sure they are working and you have your PIN. We always travel with ATM cards on three separate accounts (but two would probably do). ATM machine keyboards in Europe do not have letters as well as numbers, so if you use a alphabetic version of your PIN, be sure you know the number version too.
  • Contact your credit card companies to tell them you will be traveling.
  • Order foreign currency from your bank so you don't arrive with no cash. We always do this, just in case we can't find an ATM immediately. If we have to pay in cash for your first vacation rental (damage deposit or final payment), we get that cash while in the US and bring it with us, so we know we will have it.
  • We also travel with about $500 of US currency (in $100 bills) as emergency money.

>> Read more: Converting Money - Saving Money with Dollars & Euro

Before You Leave - Reconfirm Everything!

A couple of weeks before you leave, reconfirm all your travel arrangements. Usually these were made months before the trip, so it is comforting to have an email from each place reconfirming your reservation.

  • Call the airline to make sure your flights have not changed, to verify your seating and request any special meals.
  • Email, phone or fax all your hotels and vacation rentals to confirm your dates. Remember that some businesses do not check their email every day. If you do not get a reply in two business days, phone or fax them.
  • Check your car rental agency to see if they are offering prices that are lower now than when you booked (AutoEurope will reissue your booking if the price is lower).

More Recommendations for Your Trip Itinerary

Lisa Byrne of www.italyperfect.com, a vacation rental agency for Italy, sends along these tips.

We recommend the following pointers, in addition to Pauline's checklist above, to help you ensure smooth travels. While some of the recommendations may seem obvious, when traveling to a foreign country, struggling with time zone, language, currency, and cultural differences, it's not surprising that sometimes the simplest travel plans can go awry. Here are some tips that we've documented as the result of actual, unfortunate, occurrences that have happened to some of our guests. While these mishaps make for colorful anecdotes after your vacation, at the time they happen, they aren't too amusing!

  • Make sure you have the address of the property and who to call upon arrival in your carry-on bag.
    If this vital information is packed in your checked baggage, and your suitcase is lost or delayed, you will not have the information you need to find your way to the apartment or how to call the person who will meet you. In a Catch-22 type scenario, to file a claim for the lost bag, the airline will need your local address and phone number in order to notify you when the suitcase is located and ready to be delivered. If the address and phone number of your vacation apartment is in your checked bag, this further complicates the situation since they have no way to contact you.
  • While this has been addressed before, we like to reiterate the importance of ensuring that everyone in your party has a copy of the information that indicates where you are staying and who to call upon arrival.
    Sometimes people are traveling on different flights, with a plan of meeting up at the airport at their destination city. Good intentions of airport rendezvous don't always work out if flights are delayed. We have had guests arrive, expecting to meet the rest of their party at the airport. The people with the apartment information were stuck elsewhere in Europe for an extra day due to an airline strike. You can imagine the stress these travelers underwent during this delay.
  • Once you are situated in your vacation property, note the address and phone number of the owner or local contact and carry it in your pocket or purse at all times.
    This seems like such an obvious thing, but it's easy to overlook in the excitement of arriving and getting settled in. We've had guests tell us of those "uh oh" moments, when they hopped in a taxi to go back to the apartment after a full day of sightseeing and realized they didn't remember the address of where they were staying. Or the panic of getting separated. The most serious incident was when guests lost their three children ... don't laugh! The kids had no money, no phone number to call, and no address. Thanks to their level-headed teen who navigated his way back on foot with two younger siblings in tow and wandered the neighborhood until he recognized the apartment building. I know if you're a parent with three kids, you are probably thinking that there have been vacation moments when you would have happily lost your whining kids. This incident was a scary reminder to ensure that everyone knows where you are staying. This is particularly important when traveling with teens that would like some independence. Make sure they have the street address, phone number and some money for a taxi and a phone call. Also, when sightseeing, set up a meeting point at a well-known monument in case you are separated. Be very specific so that all of you aren't wandering amongst throngs of people in a huge, crowded piazza or in a vast museum.
  • Before you leave home, email yourself and all of your travel companions a copy of your vital information such as rental property address, whom to call, where to meet. Make sure this email is kept on your email server (don't download it to your computer). One of our guests found herself locked out of her apartment, so she went to a nearby Internet point, retrieved the electronic copy of her apartment information from her email and made the call to be let back in.

Fortunately, none of these problems proved to be disastrous. These travelers came away wiser, but perhaps with a few more grey hairs.

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