Vacations always seem to come at just the right time. Maybe you've been working long hours lately, or you've been balancing some issues at home. Perhaps you're celebrating a significant milestone, or you're starting an exciting new chapter of your life. It could even be true that the "right time" for a getaway appeared when you wanted it to—you simply desired a temporary change in scenery and acted on it. Whatever the reason for a trip may be, it always feels needed as soon as it's underway.
But the same can't be said about the days and weeks leading up to a vacation. In that frantic period, when deadlines routinely appear unannounced and mandatory events take place and hours seem to pass as quickly as seconds, it feels as though everything about your life is telling you not to leave. Don't give in to that panic. Because as soon as you feel the white sand between your toes, taste faraway flavors, or see storied sights, you'll be glad you left. You only have to prep for it first.
In order to try and make the lead-up to vacation as stress-free as possible, we provided a list of 30 things to do before a flight. These tips—which have been parceled out over the month, week, days, and hours leading up to the airport—can help you to do everything from booking a memorable activity to packing a thoughtful suitcase to even remembering to set your out-of-office email response prior to departure. With this checklist in hand, you'll have the clarity to tie up loose ends before your trip and truly enjoy it unfold. And that's all that matters.
A Month Before a Flight
Double-check passports and visas. While you should apply for passports and visas well in advance of a trip abroad—since those applications can take weeks to process—make sure to double-check the terms of your visa and the expiration date of your passport about a month or two before your trip (expedited passports can take up to three weeks to process and come with an added fee). If, gasp, there's something wrong, you have time to try and fix it.
Apply for a travel credit card. If you're looking to rack up rewards with a credit card during your travels, apply for the one that best suits your needs at this juncture. It takes about two weeks to receive a card, but it's always smart to leave a buffer, just in case.
Book your stay. If you haven't already made plans for where you're going to sleep at night, now is the time. Peruse the best Airbnbs in an area of your choice, look at hotels with rave reviews, or even see about the best places to set up a tent. Whatever your lodging choice may be, get that all squared away.
Get traveler's insurance. This might seem like an unnecessary luxury, but it's a good idea in case any plans change.
Make a reservation for any popular activities. Maybe you want to go to a buzzed-about restaurant in New York City, or perhaps you're itching to take the train to Machu Picchu. If a popular activity is on your list of things to do, give yourself time to make any reservations, if needed.
Schedule appointments for any immunizations or prescription refills. Don't wait until the last minute to get this done, especially if you need them to enter a country or to stay healthy while you're gone.
Consider travel programs like TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry. Although these security perks aren't mandatory for travel, they do make it possible to breeze through airport lines. It might take up to six weeks to secure these authorizations, so plan accordingly.
A Week Before a Flight
Reach out to loved ones in the area. If you're traveling somewhere where friends and family live, give them a heads up so that they can possibly spend time with you. Whether that means meeting you for drinks or dinner one night or taking the whole day off to show you around, this kind gesture gives them a chance to plan ahead.
Confirm vacation time with work. Your boss or clients are probably aware of your upcoming trip, but it doesn't hurt to give a reminder before your departure. Make sure you've wrapped up any projects ahead of your getaway and let them know the parameters of your work schedule while on vacation. For instance, maybe you want to be completely offline, or perhaps you're willing to check in on a certain day if something is really pressing.
Make two copies of your passport, immunization card, visa, and driver's license. Keep one pack of copies at home (where a loved one can get to it) and another pack separate from the originals as you travel.
Buy any necessary clothing. Let's say that you need a good pair of snow boots and a heavy jacket before your trip or a carry-on bag and travel-size toiletries. Give yourself enough time to shop for these items in person or for the items to arrive by mail.
Research daily things to do. Whether you like to travel with a strict schedule or you'd rather leave big chunks of time open to serendipity, it's a good idea to have a list of things in mind for what you'd like to do. It can be visiting a certain market, seeing a famous monument, or wandering through a museum. By having this list and saving it to your Google Maps, you'll have a general plan for how to make the most of your trip.
Finalize arrangements for your pet. If you have a pet that's not joining you, figure out their care before you go. Whether that's staying with a loved one or at a kennel, you'll have time to make the schedule, and prepare for the stay, so that it's as enjoyable for your pet as possible.
Look into data plans. If you're interested in getting a data plan for your trip, especially if you're going abroad, pick a rate that works best for your budget.
A Few Days Before a Flight
Confirm hotel or homestay reservations. Reach out to your homestay host or hotel and ensure that your reservation is set and ready to go. Also, ask when check-in is so that you can plan ahead.
Research public transportation. When you're visiting a new place, jet-lagged, or just plain tired, figuring out how to get from the airport to your lodgings can be tough. Spend a few days before your flight researching your destination's public transportation. What's the route from the airport? How much does it cost? Is there a different night schedule? You can also check to see if there are ride-sharing services in the area, and if so, what the difference in cost may be.
Start packing. Now is the time to put out all of the clothes, shoes, accessories, and cosmetics you think you'll need for your trip. Spend some time doing some edits—no, you probably don't need two similar shirts—and spot anything else you might need. Toothpaste and cotton balls might be examples.
Let your banks know you'll be on vacation. Instead of potentially risking a hold on your accounts, take a few minutes to notify your banks online of your travel plans.
Make a plan for your mail. Maybe a friend can come to pick it up or a neighbor can collect it.
Eat perishable food in your fridge. Nothing feels more wasteful than spending money on a bag of salad that goes bad while you're away (even if that happens when you're at home, too). Use the days leading up to your trip to eat anything that would otherwise spoil.
But leave something to eat upon your return. An empty fridge can sure kill a vacation high. That's why you should do your future self a solid and have something waiting that's either easy to make or heat up—think pasta or frozen pizza.
The Day Before a Flight
Finish packing. At this point, you should know what you're going to wear during your trip. Fold all the clothes up, pack the cosmetics away, and gather all the tech gadgets you need.
Set your OOO email reply. Feels good, doesn't it?
Put together food for the plane. You can save yourself lots of money if you pack an easy meal or a few snacks for a mid-flight feast. This is also a good idea if you have any dietary restrictions or you're looking to eat healthy, too.
Place all necessary paperwork in your carry on. It's easy to get frazzled right before leaving for the airport. Place your passport, ID, plane ticket, hotel reservations, copies, and any other necessary items—like the address of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate—in your carry-on bag the night before your departure date.
Hours Before a Flight
Turn off the water in your home, if possible, and set timers for your lights. All it takes is one phone call about a busted pipe to ruin a vacation. And light timers give peace of mind, too.
Do some stretches. Airport seats are cramped, and it's easy to contort into them for hours on end when on-demand entertainment is an option. By stretching ahead of your flight, you'll keep cramps at bay.
Shower. This may seem like too much, but if you have the time to do it, make it happen. A delayed or canceled flight can push your hotel arrival time back further than you expected, so this way you can still feel as clean as possible.
Eat something substantial. Whether you're saving the last of your leftovers for a final big meal before your flight, or you cook something fast to eat, this option allows you to save money at the airport and keep a clear head as you move through security.
Drink lots of water. Taking to the skies is a cool but dehydrating experience, so don't forget to chug water ahead of the airport. If anything, this will balance out the distinct luxury of enjoying a glass of wine mid-flight.