We travel to relax and escape from the pressures of daily life, but the lead-up to a vacation is often the most stressful part. From securing the best flight deal to remembering to pack all the essentials, there are a million tiny details to remember, which only end up making us extra stressed for the big departure day. After all, there is nothing worse than getting to your destination and remembering you forgot to take out the trash or hold your mail.
In other words, having a solid pre-vacation checklist is a must. The less brain space you take up remembering these small menial tasks, the more you can focus on planning the trip of a lifetime. Don’t worry: We’ve taken the guesswork out of getting ready for a trip so you can enjoy the fun part. Keep scrolling to follow our ultimate vacation checklist to arrive at your destination free of stress.
A Few Months Before
Set travel alerts. Flight comparison websites like Skyscanner allow you to set travel alerts when flight prices increase or dip. Set a couple of alerts two months before your big trip to gauge costs and secure the best deal.
Keep an eye on the exchange rate. If you're reading overseas, even the slighted change in exchange rate could cost you big time. If you anticipate a big change in the exchange rate, consider buying a currency card. Loading money in advance will charge you the current exchange rate, so if the market takes a dive later, you won't suffer.
Clear your cookies. Lots of travel booking websites store your cookies and can change the deals on offer according to how many times you've searched their site. Be sure to clear your cookies or use in incognito window before you make the final ticket purchase.
Book your flight. There's a lot of conflicting information about when is the best time to book a flight, but the latest research suggests 47 days prior to departure is ideal for domestic travel. That's the time when airlines often post their second round of sale airfares. As for the best day of the week? According to Expedia, weekends are best, as corporate travelers book during the week. If you're heading overseas, secure your flights at least 160 days out to save up to 11%.
Reserve accommodation. If you're traveling in peak time or to a popular destination, save yourself the stress and book your hotel at the same time as flights. If it feels too early, don't worry. Use a third-party booking website that will allow you to cancel without a fee.
A Month Before
Get inspired. Now's the time to craft your must-sees. This is the fun part! Shop guide books, browse travel sites, scour forums, and treat yourself to chic travel coffee table books to ignite wanderlust and plan your trip.
Book big experiences. Identify the top events, restaurants, concerts, or experiences you want to do during your travels. Tourist hot spots like the Alhambra palace in Spain book out weeks in advance—reserve the activities at the top of your list now to avoid disappointment.
Shop destination-specific buys. Stock up on trip necessities like power adapters, screen protectors, or clothing for a new climate. Order them now to allow for delivery time.
A Week Before
Halt subscriptions. If you're taking a long trip, put magazine and digital subscriptions on hold.
Use a Hold Mail service. USPS offers a Hold Mail service that can be booked up to one month in advance. Let them know when you're planning to return, and mail will be kept at the post office for collection when you get home.
Prebook transfers. We put so much effort into booking the best flight but often forget about transport from the airport. Save on taxi costs by prebooking a shuttle or car rental service in advance.
Photograph documents. Take photos of your important documents (passport, driver's license etc.) and save them in a secure app, or email it to yourself for safekeeping if the originals go missing.
Notify the bank. Planning to use your card overseas? Let your bank know in advance to avoid having the account frozen.
Withdraw cash. Whether your destination widely accepts credit card or not, it's always a good idea to carry some cash. Airport money-exchange services often have a much higher rate, so withdraw local currency now to skirt the extra fees.
The Day Before
Make a packing pile. Don’t get stressed out by leaving your packing to the night before. The key is doing a pre-pack, which involves making a fast, unedited pile of clothing, toiletries, and accessories three days out. If you're an infamous last-minute packer, do a final edit the night before. Organize shoes by encasing them in a disposable shower cap.
Write a last-minute list. No matter how prepared you are, it's hard to avoid leaving something behind. Often it's the items we use each day that can't be packed in advance. Make a last-minute list to reference the day of your flight. Frequently forgotten items include a toothbrush, phone charger, and makeup remover. In a study, travelers voted bottle openers as one of the handiest items to pack; just make sure you leave it in your checked luggage.
Curate a playlist. Wi-Fi can be costly and hard to come by in some destinations, so make the most of your fast connection now. Download movies and podcasts for the flight, and create a vacation playlist now.
The Day Of
Clean out your fridge. Toss or give away any perishable items that could go off while you're away.
Add baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda in the toilet and sink drain to prevent the smell of stagnant water on return.
Create email filters. The point of a vacation is to relax and take time out from your usual schedule, so make the most of it by filtering emails. Gmail lets you customize filter settings so you'll only see important messages, not spam.
Turn your email auto-response on. Set your out-of-office message to let clients and colleagues know that you're gone. Keep it brief, and mention how often you'll monitor the inbox and the date you return to the office.
Change your sheets. You'll appreciate a fresh change of sheets and towels when you arrive home from vacation.
Finalize your carry-on luggage. Pack your final few items. A headphone splitter is a good idea if you want to share a movie on the plane, and you'll be grateful for remembering a power pack if your phone battery dwindles mid-flight.
Take a deep breath and go! Enjoy yourself. Here's to the start of a stress-free vacation.
Next up: All my travel outfits follow one simple rule.
This story was originally published on March 4, 2016, and has since been updated.