Grant and I often take last minute trips…like within 2 days last minute. While planning in a short period of time would normally be anxiety-inducing for most people, it actually gives me a little high. It’s a fun challenge to see what I can pull together to ensure we’re hitting all of the highlights. Even the traveler who purchases airfare months in advance can procrastinate until days before a trip to start preparing, and often the wanderlust types aren’t the best type A planners. So if simply thinking about this makes you feel stressed out, read on and learn some tips to help you feel prepared.
This first and vital step is also the most fun! I always start with Pinterest. Type in your destination and then click away to travel blogs and articles to figure out where to eat, stay, and play on your trip. Also don’t discount Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor. While these sites can be saturated with typical tourism content they also have some great insider tips.
I know it seems very 90’s, but dig out your dusty printer from under the bed and get to work. Printing a copy of your passport (or SENTRI pass) is one of those old adages “better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” If you lose your passport abroad or get pick-pocketed (I’m looking at you, Barcelona) it can be very stressful so take a few minutes to print out a copy. You can also simply take a picture of it on your phone but be sure to text a copy to a close family member or friend, because the traveler who loses their passport is likely to lose their phone too!
I also prefer to print my boarding pass at the airport. Doing it at home ahead of time really isn’t necessary as most airports have the kiosks, but it comes in handy over the mobile alternative. You don’t wan’t to be that person in line at security whose log-in screen isn’t bright enough that everyone hates, so at the very minimum screen shot it.
This is where the organization gets fun! Create a Google doc to write out all of the info you find about your destination. (restaurant recommendations, hotel links, etc.) I prefer Google docs to a word document as you can easily share it with others going on the trip so they can add, edit, and collaborate with you on the plans!
I also make a Google map with color-coded locations. This way when you’re planning your itinerary you can see how far hotels are from public transportation, proximity to good restaurants, etc. All of the features in Google drive are fabulous because you can view them from multiple devices or download them if you don’t have wifi gratis. Keeping a passport copy in Google drive or another form of “the cloud” is an added level of comfort as internet cafes can be found just about anywhere.
Download your airline’s app for any last minute flight changes or upgrade alerts, along with your Google docs and maps. Insider Tip: On Google maps you can even download directions and your route so you can navigate stress-free through dead zones. Also downloading a show or movie is nice for long flights, especially for budget airlines that don’t have screens. Netflix recently added a feature where you can download episodes to your device! Let the binge watching commence.
Call your bank and tell them you are going out of the country. This way they don’t block your account for unusual spending. Also look into which cards have an international transaction fee.
Once you figure out the highlights of your trip, you can chose where to stay. We typically book an Airbnb. If you can’t find anything there check out VRBO or Hostelworld. A good last minute option is Hotel Tonight.
Book a flight! Hopefully you’ve done this already if you are within days of leaving. If not, go to google flights to compare multiple airlines (except Southwest). Channel your inner Snowden and open the incognito browser on Google chrome so the airlines can’t raise their prices based on your cookies.
Book a rental car if necessary but keep in mind that in large cities with good public transportation, a rental car can be more nuisance than necessity. Booking in advance can sometimes save you money and always saves you time at the airport.
Make a packing list! I always end up forgetting something if I don’t make a list. Divide it into categories to make packing a breeze (shoes, pants, pjs, etc) Be sure to create a separate “morning of” list with things you use daily (toothpaste, glasses, phone charger, etc) so you can grab them on your way out the door.
If you have a small carry-on bag or backpack you only use for travel keep it stocked so it is ready to go for those impromptu rendezvous. Leftover hotel mini-shampoos, kleenex, a neck-pillow, chapstick, etc make for great contents for a grab and go bag.
The technology essentials are usually easy to remember (phone, camera, iPad, e-reader, phone charger, etc) but an added bonus is a USB port charger that fits in a cigarette lighter. Older rental cars don’t have USB ports and this can save your phone from draining your battery when you’re using GPS or listening to music.
Quickly refill any meds you don’t want to run out of abroad. (Pack extra contacts for those leaky snorkel masks!) And for your mental health, pack a sleeping mask and earplugs for those screaming babies who always happen to sit beside you on 6+ hour flights.
All of your nurse friends will tell you to get vaccinated. Research your destination and then decide if you think this is necessary.
Don’t stress about exchanging money ahead of time. Use your debit card to get the local currency out of an ATM there or you can always exchange at the airport when you land. This is sometimes more expensive but oftentimes more convenient.
Are you feeling motivated to travel yet? These quick planning tips and tricks are sure to make even the most neurotic traveler feel at ease.
Don’t forget your passport,
Inspired Recipe: DIY No-Bake Chewy Granola Bars by Bowl of Delicious
These granola bars are no-bake and so yummy. I especially love the seeds and nuts! Make a few to take on your long plane ride.