Ahhhhh vacation. Relaxing on the beach with your toes in the sand and a waiter asking which kind of fruity cocktail you’d like a tiny umbrella stuck in. Or something like that. Maybe it’s zooming down a ski slope avoiding trees and bears. Or hiking through the mud to reach a perfect camping spot under the stars. But before you get to whatever your vacation bliss point is, there’s a frenzy of activity to prepare for your trip. When you’re leaving on vacation you have a million things to think about. So here’s a checklist of things to do before you leave on vacation to make sure things go smoothly.

Things to do Before You Leave on Vacation

Place a Mail Hold with the Post Office

An overflowing mailbox is a sure sign that folks are out of town. The U.S. Post Office has an excellent option for you that you can set up online in just a few seconds. Go to usps.org to place a mail hold with the post office, and they will hold your mail at your local post office and then deliver it all on the date you choose.

Call Your Credit Card Company 

Many credit card companies will block your card if it is being used in an unexpected place. Call your credit card company (and your bank, if you’re planning to use a debit card) to let them know where you’ll be traveling so you’re not stuck without access to your cards. Believe me, it is a pain to get a replacement card sent overseas! Check out this post for more information on banking and saving money while traveling.

Call Your Cell Phone Company

Do you understand how roaming data works? Neither do I. So I make sure to call my cell phone company before every trip to make absolutely sure that I can use my phone in the country I’ll be visiting. I use T-Mobile, with a plan that allows me free data and texts just about everywhere in the world, but with most cell phone companies, you’ll need to make arrangements to buy a pass for the destination country. Or you just might keep your phone on airplane mode and just use wifi. If you’re going to be in one country for a month or more, you should consider getting a SIM card in that country. But be sure that your phone is unlocked for that purpose.

Figure Out What To Do With Your Pets

This sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes people forget. Whether it’s a 90 pound dog or a betta fish or a bunny, you want to be sure your pets are happy and safe while you’re traveling. If you can get photos of your pets while you’re traveling, even better.

What are you looking at? This is where I sit.

Download Apps and Maps

Before you go, and while you’re on a wifi network, download maps to use offline on your phone. Google Maps now allows you to download maps to your phone before you go. And even if you have roaming turned off, GPS will still pinpoint you on the map! You’ll never get lost in Venice again! (Ha. Yes you will. But it will be magic.)

And speaking of magic, Google Translate is one of the most powerful and amazing and magical tools I’ve ever used. Not only can you type in a phrase and have it immediately translated into another language, you can speak it, hand write it, or even point your phone at a foreign word and it will be immediately translated. Again, you may want to download a language dictionary onto your phone before you go. Another favorite feature of mine is that you can type in a phrase, like “I’m allergic to eggs” and if you tilt the phone on its side, the translated phrase appears in large print so you can convey your message easily. 

Set Up Some Timers Throughout Your House

Sometimes thieves case neighborhoods looking for empty houses, so you want to make it look like someone is home. Buy timers that you can set to turn on your lights in the evening and turn them off at your normal bedtime. Be sure to spread them around the house from kitchen to living room to bedroom, on a similar schedule to what you would normally do. There are old-school analog timers that will get off track if your power goes out, or use smart outlets, or smart light bulbs, that you can control from your phone. 

Use a Video Doorbell System

Keeping your house secure will help make you feel more secure on vacation. Video doorbell systems can be linked to your phone so that you can see exactly who is at your door. Of course, some thieves are smart enough to tape over the camera, but many are not. That is why they are thieves and not surgeons.  

Share Your Travel Info with Someone Back Home

Just in case something should go wrong either with you on vacation, or back at home, share your travel info and contact information with a neighbor or nearby friend. You don’t want to find out about a flooded basement or a tree branch through your bedroom roof only when you get home a week later at 10pm after traveling all day.

Similarly, if there’s an emergency where you’re traveling, you can call your contact and let that person alert your networks that you are ok. Earthquakes, riots, volcanoes – these can all cause alarm back home. Be sure to check in as safe on Facebook once you know something like this has happened nearby so your people know you are ok. U.S Citizens can check the State Department website to see if there are any current security concerns for Americans in the countries where you’ll be traveling. If you’re traveling somewhere where risks are more common, you should also register with the U.S. State Department, so they can keep track of you in emergencies.

Enjoy your trip!

You’ve managed to do all the things you need to do before leaving on vacation and now it’s time to just go and enjoy the trip. Go!