This That and the Passport
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Vacation planning timeline
Planning a trip-
Ready to start thinking of your next vacation? Most of our trips have been within the USA and Europe. We are independent travelers and these areas of the world are both familiar and easy to navigate so we do it on our own. If you want to be an independent traveler and want to do most of the planning yourself, it can be a little daunting at first. To help you out here is a basic schedule that we follow for almost every trip.
8 to 6 months before estimated departure
Come up with a budget. I usually start to scout sites like Orbitz, Airfare watchdog or Google flights to see how much tickets are going for. Sometimes this dictates our destination. Get familiar with these sites and learn to try all different combinations for your itinerary. For example, sometimes we save money by not bundling all flights together, sometimes it is cheaper to purchase directly from the airline.
Start looking for apartments and hotels. Prices and availability will vary dramatically depending on what is happening in the city of your choice.
Plan your trip around special dates/events you are interested in. For example a festival, a concert, a limited time exhibit or a museum that is about to close. You can't control these dates but you can schedule around them.
Once you have a tentative itinerary check for the following:
-National and religious holidays
-Shopping days and hours
There is nothing worse than planning a day trip to a city and then finding out that stores and restaurants are closed because it is Sunday or a holiday. Getting trapped amongst a throng of tourists because you were unaware that there was a festival or fair, can derail your plans.
Closed stores in Ljubljana, Slovenia on a saturday afternoon
4 months out
Check for visa requirements and passport expiration dates. Most countries prefer if your passport is valid at least 6 months after the date of entry.
Check for any vaccines needed or recommended.
Reserve apartments and hotels. Check out this post to help you decide which one is best for you.
If you are planning on driving, rent a car and read the fine print, especially if you plan to cross any border.
Make arrangements for pets.
Start deciding on tours and guides.
3 months out
Check train schedules. Most long haul trains will be available for reservation. Local trains will have to wait for the week before and sometimes you will have to purchase at the local station but at least you will be familiar with the the schedules.
2 months out
Check for voltage and make sure your appliances (shavers, hairdryers etc.) can handle it. Find out what kind of adaptors you will need and purchase.
Start thinking about what to wear, especially if you are traveling to areas where the weather is totally different from where you are.
Book tours and guides if not already done so.
1 month out
Confirm plane reservations- this is new to me. We had never had a problem before and for one of our latest trips two airlines cancelled flights on us. One of them didn't even let us know!! After a huge scramble we had to re-rig the middle part of our trip.
2 weeks out
Contact apartment/hotels and let them know arrival times.
Figure out how to get from the airport/station to your apt/hotel.
Decide if you are purchasing local currency ahead of time or will use ATMs on arrival.
Double check all passport expiration dates- you would be surprised at the number of people that overlook this. At this stage it is still possible to get one before departure.
Go over the itinerary, print tour vouchers, hotel addresses, passport copies.
Make sure you have the consulate/embassy phone numbers in the cities you are visiting.
Load tablets/phones with audio tours, offline maps, travelguides, games, books and movies.
Check prescription meds. You should have enough for the trip and at least 3 extra days
1 week out
Stop the mail.
Inform neighbors, leave a key with someone.
Draft a packing list.
Check airline luggage policies and decide on luggage.
Decide on electronics/camera gear.
2 days before
Get all travel documents in order.
You should be done with the travel stuff so time to button up the house.
Water the plants.
Close/lock windows, doors.
Set thermostats to away temperatures.
Set up timers on strategically placed lights.
Clean out refrigerator.
Makes sure washer/dryers are empty (you don’t want to know what leaving wet clothes in a washing machine for 3 weeks smells like...)
Leave a paper with emergency numbers on the kitchen counter.
Have a movie night with the kids, a glass of wine and get ready to enjoy your trip!!!
On the way to Rome- Firenze Train Station