If you’re like me, you love a long holiday but the week before involves frantic planning, sleepless nights, and general stress. What if my flight is delayed -- will I miss the connecting service? Did I remember to pack enough underwear? How will my dog behave with the house-sitters?
Some of us have quirky anxiety-relieving rituals we have to go through in order to feel like our trip is off to a good start; things like cleaning and disinfecting the house from top to bottom, or checking every lock three times.
Below, the Travelzoo team shares some ideas on how they make the week before a trip slightly more enjoyable and stress-free.
Research, research, research
Some people love it and some people hate it, but there’s no denying it makes life easier once you’re at your destination. Mike Sheppard says that one thing he always does is ‘work out how to get from the airport or train station to the place I’m staying – I’m not fond of arriving somewhere and having no clue where I’m going’.
Scott Brown admits to always ‘finding the closest source of cheap alcohol to dull the pain of travelling with three ill-behaved kids and a cranky wife.’ But to find things that are more child-friendly, his favourite source is TripAdvisor, ‘to make sure I know as much as I can about the destination and what there is to do there’.
One thing that has saved me from thinking too much is a non-changing checklist of items I have to have or things I have to do before a trip. Objects include my passport, sandals, camera with extra battery and SD card, and a small stuffed sheep that’s travelled with me since 2006. Things I’m paranoid about forgetting, like taking out the kitchen rubbish (no one likes coming home to the smell of month-old banana peel) and unplugging all electrical devices make the to-do list. Print it out and keep it with your passport so you’ll have it every time you’re preparing for a big holiday.
To keep within the checked baggage allowance, Cally Ulbricht recommends making three piles of clothes: ‘One pile that’s non-negotiable (sneakers, underwear etc.), one pile that I’d like to have if there’s extra room (a nice dress, extra pair of shoes) and one pile that probably won’t end up in the suitcase.’ She also suggests packing electrical items and their plugs in your carry-on. ‘That way, even if your suitcase is lost, you can still charge everything.’
Niamh Walsh, our resident Irish in the Australian Travelzoo office, makes packing fun by taking intermittent breaks to relax with a glass of wine. Her standard procedure is ‘Locate passport (have wine), pack (have wine), make it to the airport in time for a glass of wine before the flight.’
While I personally don’t recommend so much alcohol before a flight because of its dehydrating effects, something like listening to music at top volume while packing or promising yourself a treat afterwards can be good motivation to get the job done.
Those of us prone to losing things have probably learnt the hard way that it’s not a bad idea to have a soft copy of all your travel documents scanned and emailed to yourself and a friend or family member. That way, even if you misplace your flight itinerary or travel insurance details or your passport is stolen, you’ll always be able to access the information anywhere Internet is available.
When my passport and wallet were stolen in Barcelona, I was very thankful that someone had suggested I photocopy my passport and driver’s licence before I left Australia. My family was able to email the scanned copies to me straight away, which made applying for replacements while overseas that much easier.
… and finally …
Emily Carstairs says she has friends who ‘have to wear the same outfit onto the plane every time, down to their underwear. They know they’ll be comfortable for the flight, but it’s also a superstition they have that it'll bring luck.’ She herself drops a travel sickness tablet half an hour before boarding, then every second hour she’ll take a vitamin tablet to ward of germs and do vigorous calisthenics every third hour.
It seems pretty common (in the Travelzoo office at least) to have a ritual you go through before travelling. Johanna Grahn, whose mother owns a stable, used to ‘kiss every horse on the forehead before going to the airport’. And Micah Chua will register himself with DFAT before every trip; something all Australians are advised to do, but very few actually do. Paul Marshall, who finds the customs officials in the USA intimidating, always prepares answers to potential questions and a script of his activities during the flight to calm his nerves.
The final words of wisdom are from my dad the first time I travelled solo, which I still repeat silently when my pre-trip anxieties kick in: As long as you have your passport, enough cash for a few meals and a flexible mindset, everything else will take care of itself.