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Don’t be an accidental tourist: Use a checklist

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Summertime and travel go together like the beach and sand. Prudent planning can make the difference between an excellent adventure and a horrible nightmare. Here are my suggestions to prepare for your next trip.

Before you hit the road
• Your home should look like you’re still in it. Arrange to have a friend or neighbor check your home daily. Have your newspaper and mail held too, because nothing says ‘residents gone’ louder than newspapers piled on the drive or mail spilling out of the box. Plus you can’t really plan for flyers or packages that might be delivered in your absence.

• Make use of light timers. Burglars avoid well-lit places, and when you return, you’ll appreciate not having to fumble for a light while juggling luggage.

• Leave your itinerary and destination phone numbers with relatives in case of emergency. Even if they have your cell number, service can be unreliable.

• Your wallet is a mini-filing cabinet and will serve you better if you carry only the necessities. These are: drivers license, one major credit card, ATM card, medical card, travelers checks, and cash. Leave the discount cards (unless they apply to the trip you’re taking) and specific store charge cards. If you’re traveling as a couple, have your partner carry a different major credit card, in case the other is lost or stolen. Leave the checkbook at home as well.

Keep a record of the cards you carry. Lay the cards on a copy machine, and make a copy that you keep somewhere other than your purse or wallet. This can be a big help if you lose your wallet or purse.

• Organized folks are prepared, but they realize the advantages of traveling light. Overpacking causes problems on the road the same way having too much clutter does at your home or office. When too many things are crammed into a space (your suitcase), you are burdened unnecessarily. Don’t pack more than you need and can handle.

•Check the weather. With, you can check weather anywhere, and even get historical averages. This can be a tremendous aid to knowing WHAT to pack.

•Take fewer heavy items. My family traditionally overpacks shoes, filling a large dufflebag. Shoes are extremely important for comfort, but try to limit shoes to two pairs, since they are so bulky. Another bulky item is jeans. Take only one pair, unless you’re mining in the Motherlode or visiting a dude ranch. There’s plenty of time to wear your favorite blues back at home.

•Toiletries. This is one place where thinking small is recommended. Purchase travel sizes of your favorite items or small plastic containers that you fill. Many hotels provide toiletries (and hair dryers and irons). Call ahead to see what’s provided.

•My tip: have a toiletry bag pre-packed. Keep it stocked, replenishing as supplies are used up. Whatever toiletries you pack, be certain that they cannot spill in your suitcase. Use a separate toiletry kit, or zip-lock bags.

•What to carry on. Carry on what you can’t live without or would be hard to replace. Medications, jewelry, and business presentation materials fall in this category. Check with your travel agent or airline beforehand as to what you’re allowed to carry on.

•The Checklist. I don’t like packing, nor does anyone in my family. Like the mother in Home Alone, I’ve started many a trip with a gnawing feeling that I’d forgotten something. Using a checklist eases my travel anxiety. Adapt the checklist to your type of trip.

•Kids can pack. Let children pack for themselves, but do inspect for their work. Sure you can find a swimsuit in Hawaii, but why start your vacation having to shop for one? Pay attention to how they’ve loaded their carry-ons. Kids are notorious for loading backpacks to the breaking point, and you-know-who will be carrying it when it gets too heavy. Think of basic things like a deck of cards, paper and pens, and paperback books. Leave room for souvenirs.

Packing List

Bathrobe (unless hotel provides)
Exercise wear
Swim suit, cover-up

Shampoo, conditioner
Comb, brush
Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
Makeup, skincare
Shaver, shaving cream
Nail care
Cotton balls, q-tips
Band aids
Contact lens solution, trays
Spare contacts
Prescription glasses
Hand lotion
Sunscreen, sunglasses
Bug repellant
Feminine hygiene products
Blow dryer (hotel may provide)
Curling iron/hot rollers

Reading material
CD player, CDs
Tote bag
Laundry bag
Camera, film
Bottled water
Writing material
Address book/PDA
Cell phone/charger
Travel alarm clock
Hostess gift

• Arrange to have mail held or picked up
• Stop newspaper
• Arrange for pet care
• Arrange for garbage cans to be set out
• Arrange transportation to the airport
• Set light timer
• Adjust thermostat
• Leave itinerary & phone numbers with a relative
• Leave key with neighbor