Airfare, hotel rooms, car rental, and food are the most important things of travel preparation, but ensuring these aspects of your vacation is just the beginning of your trip planning.

If you want to enjoy a smooth and trouble-free travel (well, who doesn’t?), you should take care of essential tasks like managing your finances, getting your home in order, and researching activities at your destination.

1. Contact the House Sitter and/or Pet Kennel

Once you know your exact travel date, your first step should be to contact your house sitter or pet kennel (or any other service you can trust) to guarantee availability.

You might even want to consider taking care of this before booking because it may happen to find the local kennel full for the same date of your trip and you could end up paying change fees.

Things tend to happen exactly when you least expect them to, so make sure to call ahead in order to avoid the unnecessary panic of the last moment.

2. Take Care of Advance Payments and “Stop” Orders

Now that you’ve booked your travel, you should consider putting “stop” orders on any frequently occurring services or deliveries. These can include housecleaners, newspapers, postal mail, and similar stuff. If you want some specific services, such as landscaping, to continue, you should consider paying in advance (if this is not your usual arrangement).

Several service providers would allow you to place stop orders online. This is especially the case for most newspapers and mail delivery. Also, make sure you take care of this at least 3 days before you travel because many stop orders require one or two business days’ advance notice.

3. Manage Your Cash Flow

If you’re traveling within the US, make sure to visit your own bank before leaving for your trip. This way you won’t be lacking cash and have to lose time and energy in search for an ATM. Moreover, you will save on ATM fees at machines run by other banks. Check out your bank’s website and map out any available ATMs at your destination so you don’t have to use other banks’ machines.

And if you’re traveling abroad, the most economical option is to visit an ATM soon after you arrive. Check the airport’s website to make sure it has an ATM you can use. Most international airports include many, but if you’re flying to a small airport in a developing country, you cannot guarantee that you’ll find one (or that it will be working properly). In this case, you may want to purchase some local currency in advance.

Call your credit card company or bank to notify them of your travel plans. Most credit card companies and banks monitor your spending patterns and might interpret a sudden overseas purchase as a credit card fraud. Your account may be locked immediately after using your card in another country without informing your bank.

4. Plan Your First Day

The first day at your destination is usually lost to new surroundings and logistics.
To start, you should move yourself and your stuff to a resting place. Then, you can calmly figure out your exact location, which attractions are nearby and what’s the best way to use your limited time.

You may want to go for a walk, which can help you get oriented as well as shake off jet lag and fatigue. Also, try to find an accommodation with a heated pool, a balcony with a choice view, or a rooftop lounge nearby, to get the maximum relaxation at the end of a pressured travel day.

Planning in advance will significantly help you make the most of that first confusing day.

5. Plan Your Last Day

You should also plan your last just like you’ve planned your first. Keep safely in a packet marked Going Back Home, which includes your phone chip, cash for a taxi, car keys, house keys, and the necessary documents you’ll need when you arrive.

You’ll probably arrive exhausted, but you’ll be happy that you don’t have to worry about forgetting something while already at your hometown airport. It’s not fun to start unpacking your luggage at the arrivals area.

6. Pack Your Hands-Free Device

There is a very helpful device that has become an important packing item, which is the phone’s earpiece or any other Bluetooth device that let you keep both hands on the wheel, without a phone wedged between your shoulder and your neck.

The local laws that govern cell phone use while driving can widely vary, sometimes even from one municipality to another. Remember to pack your hands-free device to avoid ending up on the side of the road with the unpleasant image of a red siren whirling in your rearview mirror.

7. Check the Weather

The weather is a powerful factor that can affect your trip either positively or negatively and is also one of the things that many travelers take for granted.

Obviously, anyone would think that it’s going to be warm in Spain during spring, right? Wrong! There are always exceptions to predicting weather patterns, particularly during transitional seasons.

A weather forecast can help you make a better packing strategy, and failing to check the weather may result in upset, unprepared, unhappy, and soggy travelers.

8. Research Your Hobbies at Your Destination

Well, you never know where you will find the best store of anything! For example, the best surf equipment store or the best guitar store in the world can be found in the most unexpected places.

Did you know that Melbourne in Australia, is famous for its rich coffee culture and that Udaipur offers cycling lovers incredible paths for exploring rural India?

You really have to do a little research on your favorite hobbies, you may get lucky, pleased, and surprised by what you can find at your destination.

9. Check Public Transit Maps

Just a rapid web search on public transit can reveal very worthwhile pieces of information.

For example, the public monorail system may not be working, or the downtown bus system might be free for the entire length of downtown.

It may also be extremely windy or rainy and you’ll be grateful that buses exist. They actually are very useful in making short trips of a few blocks. Moreover, doing some research online before you leave will allow you to plan your itinerary, check fares, and print transit maps.

10. Check the Local Entertainment Listings

The majority of cities and even larger towns have some sort of weekly entertainment newspaper. Time Out can be a good source that you can frequently check, as it covers many destinations around the world.

Such sources for entertainment listings and reviews can be very helpful. It is best to check these while you still at home because you can then make advance restaurant reservations and buy tickets where necessary, and more.

Another good source that you should consider is the local tourist board. Its website will usually include an events calendar where you can keep track with what’s happening around you during your trip.