Bon Voyage: 10 Prep Tips for the Intelligent Traveler

Lisa Przystup Entryway Cropped Cover Image, Photo by April Valencia via Rip & Tan

A while back I took two trips in a short time span: one to Texas for work, the other, a long weekend to visit family in Idaho. Both were rewarding—time and money well spent. But both had dreaded ramifications: sleep deprivation and a pile of neglected to-do’s (the laundry! the bills! the errands!), plus a miserable case of the flu. Is it possible to jet off without that can’t-sleep-the-night-before feeling of impending doom?

Like many things in life, stress-free travel boils down to planning. The right travel accessories also help. Here, 10 tried-and-true tips to prepare for that forthcoming work trip or holiday visit.

Heidi Swanson Travel Notebook
Above: Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks plans her trips in a Moleskine Notebook. See her list of packing tips at Style Counsel: Heidi Swanson’s Travel Kit. Photograph by Heidi Swanson.

1. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

Success in travel (and, let’s face it, in most things) comes from passing along to someone else that which you yourself need not do. Can your sister book the family dinner reservations? Could your colleague find a perfect spot to take clients for a drink? When you have to get something done in a pinch, and can’t unload it for free, I recommend an errand service such as Task Rabbit.

2. Make a trip details folder.

As soon as you’ve booked your travel, print out your itinerary and include any phone numbers, directions, and other particulars you’ll need. It might seem time-consuming now, but including this step can be stress-reducing and, if you’re traveling with others, argument-saving later: “I thought you had the address!” If you’re heading to a city with too many good places to keep track of, consider uploading or printing out a guide, including, for the best design destinations, our own Design Travel guides.

9 Best Low Light Indoor Houseplants by Mimi Giboin
Above: Arrange to have someone water your plants while you’re away. Photograph by Mimi Giboin, from Best Houseplants: 9 Indoor Plants for Low Light.

3. Set up any house care that you will need while you are away.

Do this right after you’ve made your travel arrangements. Will you need a house sitter, babysitters, pet sitters, plant waterers, someone to pick up the newspaper? Will you need to hold the mail? Do this now, not later. I have learned that “later” almost never comes.

4. Head to the pharmacy to refill any prescriptions and pick up toiletries you’ll need to take with you.

This is one last-minute errand that can easily be done ahead of time; take care of it at least week in advance. Keep in mind that the TSA only permits liquids, aerosols, gels, and creams in bottles that are 3.4 ounces or smaller.

Abbaye de Fontevraud-Agence-Jouin-Manku-photograph-by-Nicolas Matheus-Remodelista-5
Above: Maximize crucial pre-travel rest before you leave. Photograph by Nicolas Mathéus, from 5 Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep from a Feng Shui Master.

5. A few days before you leave, load up on vitamin C and sleep.

I always carry those fizzy vitamin C drink packets in my bag and make sure to drink the suggested two per day before I travel anywhere. Sleep usually gets short-changed in the days leading up to a trip, because we never accurately estimate how long it actually takes to get ready. Don’t skimp on these two and you’ll thank yourself when you return home in good health.

6. Schedule the proper prep time during the days leading up your departure.

Block off time in your calendar to get ready for your trip—pack, run errands, finalize the daily plans. Do not overschedule the week of your departure. Will you skip the gym on Friday? Forego your friend’s dinner party? You have to make the time somehow.

Closet Outfit by Michelle Slatella
Above: A weekend outfit at the ready. Photograph by Zoe Quittner, from Closet Clean Out: The Only 10 Pieces of Clothing You Need.

7. Three days before you leave: Pack your suitcase and your carry-on bag.

Don’t leave this important task until the night before—the toothbrush is always left behind, right? Use this time to catch up on your laundry, as well. Do it now; otherwise the pile is guaranteed to multiply while you’re away. Determine your packing strategy: We like the Container Store’s Travel Space Bags for condensing your clothing.

8. Two days before: Bring your mailbox, physical and virtual, to zero.

Make sure to pay any bills and take care of mail that’s lingering in your household. That unexpected medical item your insurance didn’t cover will get lost or overlooked in your absence—my husband can vouch for this one.

Above: Need pre-trip cleaning advice? Consult our Editors’ Top 23 Cleaning Tips (which includes this DIY dish soap). Photograph by Justine Hand.

9. The day before: Clean the house, check-in online, and charge your devices.

If possible, hire a cleaning service to come and take care of the straightening up while you’re away.

Lisa Przystup Catskills Farmhouse Entryway, Photo by April Valencia
Above: Travel essentials at the ready. Photograph by April Valencia, from The Catskills Farmhouse of Two Brooklyn Creatives, Weekend DIY Edition.

10. The day of: Give yourself plenty of time to finish up around the house and get out the door.

Check electrical devices and potential hazards, secure locks around the house, grab your bags and the folder with your trip details. Got all the necessary chargers? Then sit back, relax, and bask in the immunity-building, stress-reducing, all-around glory of planning for a bon voyage.

Trying to pack smarter and lighter? Take these tips:

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on November 8, 2013.

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