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What to Do Before You Go

We are gearing up to go again, and I find myself making a to do list of the things that need to be done before we leave on a trip.  I figured I’d share my to-do list with you, so that you can make your own checklist.  This is useful for anybody who is traveling, not just those who are traveling with kids.

1) Hold the mail.

The US Postal Service allows you to hold mail for 3-30 days, and you don’t have to worry about asking a neighbor to bring it in for you.  All you have to do is fill out the online form, easy peasy.  Head on over to this website: https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/  I usually just have them deliver the mail on the day we are expected to arrive home or the day before that.  If you are going for a longer time, you might consider picking up your mail from the post office.

2) Hold the trash pickup.

Our current trash service doesn’t offer vacation holds, but our previous service did.  They would give us a credit on our bill if we called in and told them we would be gone.  It’s worth asking if you don’t know.

3) Make sure the furnace works and setup the vacation program.

We heat with a wood stove most of the time, so it’s rare that the furnace runs while we are home.  We always check to make sure that the thermostat and furnace controls are working before we leave during cold seasons.  Then we set the thermostat to 52 degrees for the duration – warm enough that the pipes won’t freeze, but cool enough to be energy efficient.

For international trips

4) Make copies of your passports

Keep the copies of your passports somewhere in your luggage that is not near your actual passports.  This is in case you were to lose your passports or the bag they are normally carried in.  When you are in country, you can leave one set in the safe in your hotel room and carry the other set with you on your person.

5) Manage your credit cards

As I explain to my parents, travelers’ checks are a think of the past.  You will use credit and debit cards for money access while traveling.  This gives you the best exchange rates and is relatively secure – if your card is lost or stolen, you can call and have the account locked.  There are several steps to getting your credit cards ready for travel.

First you’ll want to call your credit card company(ies) and report your travel.  You just call the number on the back of the card and get to an operator.  Tell them you’ll be traveling internationally.  They’ll notate the dates and countries you’ll be traveling to.  Some cards (like American Express) don’t require you to make this call.  Some cards allow you to do this online through the secure message center.  If you do not call and report your travel, there is a chance that your credit card company will flag your international activity as fraudulent and block your account from making further charges, which can be a pain.

I make sure I have at least two types of cards along (two of Visa, Amex, or MasterCard) and a debit card to withdraw foreign currency from an ATM.  Make sure you make a call to authorize the debit or check card too!  Since this is your method of accessing cash abroad, this is the most important one.  If you have a secondary checking account at a different bank, I would bring it along just in case.

While you are on the phone with your credit card company, ask about the foreign transaction fee.  Most credit cards have a fee that they slap on to each transaction in addition to the exchange rate.  It’s usually given as a percent of the purchase price.  Some cards, like the Chase Sapphire or Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer Card do not have a foreign transaction fee.  Check with your credit card companies and choose the card with the lowest fee to be your primary card while overseas.

Then of course there’s packing… but that’s a whole other post…


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