• Kara Cushway

21 Ways to Prepare for an Extended Vacation

Updated: Jul 26, 2019

An extended vacation, for me, is anytime I’m leaving my home for longer than about 4 days. After that, I’ve got to take care of any number of things included on this list, not first of which is to find pet care!

After visiting California and Ireland in quick succession last year, and doing all the planning for both, I feel semi-qualified to compile a list on what was helpful when planning and preparing for an extended vacation. Though our trip to California was only for 3 days, some of these tips still applied since that trip was via plane and we would be thousands of miles away from our home; it’s not like we were vacationing a couple hours away where we might’ve been back in no time flat, had something gone wrong. The first 9 tips on this list are the big ones, ones you’ll probably have to do a little planning for; 10-21 are more last-minute or optional tips that may or may not pertain to you.

My Top Tips for Extended Travel:

1. Pets. Ask or hire someone in the neighborhood (or a family member) to check on your pets, or reserve a spot at a boarding facility; get your pets checked up on by the vet and, if you’re leaving your pet with a friend or family member, GIVE THEM THE VET’S NUMBER.

2. Plants. Ask or hire someone in the neighborhood to water them, or set up an automatic watering system; bring outdoor plants in, if necessary, and position near a sunny window.

3. Pay Bills. If any bills will come due while you’re going to be away, pay them ahead of time, or put them on auto-pay (check to make sure you have enough money in your checking for this, too).

4. Hold Mail. Schedule a hold on your mail via the USPS website. This is for if you want the post office to hold onto your mail until you come back. The hold mail form will ask you which date you’d like your held mail to be delivered when you're finally back home.

5. Contact Medical Providers. This one may not be necessary for everyone, but if you have a health condition that requires regular trips to the doctor, let your provider know where you’ll be and how long you’ll be gone.

6. Contact Your Bank. Explain your travel plans to your bank or credit union, and take care of anything they may require from you when you leave the country. For us, our credit union simply requested the dates we’d be out of the country, and where we were expected to be. For you, it may require more in-depth procedures and possibly setting up a travel debit card, etc.

7. Contact Phone Service Provider. If you’re leaving the country, it’s helpful to have access to the internet or cell service; ask your service provider about travel packages and rates that fit with your budget and travel needs, and if you’re going outside the U.S., make sure they actually provide service in the country you will be visiting.

8. Contact Insurance Agency. Again, this may not be necessary for you, but if you’re leaving the country and you’ll be driving a vehicle in that country, it may be prudent to let them know where you’ll be going, how long you’ll be there, and to ask if they cover international driving. If they do not cover you in another country, be sure to purchase the insurance that should be offered by the rental car company in your host country.

9. Have a Home Contact. Talk to a trustworthy neighbor/family member about your travel plans. This may be the person/people you asked to keep an eye on the pets, plants, and house. Make sure they know where you’ll be going and for how long, and leave them with a detailed itinerary of where you’ll be going on your trip, plus numbers they can reach you at. (As another option, you can also contact your local police department and ask that they send a patrol car around at a certain time each night, if you’d feel better with a little more security.)

10. Emergency Numbers. It’s a good idea to keep a list of updated emergency numbers both in your travel folder AND with your at-home contact (mentioned above), though each one may have some differing numbers on it.

a. Travel Folder Emergency Contacts List: pet boarding facility, family doctor, emergency number for the country you’ll be visiting (for example: U.S. = 911; Ireland = 999); number for the U.S. embassy in the country you’ll be visiting; cab services in the city/cities you’ll be visiting; reserved hotel numbers; bank card service hotline; home contact’s phone number (this is the family member or neighbor who’s at home looking after things while you’re gone – if you have one)

b. At-Home Contact’s Emergency Numbers List: pet boarding facility; your pet’s veterinarian’s number; cell number to reach you (the one traveling) at; phone numbers for the hotels you (the one traveling) will be staying at

11. Clean Your House. This may not be for everyone, but I think it’s so nice to come home to a clean house; nobody wants the stress of a messy house after a vacation, since you’re about to be doing laundry for days afterwards anyways. Tidy as much as you can, and make sure to wipe down your sinks, freshen your garbage disposal, and clean or at least wipe out your fridge, tossing old food items as you go.

12. Eat Down your Fridge. This sounds stranger than it is. I just mean eat the fridge food that will expire or go bad BEFORE you leave on your trip, to help lessen waste, and ensure you return to a clean fridge situation.

13. Take the Trash Out. The day you leave, take out the trash and put a fresh liner in the bin. Nobody wants to come home to the smell of decay and colonies of ants or fruit flies.

14. Medications. I am a list person, so I made several lists for the days leading up to our departure, and for the day of our departure. For the day-of checklist, make sure you remind yourself to pack your medications (in a carry-on, backpack, or purse that won’t leave your side – no medications in checked baggage; it’s just asking for trouble). If you have specific medical requirements, make sure medications, etc. are up to date; possibly make notes on where you can refill if the need should arise.

15. Travel Documents. Double- and triple-check that you have all your travel documents (reservations, tickets, receipts, itineraries, etc.) PRINTED. Make sure you have your passports, ID’s, social security cards, or visas; whatever is required for your travels. Some people recommend making photocopies of these documents as well; this is up to your discretion, though. All documents should be kept in a travel folder and kept on your person at all times.

16. Secure Your Home. If you have a security system, arm it as you’re leaving the house for your travels; the only person besides yourself who should have an access code is your at-home contact (and even they should have a visitor code – many systems have a visitor code option; just check with your security agency for instructions), and then only if they actually need to enter your house for pets or other important chores. Lock all doors (including garage doors, shed doors, barn doors, etc.) and windows. Secure all your vehicles and take the keys with you or keep in a secure location within your locked home.

17. Have Cash on Hand. It’s so much easier to just have cash sometimes; ATMs can be hard to come by when you’re unfamiliar with the terrain you’re spit out into after a lengthy flight. Have some money from your home country and some for your host country.

18. Adjust the Temperature. Increase your home’s temperature in summer and lower it in winter – this will save on your heating/cooling bills for while you’re gone and there’s nobody there to use it. If you’re leaving pets at home, though, consider their comfort when setting the new temperature.

19. Keep a Light On. Keep your front stoop lights on, and possibly one lamp inside the house, so your house doesn't look totally deserted. (I kept my microwave light on in our kitchen.) That's not to say keep ALL your lights on; you still want to conserve energy while you're out of town!

20. Close the Blinds. And curtains. It’ll keep the warm or cold air in the house where it belongs, and prevent any prying eyes from being tempted to look in.

21. Bonus: Take Notes. This is helpful in a lot of different situations, but for me personally, the one big thing I made a note on was where we parked at the airport. (But if you’re a blogger or want to make a scrapbook to commemorate your travels – take notes on everything: restaurant, shop, and hotel names, what you ate, what you wore, who you were with, how you felt, everything! It’s almost always helpful to have a little notebook or your phone’s notes app to jot down ideas and thoughts while you’re traveling!)

What are some of your best tips for preparing for extended travel? Do you do any of the things listed here?


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