There is nothing wrong with leaving certain things to the last minute. With families of our own, we at Real Family Trips know that sometimes between work, school, activities schedules and everything else that comes with having children, there sometimes isn’t another option!
We’ll also be the first to tell you that some of the best travel savings come from being flexible enough to book at the last minute. This can net especially great savings on usually pricey options like cruises, but there can be great last minute savings on hotels and airfare as well. Larger booking companies like Priceline, Travelocity and JetSetter will discount all sorts of options before they become lost to time. Besides the great links we have provided here, we are always updating great last minute savings on our deals page.
All this being said, there are certain things a family should NOT leave to the last minute when it comes to travel. In order to better inform busy families, we have created a handy guide to the things you NEED to do in advance, so that you can go about the rest of your life and even take advantage of great last minute savings.
Plan Ahead – What NOT To Leave Until The 11th Hour
- Vaccinations are an important part of your family’s health. Some countries require specific inoculations to enter, and many of these require multiple courses spread out over time, not to mention a doctor’s appointment or two to get them administered. The CDC offers a handy Travellers’ Health tool to figure out what you may need by country. You will also want to keep your family up to date with regular inoculations to ensure children don’t end up missing out on vacation fun because of an illness.
- Passports are required for international travel and even babies need their own. Make sure your children have their own and the whole family’s are up to date as the renewal process doesn’t happen overnight. We recently did a complete write-up on passport renewal including exact timeframes and detailed instructions to guide you through the process.
- Have your Cell Phone ready for the journey. These days we are all used to having our phones at the ready for communication and information on the go. They are also an important safety feature when traveling with children in case anyone gets separated. If you’re traveling abroad you’ll want to prepare yourself by reading our article on international cell phone use to better understand where you can expect your phone to work, what you’ll pay and what your other options are. Plan ahead and program important numbers like your hotel and some destinations into your phone, as well as any guides you may be using or other important local information. Do not leave anything too personal on your phone in case it is lost or stolen, and be sure to protect it with a passcode. Finally, make sure children have a list of important numbers in case of an emergency.
- Speaking of cell phones, Travel Apps can be great resources while away from home. However, the time they save you may not be worth the data charges if you wait to download them until you are at your destination and incurring larger data fees. Download them before you leave while still on your home network. This will also give you a chance to play around with them and figure them out before you go! A few we recommend are GateGuru, the State Department’s Smart Traveler App and these 5 Travel Apps for Families.
- Make arrangements for your Luggage in advance and know the rules. Know what you are allowed to bring as far as the number and size of bags, and make sure you abide by the rules. Also remember that if you are connecting, or flying a different airline home than you take out, you will need to conform to the more restrictive airline’s policy. This is also true of taking a bus to a plane, or a flight to a cruise ship, etc. Check the rules of all carriers you will be travelling with and find out all of their baggage restrictions. For some international carriers you may want (or need) to make a phone call if their website is less revealing. Whatever carrier you’ll be travelling on has the smallest size restriction and lowest number of bags, that’s who you’ll have to pack for. It may seem annoying but its better than enjoying a great European vacation only to find out you can’t fly home the bag you flew out with unless you pay a surprise, and often hefty, fee.
- Plan for your Power Needs. If you are traveling internationally, you will need to do a little research as to what type of plugs a country uses and their voltage requirements. Based on this information you may simply need an adapter (changes the plug layouts) or you may need a converter (aka transformer) that also adjusts the current. Without the right plug you’ll get no juice, and if you don’t use a converter when needed you run the risk of shorting out certain devices. Great all in one options like this adapter from Kensington or this converter by Travel Smart make it as simple as buying one item. Do your kids play a ton of games, watch a lot of movies or read mostly digital books while on vacation? If they rely on electronics to stay entertained (or you rely on it!) you might consider investing in an external battery that can keep them charged on long stretches away from an outlet like this one from mophie.
Taking life as it comes is great, however some things require a bit of planning. Take care of these things before leaving and rest assured, you’ll finally be able to relax once you get to your vacation destination!