For anyone living in a temperate climate, winter can drag on interminably. Day after day of cold weather, gray skies, and slushy snow is no fun. If you can, plan a winter get-away!
Most people go south or north. In other words, they plan a trip to the sun or the slopes. In either case, sensible advance planning from home is key for a good vacation.
1. Keep a travel file
Create a file on your hard drive for all travel information and emails from airlines and hotels. Email the file to yourself or print it out before you leave so you have the information with you.
If you prefer paper documentation, choose a colorful file folder and write the name of your destination on it. As you accrue information on the trip, put it in the folder -- brochures, telephone numbers, airline itineraries, and so on. (Don't forget to take this info with you!)
The excitement will build as the folder does. Plus everything will be in one place.
This same excitement will build as you add to your online folder. It, too, can be augmented with photos of your destination!
2. Keep track of credit cards and passports
Make two copies of the credit cards that you plan to take with you. Make a copy of and jot down your passport number, too. Take one set of the copies with you and leave the other with a friend, family member, or trusted co-worker.
Or, scan your credit cards, passport, and other documents and email them to yourself. If you need to access them, they will be no farther away than your smart phone or hotel computer.
If you lose your passport or something else, you will be very glad you took these precautions.
3. Arrange to use a credit card or ATM card for cash
To avoid carrying large sums of cash on vacation, plan to retrieve money from cash machines. Doing so allows you to take advantage of daily exchange rates when abroad.
Call the bank that handles your ATM or the credit card company (look for the 800 number on the card or your bill). Let them know you will be charging from an unfamiliar location. You may need to establish a new PIN number to use when out of the state or country.
4. Buy no-fee travelers checks
If you decide to use travelers checks, make a few calls to determine how to get these free of charge. Banks may do this for preferred customers, and they often are free from automobile clubs.
Buy them in fairly small denominations ($20s, $50s and $100s) so that you never have to carry large sums of cash with you.
Most travelers don't use travelers checks and so they might be hard to track down.
5. Make sure you can use your driver's license abroad.
If traveling in another country, determine that your driver's license will be valid there. Ask the travel agent, the car rental company, or the country's consulate office. This information may be available online.
6. Leave your itinerary with a friend or relative
It's important that you can be reached if an emergency arises. Make sure a friend or relative has your phone numbers. As well as your cell phone, they should have the telephone numbers of your hotels or condos.
If you don't know where you will be staying, assure a friend or family member that you will check your e-mail on your smart phone or from a cyber café. They can send you e-mail if you need to call home.
7. Make sure your cell phone works
If you are not certain that your cell phone will work where you are going, call the cell phone provider. It might make sense to expand your service temporarily.
If you know the cell phone will be out of range, another option is to buy a prepaid telephone card at the post office, convenience mart, discount store, travel club, or phone company.
If traveling abroad, consider buying an inexpensive phone and loading it with a small number of minutes. This phone can be for emergencies and quick check-ins with fellow travelers -- not necessarily for texting, checking email and taking photos.
iPads and other tablets usually work well when you travel and are good ways to keep in touch through email, if need be. They also make it easy to check local websites and restaurants from the comfort of your hotel room.
Have a good, worry-free vacation. Winter will almost be over when you get home!