Years ago, I read some travel planning advice that suggested that you pretend your trip begins three days before it actually does and have everything ready to go ahead of time. That allows you to relax during the final three days, so you begin your trip feeling good.
I’ve always liked this idea, but I’ve come nowhere near following the suggestion. I’ve always wound up doing way too much in the last three days before a vacation, so I started out a bit stressed and definitely sleep deprived.
This year, before my vacation, I resolved to finally follow that old advice, more or less. I didn’t mind having some things left to do in the last few days, as long as they weren’t overwhelming. But I made sure I did the following things ahead of time:
Anything that absolutely had to get done
When I thought about my looming pre-vacation tasks, I realized many of them were actually optional — I’d like to get them done, but it was okay if I didn’t. But there were also a number of must-do items: I had to pay my bills, renew my driver’s license, and meet my commitments to clients. So I took care of all of those items before the last three days.
Another thing that had to be done was a review of my packing list to determine if there was anything I needed to buy either in person or online. And I needed to review my pre-travel checklist of tasks to be done, to make sure I was remembering everything.
Anything involving an appointment or shopping more than 10 minutes from home
I live in a coastal community with a limited number of stores and services — I need to drive at least 20 minutes for many things. Traffic can sometimes be horrible, turning those 20 minutes into 40 minutes or more. To minimize last-minute stress, I wanted to avoid making that drive in the last three days. So I had a haircut scheduled before then, and I had lunch with a dear friend on the fourth day before I left.
Anything involving an online purchase
I made sure that all the important packages arrived before the last three days, so I wasn’t fretting about whether or not they would reach me in time. Those handkerchiefs I wanted to take with me got ordered with time to spare, as did a couple more of my favorite T-shirts and the gift I took for the people I visited.
I was okay with leaving other things until the last three days, though, such as the following:
- Stocking up on cat food, which I buy locally, and updating the cat care instructions for my cat sitter
- Getting a current computer backup into my safe deposit box
- Loading up my tablet with e-books to read on the trip
- Packing my bags, using my existing packing list
- Doing some final housecleaning
So how did this work out? It definitely made the last three days less stressful. It also ensured I had some breathing space for when things went wrong, like when my printer stopped working. Because my last three days weren’t tightly scheduled, I had time to handle the unexpected.