What to do before you leave home

Heading off on a family vacation is always exciting. But prepping to go can require a long to-do list. That includes:

1. Prepping financially. Have you called the credit card company to tell them you’re headed to Italy? If not, you could get a nasty surprise when your credit card purchase is refused because the company figures the card has been stolen. And then you’ll waste precious time and money trying to get it worked out so you can finish your vacation.

2. Prepping the homefront. This step includes all of those details like putting a vacation stop on the newspaper and mail delivery, hiring a pet sitter, asking the neighbors to keep an eye on things and putting a penny in the freezer. (It will help you know if you lost power while you were away.)

3. Emptying the fridge. Toss anything that’s perishable or will expire before you return. There’s nothing like the smell of sour milk and spoiled food to ruin the glow of a great family vacation.

4. Getting mobile. Make a copy of your passport, drivers license, credit cards and other important documents, scan and email them to yourself. That way, if something is lost, a copy is as close as the nearest Internet cafe.

5. Planning for contingencies. There could be a hurricane. A ash cloud could shut down European air travel. It might rain. How prepared do you need to be for any of those vacation possibilities? Depending on the answer, you might need to consider buying anything from travel insurance to a stock of rain ponchos from the Dollar Store.

Cindy Richards is a veteran travel writer and the editor of TravelingMom.com.

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