How many of us have had this experience: We spend hours (or days) planning a vacation, arranging transportation, lodging, itineraries, clothing, etc., making sure that every detail of our trip is taken care of. And suddenly, in the middle of the night on the eve of departure, it dawns on us that we are actually going to get on a plane and travel thousands of miles in the air! What happens if the plane goes down?!
Google the term “travel checklist” and you will find that the internet is bursting with suggestions for your next trip – packing lists, international travel guides, itinerary suggestions, even gender specific checklists for men and women. Or, enter a destination and get a plethora of suggestions specific to your intended location. But what about a checklist for all that you leave behind? This is a “before you travel” guide:
1. Update your legal documents. Like applying for a passport, this should be addressed sufficiently in advance of your vacation so that you have time to get it done. Please don’t call your attorney 2 days before you leave and expect to get new documents prepared before you board the plane. Review your paperwork to make sure that the appropriate people will be able to step in if necessary, and that the documents you have are sufficient to accomplish your wishes. Have your Will and Trust been updated? Are your assets titled appropriately to avoid probate? Do you have a Power of Attorney in place so that your agent can handle financial matters for you while you are gone?
2. Organize your paperwork. Make sure that your agent(s) can access and find the paperwork they need to manage your affairs. Here are some specific suggestions:
- Show your agent your filing system and where your documents are located
- Make a list of your accounts and where they are held, and contact information for your advisors
- Provide your agent with account passwords and the combination to your safe
- Make sure your agent has a copy of your itinerary and contact information for you while you are gone
- Make arrangement for the payment of bills in your absence
3. Leaving minor children behind? Make sure that the person caring for them has written authority to seek medical attention for them in your absence, along with copies of medical insurance cards, a list of any medications with dosage instructions, and information about allergies.
4. Photocopy your travel documents. Make two copies of all of your travel documents in case of emergency. Leave one copy with your agent and carry the other separately from your documents in case of loss or theft.
5. Do you have a Medical Directive? Carry a copy with you in the event of an emergency. However, be aware that if you are traveling internationally, the document may not be legally binding in a foreign country.
6. Prepare your home. Unless you have a house sitter, make sure that your home is secure while you are gone:
- Have the post office hold your mail
- Stop newspaper delivery
- Set up a timed light system
- Leave a key with a trusted friend or neighbor, and arrange for someone to check on your property periodically
This checklist isn’t as exciting as the “Roman Holiday Style Guide: Your Ultimate Female Packing List for Summer in Rome” or “The Ultimate Outdoor Travel Checklist (Men),” but hopefully by accomplishing some of these tasks in advance, you will be able to sleep well before you leave.