Before you start any journey, research the conditions and requirements for your trip. Do your research, make a checklist of the things you absolutely need and start packing. Allow yourself plenty of time so you don't forget necessary items or hurriedly over pack with things you don't need. If you travel frequently create a packing list on your computer that you can update to include "must-haves" and blank space for trip-specific items.
Remember to let friends, family and trusted neighbors know where you are going, how long you'll be gone and how to reach you. If you'll be away for an extended period of time, have the post office hold your mail and put a hold on your newspaper subscription. Some periodicals offer you the opportunity to have your newspaper donated to a non-profit organization while you are away. Contact your credit card company if you are traveling abroad — charges made in other countries can often raise flags about credit card theft and your card could be declined.
Arrange to have pets boarded or cared for by a friend. Water houseplants well before leaving, or set up a time-released watering system. Set timers on the interior and exterior lights in your home. Hide valuables somewhere in the house rather than leaving them in your jewelry box or an underwear drawer; be sure to let someone else know your hiding place in case you forget. Set your thermostat at a reasonable temperature in order to save on summer cooling costs — keep it comfortable for pets and houseplants.
If you're taking a road trip, be sure to give your car a thorough pre-vacation inspection. Check the tires and all fluid levels. Inspect windshield wipers, hoses and belts for wear. Don't forget an emergency kit that includes jumper cables, basic hand tools, flares, a first aid kit and a flashlight.
When planning for your weekend, keep in mind that many hotels offer a variety of amenities that you won't need to bring from home. For example, many facilities feature hairdryers in each room; therefore you can leave yours at home and reduce the bulk in your suitcase. The same is true for items like robes and beach towels, so save space for something you know you will need.
As you plan your outfits for the week, try to keep the bottom half of your wardrobe (pants, shorts, skirts) very basic. Take neutral bottoms along that can be mixed with different tops to create new outfits. Select shoes that can be worn with multiple outfits.
If you prefer to travel with your clothes on hangers in a garment bag, you can help prevent wrinkles by placing each garment in its own dry cleaner bag. Use a clothing compression system in your carry-on, as well as in your checked luggage, to make the most of the space. The slippery plastic bag keeps the clothes from shifting and rubbing together, which is the main reason clothes wrinkle during travel. To keep clothes in your garment bag from creasing along the middle fold, roll a sweater or light jacket up and place it in the fold.
If you're flying to your destination, it's usually a good idea to wear your bulkiest pair of shoes on the airplane. To help save space in your bag, you can stuff socks and undergarments in the shoes you're packing. Place them in shoe bags to protect the other items in your suitcase and pack them at the bottom of your bag to prevent damage to the other contents. If you are traveling with bulky sweaters, jackets or towels use a travel compression system to save space in your luggage.
Make copies of information that is pertinent to your trip from travel magazines and guidebooks — there's no need to bring the entire guide. Keep the papers together in a pouch so all the information is organized and accessible and fits flat inside your suitcase.
You should be prepared for the unexpected but you don't need to bring along the entire medicine cabinet to remedy the situation. Prepare a small first aid kit with only the basics and a travel-sized sewing kit. You'll be glad you have them when you need them.