Are You Ready for Your Winter Travel?

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There are lots of ways to make a long, cold prairie winter manageable: evenings in front of the fireplace; ice skating with the kids; flannel sheets and a stack of books. But let’s face it — by mid-season, most of us are ready for a change of scene. Breaking up the snowy months with a stint of warmth in a new place is not only healthy for the spirit, it makes spring appear that much quicker! If you’ve got a winter trip in the works, follow this checklist to ensure a smooth journey and return home.

Book Smart

Choosing your destination and booking the flight is the first step to a getaway. If you’re booking online, use multiple search engines to ensure you find the cheapest fare. (Google Flights, Momondo and Kayak are three high-ranking search tools to try.) The more flexible you are with dates and times, the more likely you’ll save money on flights. Weekdays tend to be cheaper than weekends, and flying a day or two before or after major holidays should also bring down fare costs.

Do you usually stay at hotels or resorts? Consider using Airbnb instead. The online accommodation platform offers temporary home and vacation rentals in more than 100,000 cities (191 countries and regions) in the world. You can find options ranging from beachfront bungalows to luxury cliffside villas — often with more space and amenities (better value) than a typical hotel room.

 


Immunize

Protecting your health is the No.1 priority when planning a trip abroad. Required vaccines — based on the country’s regulations — will vary depending on the place you are visiting, so do your research and allow yourself at least six weeks prior to departure to get immunized. You should also be up to date on routine vaccines (such as the tetanus booster and annual flu shot). Check with your healthcare provider or visit a travel health clinic to assess your needs. And be sure to carry a copy of your immunization records while you travel.

Get Insured

Choosing travel insurance isn’t the most exciting part of trip planning, but if you find yourself sick, injured or the victim of theft while in a foreign country, you’ll be extremely thankful to have it! Whether you purchase insurance through your bank, credit card company or a licensed broker, you’ll need to assess what plan is best suited to your needs. Share as many specifics as you can about the kind of trip you’re taking when speaking with insurance providers; this will help narrow down options. Factors such as pre-existing medical conditions, trip activities considered high-risk, and quantity of luggage can all determine what insurance you’re eligible for. Shopping around is key: don’t settle for the first “deal” you find! As with immunization records, carry a copy of your insurance policy with you, and give someone at home the information to contact your insurer.

Plan Home Care

While recreational travel is liberating, concerns about your home can cause unwanted anxiety. Enlisting a trusted house sitter to stay in your home while you’re away is an excellent option. If that’s not possible, at least have someone stop by periodically to keep an eye on things and water your plants. Before you leave, prep your home with the following steps:

  • Unplug electronics. This will lower your energy bill and help prevent fire.
  • Program your thermostat to an “away” program if it offers that feature, or set it to 18°C, protecting your pipes from freezing.
  • Put lights on timers. Whether you opt for analog outlet timers or smart bulbs (allowing you to control lights remotely), having your lights go on and off periodically will help deter break-ins.
  • Manage your mail. Have the post office put it on hold or ask a friend to pick it up daily so it doesn’t pile up, signaling that you’re away.
  • Double-check that all doors and windows are locked — including ones you rarely use.

Plan Pet Care

It’s natural to worry about leaving your pets when you go on vacation, but with the right care plan, you can relax and enjoy your trip. In-home pet sitting is the ideal option for many pet owners, as it allows your pets to stay in their own familiar environment. Many pet-sitting businesses will also take care of house-sitting tasks such as collecting mail and rotating lights, so your home and pet needs are met by one trusted person. If you’re going this route, make sure you check their reviews and references and have the pet-sitter come by so you can introduce your pet(s) and share specific instructions. These days most professional pet-sitters offer text or email updates with pet photos, giving you the assurance that your pet is well cared for while you’re away.

Whether you choose to hire a pet-sitter or board your pet, make sure they’re wearing updated pet ID tags with your current phone number in case of escape. Start your winter travel planning well in advance and you’ll find the lead-up time will be more enjoyable, with fewer last-minute tasks and more excitement for what’s ahead. Bon voyage!