I'm leaving in a couple of weeks on trip to Belgium and Holland, and here are some suggestions as to what I do before leaving; others might have similar, or additional, thoughts:
1. I prepare an itinerary with hotel names, locations, phone and fax numbers, in case someone needs to contact me while away. I leave a copy with my wife and take one with me.
2. I make a copy of my passport and keep this in separate place, and leave copy with my wife, just in case I misplace mine.
3. Before I leave I prepare a list of items I need to take, such as passport, foreign currency (if I have any left over from previous trip), bank ATM card, 1-2 credit cards, driver's license, camera, medicine, electrical chargers (phone, camera) with country converter-plug-in, and check these off as I pack in luggage.
4. I call the mobile phone carrier and order one-month, international travel talk/data plan, and I disconnect my "Data Roaming" in foreign country until I need to access email, phone GPS, etc.
5. I change my office and mobile greeting to advise I'm out of office and to contact me only in emergency.
6. I've prepared an emergency list entitled "In Case I Don't Return", with all my insurance policies and respective contacts, investment lists and contacts, list of all passwords, lawyer/accountant contacts, social security number and contact, etc., to minimize my wife's (or family, if she's traveling with me) having to search for all these details.
7. I check to make sure my insurance provides coverage in area where traveling and supplement with travel insurance, if needed.
8. I provide the airline on which I'm traveling with family contact.
9. I record international numbers of car rental, hotel and airlines in case I need to contact them while in another country.
10. If I'm leaving for a "hostile" area - such as certain places in Africa - I contact the U.S. Embassy to advise travel plans.
11. Lastly, but actually the first thing I do is pray for traveling mercies!
fschumpert thanks for sharing your list. I do much of the same and would add two additional things:
1. If my wife is traveling with me I have our mail stopped via USPS.
2. I call Chase to let them know of my travel plans to avoid any credit card issues.
Suggestion re mail. When I was travelling a lot for work (sometimes gone 2 or 3 months at a time) I found out that the USPS won't hold vacation mail more than 30 days. So I bought a box at the local UPS store. Even though I don't travel nearly as much now, I still keep the box. I don't have to worry about being home to sign for something if I shop on Amazon. I don't have to worry about mail piling up. There is a note in my home mail box telling the mailman not to deliver any mail in case someone tries to send me some junk. I got to the UPS store once a week and pick up my mail.
Great list of things we quite often overlook. Another thing I've done is to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
One thing you may want to include when you are using your mobile phone international services is to take the customer support number with you as well as the dial code for the particular countries you'll be visiting just in case you experience issues getting your phone to work correctly.
As for the house when we leave for a long or short trip, always have light on timers that you routinely use or use them a week or so before you depart so it appears you habits don't change. We always have our neighbors around the house watching as well as one who checks on the house daily and feeds the cute little kitty. Don't miss trash day so ask a neighbor to take your trash can out, even if they have to put some of their trash in your can. Ask them to check the front door for advertising cards or similar that folks will leave on the door and be sure your heat/ac are set how you want them.
An excellent topic and hope to find more tips coming along soon.
You can buy web-based surveillance cameras for about $100 on Amazon. Just mount them on the wall and plug them in. The software finds them through your houses electric wiring.
Nothing slows down a burglar more than seeing a camera pointed at him at every entrance to a house. That, plus lights on a timer as you suggest and a decent burglar alarm should keep you secure.
Don't buy the "fake" cameras. They look fake. And a burglar will take that as a sign that you don't really have any protection.
Now, a question for you, since you brought it up. What is the penalty in your state for shooting those morons from the pizza company and the recycling company who tape ads on your front door?
We've had 0 degree weather here on Lookout Mountain, TN, in recent weeks, and 2-3" snow today. In addition to running water inside house, during cold weather I also put a styrofoam cup over outside faucets and wrap a cloth around the outlet and then wrap with wide, plastic duct tape to insulate faucet.
I contacted the US Embassy the first couple of times I travelled but found out that they don't really care. :-)
Buy a decent cell phone that you can use with a local SIM card where you're travelling. Or carry your laptop and buy Skype so you can call home from your hotel with no charges whatsoever.
My only question would be with #5 -- changing your greeting. I'd say that's okay at work, but probably not for your home or cell phone, since you don't want to alert someone you're gone. (I learned to change my greeting to the more formal, but accurate, Dr. after I got middle of the night calls from drugged and/or drunk people after I'd stupidly thrown my empty, no-refill med bottle in the trash -- where it was apparently found by said druggie. I was horrified to see it had my full name, address, phone number and prescription on it from CVS. I have since learned to return them empty to CVS.) But even if a maintenance person or other local called, I don't want them to know I'm gone.
BTW, IAHFLYR, do you know if the long distance viewing cameras can be in apartments? Most sound like they need installation in a house. I also purposely don't cancel my newspaper or mail (unless it will be more than 10 days) -- I have my catsitter, who comes in twice a day,get both.
One other thing -- if you're checking luggage put one of your extra frequent flyer cards right in each suitcase.
Good list and comments. We have added alarm system with remote central monitoring. Central reporting is via cell so no issue if landline cut. Also provides remote access via smartphone using internet. Will report alarms and power failures to central station and to us via email. Certainly increases level of comfort that all is well.
We live in cold area so good to have someone remove snow.
I always notify the bank. Banks will sometimes "warm card" your debit card or credit card due to activity outside of your normal activity pattern (they think your card may be stolen or compromised). If you call your bank and give "travel instructions" they are more than happy to place a note on your account so that you are not warm carded and unable to use your card until you check in with them and convince them that nothing is wrong.
I always notify my credit card companies first (ideally about four -- I learned that the hard way in Egypt and Turkey, where some were rejected and others fine) and try to pay for most things that way (adds up the points for each card too). I notify my debit card bank, but their policy is that the debit card can only be used for ATMs abroad, not for regular transactions, so check with your individual bank. As always, don't pack too much! You can always buy some new things where you're going.
What I often do is take some things that are older -- purses, makeup, older shorts, etc -- and then either throw them out or leave them at the hotel in case someone there wants them. I did so recently in Santorini.
I notify my neighborhood security patrol which, in turn, notifies the local police precinct letting them know my house will be empty. The notice includes my sister's contact information in case something needs to be addressed while I am gone. My sister has a copy of my credit card to pay for anything that might arise while I'm gone. A beat officer once noticed, while walking around my house, that the water meter was spinning. He called my sister, she came over and they found a leak in the house. They turned off the water and called me. The plumber came and fixed the issue and my sister paid for it with my card. When I cam home, I only had to deal with a few warped floorboards. Had the officer not known to check my house, the damage would have been worse.
The last week of each month, I email a spreadsheet to the security patrol, my sister, my neighbors on four sides and a couple friends letting them know when I'll be gone during the next month, where I'll be each night (hotel) and if anyone should be at my house each day. I also have a monitored alarm, cameras, remote access to both, mail held and electronics on timers.
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A great list @boomer and I very much agree with your last suggestion. A few years ago Vodafone brought out fixed fee roaming, £5/day to have access to all of your domestic package abroad. Starting off initially with a few EU countries but adding places every year, last year it reached the US and this year Canada. You need to preregister though. Simply being able to use your phone when abroad like normal is a great improvement.