Before embarking on a holiday, there are lots of important preparations to make. Every trip will have different preparations, but there are some common steps you should always take care of.

Keep your materials organized in one location. You don’t want to have your plane ticket on your desk, your luggage at home, and your necessary papers at the downtown office. Get all the materials necessary for your trip in one place ahead of time so you can be sure you won’t forget anything vital.

Catch up on your schedule. Pay upcoming bills early, finish up the paperwork you’ve been putting off, and do anything else that should be finished by the time you get back. You probably won’t get a chance to do it on the road, and you definitely don’t want to miss a house payment because you were at an industry show. Take care of things lined up for a day or two after you expect to return in case of delays.

Leave contact information. Even if you don’t want to be disturbed while you’re gone, someone back home should be able to get in touch with you. Let them know what flight you’re taking, where you’re staying, phone numbers you’ll be accessible at, and similar pertinent information. Maintaining a link back home is crucial, especially in a case of emergencies.

Budget plenty of time. Get to the airport early, leave early if you’re driving, just do everything early. It’s much better to show up hours ahead than hours behind, after all, and punctuality is a trait your colleagues and customers admire. By that same token, plan to arrive home again later than you intend. That way no one is likely to be counting on you for anything when you return, so you’re less likely to disappoint anyone.

Ten Things You Don’t Want to Forget

Cash. There’s no guarantee that your bank will have a branch in the area you’re visiting, and you never know when you might need an emergency can of gas from a station that doesn’t take credit cards. It’s not wise to travel with large sums, obviously, but $100 should give you a nice safety net.

Change. In addition to paper money, take a few dollars in change for pay phones, toll booths, parking meters, and the like.

An emergency card. Write down the names, phone numbers, and addresses of at least two people to notify in case of an emergency, and keep that in your billfold or purse.

A travel guide. Take a copy of a Fodor’s guide or some other book about the city or region you are visiting. It will help you get your bearings and save time you’d waste trying to find places on your own.

The second form of identification. Carry something besides your driver’s license, like your Social Security card or birth certificate. Slip-ups on the road, such as run-ins with the police, go much more smoothly when you have two forms of ID.

An alarm clock. You can’t always depend on wake-up calls. If your mobile phone has an alarm function, even better. Time management is crucial when traveling.

Prescription medication. If you’re currently on any kind of prescription, be sure to take your medication with you. It may seem obvious, but it’s a commonly overlooked item that could make or break the entire trip.

Business cards. They’re a no-brainer if you’re going to a convention or meeting with a client, but you should take them even on trips where you don’t expect to do any business with new people. You never know when an opportunity will arise.

A good paperback. When traveling, you will inevitably hit a space of time where you have nothing at all to do, whether you’re waiting for a flight or turning down for the night. You’ll be glad you brought a book instead of having to review product specifications for the hundredth time.

Your smile. You’d think this one would be obvious, but people forget it all the time. Your smile is your most effective tool for winning trust, inspiring confidence, and improving your attitude…so don’t leave home without it!

Following these guidelines ensures that the trip itself goes smoothly and will help avoid complications, saving you a lot of stress and headaches. Time spent on preparation is rarely wasted. These preparations lay the groundwork for a smooth return home as well, as you will see in the next guide.