A Practical Dad’s Pre-Vacation Checklist

What To Do Before You Even Leave

Congratulations, Dad.  You’ve graduated from tossing a gym bag in the back of the Jeep to planning a troop movement worthy of the First Infantry Division.  And like the army, things will be FUBAR for the first efforts.  Just be patient and remember the good news about travelling with a child is that Walmart is never too far away – whether you like them or not.

Before even considering what needs to go along for the first trip with your baby, here’s a list of things to cover before exiting the driveway.

Action Item                                         Time Frame

Arrange petcare                                  three – four weeks

Stop paper                                           one week prior

Stop mail                                              one week prior

Check auto tires/fluids                        two – three days prior

Obtain cash/travellers checks           two – three days prior

Empty perishables from fridge          one day prior

Empty diaper pail                                departure day

Empty trash/check and flush

     commodes                                     departure day

Unplug all electronics                        departure day

Adjust thermostat                     &nbsnbsp;        departure day

Assure kitchen appliances/

     all faucets off                                 departure day

Spare housekey set?                         departure day

Other Considerations

Will your trip cause your credit card usage to vary from its norm?

Card issuers have fraud units that will suspend the card if it encounters usage that is different from the norm.  Several years ago, my issuer contacted me about a purchase to my account in Australia when I was nowhere near that hemisphere, preventing a bigger problem.  Consequently, I advised them of a recent upcoming trip to Canada so that their system wouldn’t start bouncing back any charges that I might be making.  I also gave them my cell phone number if they noted other problems.

Do you need to pack the full load of disposable baby supplies or can you restock at the nearest store?

What kind of crib does the hotel have for use?

Not all cribs are created equal and some otherwise fine facilities will present you with a crib that hasn’t seen a baby since it held Little Ricky Ricardo in a 1952 episode of I Love Lucy.  It might be worth your while to just tote along the Pack-and-Play but why do that if the hotel already has one for you to use?  Save that car space for something else.

Have you left a contact number with family or friends in the event of a problem?

Cell phone coverage isn’t universal and cell phone batteries die, or the phones are lost.  You’d hate to come back from Wallyworld to find that they’d planted your mother-in-law in your absence.

If you’re travelling with school-age children, is this trip causing them to miss school?  If so, what paperwork must be completed for the school system prior to departure?

With the passage of the No Child Left Behind legislation, schools are sensitive about kids missing for family vacations; one of the criteria for successfully meeting the requirements is cumulative attendance of 90%.  Consequently, almost all schools have guidelines about requirements before and after the trip for it to be counted as an approved absence.  On top of the obligatory homework, there might be age-appropriate extra work, such as a journal that asks questions of the student:  What kind of clouds did you see on the airplane?  What was your favorite activity of the trip?  How many hours of Cartoon Network did you see each morning?

What identification/safety measures do you have in the event of a missing child?  How do you keep tabs on the kid(s)?

Companies that do student pictures will now include an identification card with the photos.  A copy of this in your wallet is invaluable when you travel.  You can also get child fingerprint identification kits and keep the cards in the dash or suitcase – and pray you don’t need those.

Some families have travelling "uniforms", or outfits that all the children wear when travelling or for visiting a park or museum.  Nothing fancy, but simple bright cotton shirts of the same color so that they are easy to distinguish in a crowd.  Likewise, it’s helpful to wear something that your child can easily spot.  More than one child has come up to hug my leg to discover that I’m the wrong daddy, so I usually travel with a brightly colored baseball cap when at the airport or in crowded areas.

It might seem to be a lot to cover, but remember that you’re now thinking for three.  And a little preparation can help keep it a vacation and not an ordeal.