Before Taking off on an Extended Summer Adventure, Read This

Headed out of town this summer on a fabulous extended vacation? While planning for a short trip is pretty easy, preparing for a weeks-long odyssey requires organizational skills and pre-planning that would make Martha Stewart jealous. Don’t worry, we’re here to help:

Secure Your Home

To prevent your place from looking empty, stop your newspaper and mail delivery and put at least one light on a timer. Hire a local teen to mow your lawn while you are away, and pay him or her to walk or drive by your house every other day and remove fliers from your front door. Before you leave, put your water heater in vacation mode, turn off the water to your toilets, dishwasher, washing machine and sinks, and turn up your thermostat to 85 degrees. Leave your cell phone number with a trusted neighbor, and install fresh batteries in your smoke detector.

And clean out your fridge and pantry prior to leaving and toss any bread, milk or other food that will go bad while you are away — no one wants to return home to a nasty science experiment in their cupboards.

Prepare Your Paperwork

If you are traveling internationally, you will need more than just your driver’s license for your trip. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiativerequires U.S. travelers to present a passport or other document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the United States.

If you’re driving to Canada or Mexico, make sure your car insurance is up to date and that you have the most current card in your glove box. You might also want to give your insurance agent a jingle to verify your coverage in these countries and find out how to get service there in the event of a breakdown.

If you’re going to go participate in any activity that requires a license, get that squared away before you leave. For example, to go boating in Canada, you need a boating license. Visit a website like BoatOperatorCard.ca before you leave to study for the license and take the required test.

Get Your Car Ready

A week or two before leaving, bring your vehicle in for a thorough inspection and arrange for any needed maintenance. TechAuto.com has a handy checklist of what your mechanic needs to do to get your car ready for your long trip. If your tires are looking old, replace all four, and have the steering aligned. Be sure to take along a spare tire that is full of air and in great condition.

Finally, place a fully-stocked first aid kit, some blankets and a case or two of water in the trunk — you can drink it along the way and you can use it in case your engine overheats.