While it is tempting to use the last day of a trip simply to soak up a few last vacation vibes and blow off the responsibilities awaiting us at home, this strategy can sometimes result in unpleasant surprises that will end your journey on anything but a restful note. To avoid problems at the end of a vacation and to help with re-entry when you get home, here are 12 things we recommend doing on the last day of your trip.
1. Charge your phone and other electronics.
Many travelers use their smartphones to access confirmation and reservation info, gate numbers, flight updates, boarding passes, a photo of where they parked their car and more. Watching the battery dwindle on your phone is a source of stress that you don’t need on your last day of travel, so charge it up well ahead of time.
The same goes for any electronics you plan to use while in transit, such as a Nintendo 3DS for your kids or an iPod/Kindle/tablet stocked with movies, music and reading material to get you through a long flight.
2. Stock up on in-flight entertainment.
If you went through all your movie choices on the first leg of your trip and read all your magazines and books on the beach, you may want to download or purchase new material for your return trip. Do this ahead of time, as making it happen at the airport can be a hassle; searching for Wi-Fi for downloads or wheeling your carry-on through a cramped airport bookstore is best avoided.
You might also check your airline’s website for information on its entertainment systems; you can find out if you have your own screen with multiple choices, or if everyone will be watching the same movie on overhead screens, or if there is no entertainment at all. Many sites will even show what movies, channels, and music are available, and at what cost. Be careful with this option, though; all it takes is a broken seatback monitor and your plans are shot.
3. Tend to your hotel checkout.
Have a quick look or make a call to the front desk to determine the checkout procedure for your hotel. In most cases, you don’t have to do anything more than leave your key on the night table, but if this isn’t the case, you might want to get ahead of things a little. You don’t want to risk a long line at the front desk if you’re hurrying to catch a flight.
In addition, review your invoice to make sure there are no unexpected or incorrect charges. These can occur due to computer glitches or assumptions that you used things you did not (minibar, parking), so it’s always worth a look.
4. Set up or confirm your transport home.
If you have been away for a while, the friend who is going to pick you up may have forgotten exactly which day to show up at the airport or your train route may be undergoing maintenance. These aren’t things you want to find out after landing at your home airport, so double-check before you leave your hotel.
5. Find your car keys.
Back at your departure airport, you may have quickly stashed your car keys in a pocket of your carry-on bag or jacket, and not thought about them since. Getting to your car in the parking garage without having seen your keys for 10 days can be an unsettling experience, and if you have lost them, it’s too late to make alternate plans to have a friend or someone else bail you out. Best to check this one well ahead of time, and stow your keys in a safe, easily accessible spot.
6. Find your travel documents.
The same goes for passports, airline booking numbers, rental car agreements and other travel documents; avoid having to fish around in your bags for this stuff while traveling by locating and storing it safely before you get underway.
7. Check where you parked your car.
If you made a note or took a photo of where your car was parked at your home airport, have a quick look before you travel home. First, you’ll have the peace of mind that you know where your car is, and second, if you end up landing at a different gate area or terminal, you’ll know ahead of time that you will need a plan to get yourself, your traveling party and all your stuff to a far-flung parking garage.
8. Deal with wet clothes.
If you have been swimming, working out or doing other activities that might result in damp or wet clothes, you’ll want to deal with the issue ahead of time. First, stuffing wet clothes in with your other stuff can get messy; and second, if your luggage is nearing maximum allowable airline weight limits, heavy, wet gear could cost you a lot of money.
If you don’t have the time or capacity to dry everything, you will want a plastic bag to stuff it in so all your other clothing does not become damp, moldy and heavy as well.
9. Get ahead of stuff to do at home.
When getting ready for a trip, we often purposely disrupt our normal routines, doing things like letting the fridge go empty or avoiding scheduling activities at home. As a result, on the last day of my trips I often place an order with a grocery delivery company, and sometimes even order things I didn’t want to be shipped to my house while I was gone but will need when I get back (orders from Amazon, Staples, etc.). Then when you get home, the things you need to resume your routine start arriving while you are dealing with reentry.
10. Change your watch back to local time.
If you have crossed time zones, at some point you will find yourself wanting to start thinking on your home time as opposed to the time at your travel destination. For me, this tends to happen about mid-flight. Whenever that is for you, don’t forget to change your watch back to avoid confusion.
11. Deal with your leftover currency.
The best way to deal with leftover currency is to mete out your spending so you have very little left when you get ready to fly home. If this doesn’t happen, you have a few options, including changing it back to your own currency at either your departure or arrival airport, going on an airport shopping spree or deciding to hang onto the money (either for a future trip or as a souvenir).
12. Take it easy.
After offering 11 other things that you need to do on your last day of travel, it feels somewhat hypocritical to advise that you take it easy, but for many people getting ahead of a few things that might await them on the road or at home is precisely the thing that will let them relax in the dying moments of their trip. A simple thing like knowing where your car keys are can really take the edge off the stresses of homeward-bound travel that make up our last impressions of every trip.