One Crucial Thing To Do Before Leaving For Vacation, According To Travel Expert Rick Steves

Many of us are guilty of having our heads in the clouds when we have a trip coming up — focusing solely on the destination before we've packed our bags. Given the frenzy of pre-trip excitement, we tend to scramble the essentials at the very last minute, leading to some things slipping through the cracks. To ensure a hassle-free trip, travel guru Rick Steves has dispensed some tips on what to do before we even step a foot out the door.

As someone who has been traveling since he was 14 years old, Steves knows a thing or two about smooth travels. On his website, he notes that travelers should rely on one crucial tool that plays a big part in making your travel prep easy: a good 'ol list. Digital, written, or chalked on your walls, a pre-departure checklist functions as a reliable guide by laying out everything you need.

At the forefront of Steves' list is ensuring that your IDs and travel documents are up-to-date. See to it that your passport abides by the six-month rule (renew your passport if your return date is less than six months from your passport's expiration date), and if you're renting a vehicle, double-check that your driver's license is still valid. He also reminds travelers to contact their banks to notify them of international card usage and call their phone carriers to secure international plans. Confirming all reservations in advance is equally vital, ensuring unforeseen surprises do not ruin your experience.

Get your medical needs in order

You'll probably remember important things like prescription medicine, but what about your other heath needs? Rick Steves advises all travelers to prioritize pre-travel health measures, especially if your trip is a lengthy one. This entails proactively making the necessary appointments with healthcare professionals. Squeeze in a checkup with your physician and even your dentist, if you can swing it. He adds that if you're wearing glasses or contacts, be sure to pack an additional pair to serve as backup.

Speaking with the Denver Post, Steves also emphasized the importance of getting in touch with your health insurance provider. "See if they cover you internationally or whether you might need to buy special medical insurance," he said. Travel insurance should also be considered a necessity, especially if you want your bases covered. The "Rick Steves' Europe" host admits that he sometimes does away with travel insurance himself, but he strongly cautions against this approach for travelers who don't exactly have a clean bill of health or have family members at home who are ill (in case you need to cut your trip short).

Take stock of your valuables

While having a comprehensive packing list is crucial to avoid leaving anything essential behind, Rick Steves recommends going the extra mile for high-value items. Aside from listing your heavy-ticket belongings like laptops and smartphones, he says that you may also want to take photos of each one and keep a meticulous record of their make, model, version, and the like, along with any serial number they may have. Having a detailed inventory of your valuables can be of great help to authorities and your insurance company, should you need to file a claim for them in the unfortunate event of theft or loss.

Speaking of theft, Steves also extolls the usefulness of having a money belt in tow. Sure, they're not the trendiest things on the planet, but he attests to their effectiveness in giving you peace of mind during your trips. "My experience just goes to show that, sooner or later, if you're not on guard, wearing a money belt — or at least keeping everything properly zipped and buttoned — you'll likely be a victim," he told The Seattle Times. Store things in it that you can't afford to lose, like your passport, license, credit cards, and even jewelry. When wearing a money belt, conceal it under your clothes, so you're less likely to be a target of opportunistic thieves.