As is often the case, life sometimes gets in the way of our desired plans. Whether it’s a last minute business trip, family function you originally thought you’d be unable to make, an unexpected funeral, or hopefully a last minute vacation, taking action now so you are prepared to travel with little or no notice can alleviate excess stress. I unfortunately had my lovely grandmother pass away recently, albeit after 98 wonderful years on this planet, and being prepared to snag last minute tickets for my family and having things in order made the ordeal much more palatable. Today, I’ll share five things to complete now, so you’re always ready to travel on short notice.
- Start a Cash (or Points) Emergency Fund — 100% of the time, last minute travel is going to be expensive. Most personal finance experts recommend keeping 3-6 months of your basic living expenses in an easily accessible savings account for the times life happens. Accounting for emergency travel should also be something you set aside. The good news is it doesn’t have to be cash for last minute travel. If you collect airline miles or credit card points, copy my strategy and set aside enough points to cover a round trip domestic ticket for each member of your immediate family. Chances are you won’t need to fly internationally last minute on your own dime, unless you’re an expat. That means having 100,000 United miles that you don’t touch will give you 4 domestic tickets to use when the phone rings and your family needs to go.
- Be Familiar With Airline Routes to Your Most Likely Destinations — If you’re in a stressful situation and need to fly, chances are you’ll head to a website like Kayak.com, input your destination and travel dates, and pick the cheapest ticket shown. What you may not know are online travel agencies don’t show all airlines and routes available. Southwest, Frontier, Spirit, and JetBlue are not shown in many online search engines. You often can only go to the airlines own website to find flights. If you’re unfamiliar with the routes from your home airport, you may be missing a significantly cheaper option. Take the time to study who flies from your home airport and who flies to the airports you’d most likely visit on short notice travel.
- Have Emergency Child Care Contacts — I’ve only been a dad for a couple years now, and have already moved three times thanks to my career. Emergency child care is something I definitely had not considered until the last few months, mainly because we still haven’t connected with many baby sitters in what is now our third city. We currently only have one on-call babysitter, and if her schedule is booked when we need to go on short notice, I’ll quickly be in a pickle. Do what you can now to network with the neighborhood parents or local groups and find reputable child care you’re confidant calling on in emergency situations.
- Don’t Run Out of Essentials at Home — If you ask my wife to name some of my pet peeves, running out of essentials like diapers, wipes, Desitin, baby lotion, toilet paper, tooth paste, paper towels, and other items would be somewhere near the top. It’s inconvenient on a Saturday afternoon when nothing else is going on, but trying to catch a flight in the next two hours or hopping in a car at 10 PM to drive is not the time to realize you only have 3 diapers left. Take regular stock of what you have in the cabinets and even have a packing list for you and your kids laminated and hanging out in a drawer. This means if you need to pack, you grab list, are confidant you have everything you need, and prevent a lot of scrambling and fear you’re going to forget something.
- Talk to Your Children Now — If you have children who don’t routinely travel or are set in predictable, comforting routines, you want to avoid stress on everyone. Yanking them out of their daily habits with no warning and heading to an airport, maybe even for their first flight, will probably make the whole situation worse. Take time to occasionally talk about the possibility of traveling, show them suitcases and books or videos with airplanes, and get them comfortable with the idea of heading on a last minute road trip. It’s even more pertinent if you have elderly relatives and recognize the possibility of travel may be on the horizon.
The only time I actually want to take off at last minute’s notice is for a spontaneous weekend away or if a friend has invited me on a great last minute opportunity. Even then, I don’t want to have to be worried about not having what I need to pack or stressing about how last minute flights will impact my budget. Adding kids in on top of everything else only makes it that more pertinent to take the above actions today. Putting the time and effort in now, will ease the stress of future, no notice travel.
How do you prepare for last minute travel?