Timeline for planning your cruise

Cruise planning
Cruise planning

You've worked hard to save for your world cruise and you want to cover all your bases as you get ready to go. However, planning can be stressful if you don't know where to start. Here are some tips for pulling off a glitch-free getaway.

Thinking about a world cruise vacation

- Read travel magazines and shop for travel guidebooks.
- If you don't already have one, find a travel agent who specializes in world cruise vacations and begin a discussion about how to plan the best cruise vacation that will meet your interests and desires.
- Ask family and friends for suggestions.
- Decide on what you would like to see and do on your cruise. Do you want to climb glaciers and kayak in Alaska, snorkel in the Caribbean or Tahiti, or visit historic sites in Europe, Asia, or Australia on your trip around the world?
- Visit cruise line websites or contact the cruise lines directly to request brochures and pricing information.

Six months or more ahead

- Settle on a budget for the cruise. Make sure to take into account every possible expense: plane tickets, transportation to the pier, hotels, shore excursions, spa treatments, shipboard activities, bar bills and even cruise wear.
- Book your trip through your travel agent or cruise vacation planner. A good travel agent will keep you on track and help you sort through everything from stateroom choices to visa requirements.
- Select your ship and stateroom. Cabin choices range from butler-staffed suites to inside staterooms without windows, and they're priced accordingly.
- Consider signing up for a travel protection plan to protect your vacation if the unexpected should happen. Research travel protection plans offered by the cruise line, your credit cards, travel agent or an independent agency.
- Obtain your passports and visas. This is especially important for individuals on world cruises that stop at various ports around the globe.

Two months ahead

- Make sure you have a camera and luggage ready for the trip. If you buy a new camera, learn how to use it before leaving on the cruise.
- Start researching your ports of call and your opportunities for shore excursions. To avoid disappointment, book popular tours in advance on the cruise line's website.

One month ahead

- Make a packing list.
- Reconfirm all reservations.
- Start making arrangements for pets and home care.
- If you're on any medications, make sure you have plenty of your prescription on hand for the trip, and be sure to have a second pair of glasses if you wear them. Carry all medications with you (do not put them in checked luggage) in their original prescription bottles to avoid any difficulty at customs. Some locations may require you to have documentation from your doctor to allow you to travel with your medication. Square this away with your physician before leaving.

Two weeks ahead

- Collect travel documents (cruise tickets, airline flight information). Read all material carefully to make sure the information is correct. If it's not, your travel agent can correct it.
- If you don't want to use your credit card on your trip, consider obtaining traveler's checks (store the check numbers someplace safe in case the checks are lost or stolen).
- If you will need any foreign currency on the trip, consider exchanging some dollars before you leave.
- Keep plenty of one dollar bills on hand for tips to crew members, tour guides and taxi drivers.

One week ahead

- Touch base with your house and pet sitters to reconfirm arrangements. Arrange to have mail held at the post office and stop newspaper delivery for the duration of your trip.
- Print a copy of your itinerary and contact information and leave with family or friends.
- Make two to three sets of photocopies of your passport, credit cards, insurance, traveler's check numbers and any other paperwork you would need if your wallet were lost or stolen. Give one copy to a family member or friend.
- Set out clothes to pack and buy what you need.

Three days ahead

- Reconfirm overseas flights.
- Make sure you have reading material for your trip.
- Make arrangements for your rides to and from the airport.
- Leave a copy of your itinerary and a set of house keys with a relative or close friend in case of emergency.
- Check weather forecasts for your destination.
- Prepare your house or apartment for your departure - eat or dispose of perishable food, water plants, set timers, pay bills, etc.

One day ahead

- Reconfirm domestic flights.
- Make sure all your luggage, including carry-on luggage, is labeled both on the outside and inside with your name, flight information, hotels, cruise itinerary and phone number.
- Change your voicemail and e-mail messages at work to let others know that you will be away.

A little organization can make your pre-trip planning easy and stress-free, leaving you to embark on your cruise vacation with a big smile on your face.