I like to plan a trip in advance. If you read my post about dining on vacation, you know that I don't like to leave that to chance. Here are some other things that I like to do prior to a trip.
Carry-on luggage only - Ask yourself this question: do I really need to check a bag? The truth is that sometimes you have no choice. If you're going on a golfing or ski trip, it's unavoidable. If you're going somewhere that the weather is extreme in different directions, ok: check a bag. You are traveling with small kids who can't pull that Dory carry-on you purchased: check. Traveling for more than 10 days? If you have no ability to launder your clothes, check a bag otherwise carry-on only. It really isn't as difficult as it sounds. Stay within a color scheme and be ruthless about what you need and what can stay home with the dog. Think about how much time you save. Checking a bag (twice), retrieving a bag (twice) and, heaven forbid, the airline loses your luggage. Yikes. I will be sitting at a sidewalk cafè or at home while you're still retrieving suitcases at the airport.
Nap - On your overnight flight, you may have stolen some fitful sleep but when you arrive, shut it down (set an alarm) and sleep for 30 minutes. Once you nap, you will feel refreshed and you should be able to fight your way through a time zone change until you finally fall into the arms of Morpheus at normal sleeping hours.
Plan in advance - The plan should be a guide only. You cannot be rigid about your plan. It needs to be fluid. If you feel you have to stick to some schedule, you won't enjoy yourself nearly as much. There's a lot to take in on a new destination. and we can't let your plan get in the way of an open door at a new taverna.
If You're Driving, Bring Along 2 CDs (old school) - This advice is only good if you're abroad. Most rental cars have CD players but not all have the requisite connections for an iPhone or similar device. And you can forget streaming by Bluetooth unless you have an unlimited data plan. The other ancillary reason to bring 2 CDs is that you will incessantly listen to them and whenever you hear those songs again on the radio or wherever - you will be reminded of your trip. Bonus!
Call for an Upgrade - The day before I travel, I call the hotel and the airline to ask about upgrading.They will have a very good idea about availability and inventory. You may score a better seat or a better room, just by asking. It doesn't work all the time but what do you have to lose?
These are basic rules that I follow but #1, for me, is sacrosanct. I never check a bag. Remember, you're on this voyage to have fun. Give yourself the best chance to enjoy yourself. And please, send us photos!