Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or taking your first big trip, the key to a stress-free vacation is planning ahead. But before you start packing your flip flops and swimsuit, make sure you’ve got this one essential travel item: a will. Why do you need a will before heading out on your trip, you ask? Just like travel insurance, a will is there just in case something happens. Here are 5 reasons it’s important to think about before you take off.

You need to appoint a Power of Attorney to make medical decisions in case of an emergency

Most people get insurance to cover any unexpected medical costs that could arise while travelling, but that’s only half of the solution. Before going on a trip, you need to get a Power of Attorney for Personal Care, a document that appoints a person to make decisions (that you’ve already outlined) about your medical care if you are unable to do so yourself, and a Power of Attorney for Property, which allows someone to pay your bills and make financial decisions on your behalf. In the event that you become incapacitated because of an illness or injury while abroad and you don’t have an Attorney in place, family members will have to make difficult decisions about your care during an already emotional time (the situation becomes even more complicated if they disagree over your medical care). Typically one person will apply to the court become your legal representative, a process that can be lengthy and stressful for family members. It’s not fun to think about a medical emergency happening on your trip, but it’s even less fun for you and your family members to handle without a plan in place.

You need a guardian in place to take care of your children if something happens to you

Leaving on a trip is stressful, and sometimes it’s only when you get to the airport that you think about what would happen in a worst-case scenario – especially because often, parents are travelling together and panic about what would happen if both of them were to pass away on a trip. In fact, my mom sent me a panicked email prior to one trip outlining where her will was stored and a whole host of other end-of-life details – way to stress me out, mom!

If you’re going on a trip and you have children who are minors – or, like my mom, adult children that you haven’t shared end-of-life wishes with – it’s best to put a plan on paper. If you have minor children, you need to list a guardian in your will to take care of them if something happens to you and/or your spouse. While you can (and should) take every safety precaution while travelling, the reality is that life is full of uncertainties. The good news is that what we can’t predict, we can plan for. So before your trip, make a will and outline a guardian and backup guardians to take care of your children should something happen to you. If you don’t name a guardian(s) it could result in a painful tug-of-war between family and friends who all believe they would be your choice for a caretaker. The person who is appointed guardian may not be the person who would do the best job of raising your children.

You need to choose a guardian and allocate funds for your pets if something happens to you

If you’re not yet a parent, but you have a pet, you have a duty as “fur parent” to make sure they’re planned for too. In your will, you can choose a guardian and allocate funds to make sure Fido still gets spoiled if anything happens to you. We often assume that a loved one will step up to take care of a pet if needed, but that isn’t always the case. If family members are unable or unwilling to take on the responsibility of pet ownership, your pet could end up in a shelter.

You need to plan how you want your assets distributed

While your children (and pets) are your most important and priceless assets, you also need to plan how you would want other assets like your home, car, investments, family heirlooms, etc. to be distributed. If you die without a will, the courts will use provincial laws to distribute your estate, which means the people you would have wanted to provide for or leave specific gifts to could be left out. If you’d also like to leave a part of your estate or gift to a charity you care about, having it outlined in your will is the only way to do so.

You need to outline your final wishes

When you decided to plan a trip, you probably didn’t expect to hear that you should also plan your funeral. Although funeral wishes are not a legally-binding part of an estate plan, it’s incredibly helpful for family members to have a document outlining what you would like to be done with your body, what kind of ceremony you want and where you want your final resting place to be. Grieving the loss of a loved one is hard enough, but having to also make important funeral decisions makes this time much harder on surviving family members. Not to mention the potential for family members to disagree on how to best recognize and celebrate your life. Even better if you compile your will, important documents, and funeral wishes into a folder that your executor can access – by doing that, you’re saving them an immense amount of time and stress.

Again, estate planning is likely the furthest thing from your mind when you’re booking that amazing trip – I know it was the last thing on my mind when I was planning my honeymoon to Fiji last fall. But when I got on the world’s tiniest plane to fly between islands, I was glad I had an estate plan in place – and even more glad when we landed safely. Whether it’s the day you decide to travel, or the day before you leave, get an estate plan in place so you have peace of mind while creating memories. 

Setting up a will is easy with a company like Willful. Why spend more than you have to when you can get a legally binding will in just a few minutes. Read my full review of Willful here and use code MONEYWEHAVE15 for $15 off any plan on Willful. 

Erin Bury is the co-founder and CEO at Willful, which makes it easy, affordable, and convenient to create a will and Power of Attorney documents online. She’s an avid traveller who has been to Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Scotland in the past year – and she always feels better on tiny planes knowing she has a solid estate plan in place.