I snap photos of the rental car from every angle as avidly as I’d captured my daughter on the beach days before. My family hunches by their suitcases on the blacktop, displaying a mixture of puzzlement and impatience. What kind of vacation memory would those images evoke, anyway?

None. But it could be just the proof I need that I returned the car without a dent.

On airplanes, I do as the safety videos request and note the location of exits, secretly counting the rows like a dutiful student. I carry sanitizing wipes to clean the trays before snacking on pretzels. As for those seat-back pockets, I avoid them like the plague, since plague-inducing germs could be lurking inside.

I tuck a copy of my itinerary, with addresses and phone numbers, into my luggage.

At hotels, I peel back the layers of bedding one by one, looking for signs of bedbugs. I take a moment to study the layout of the room and the building, so that if I need to get out in the dark, I’ll be able to find the door and then the stairwell.

As for vacation beauty shots, I don’t tweet, Instagram or Facebook them until I return home. I don’t want thieves to know I’m away.

You could call me neurotic. I would counter that I’m merely a travel editor.

I’ve read a lot of stuff —­ about beautiful squares in Venice and cool hotels in Copenhagen, and also about bedbug infestations and bogus car rental charges. I prefer to dwell on the dreamy location tales, but I can’t seem to shake the instructive horror stories, either.

I still believe that the best vacations are carefree, but I don’t throw caution to the wind until all those cautionary (and OK, possibly neurotic) essentials are in hand. It doesn’t take long.


Contact travel editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@star tribune.com, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.