Enter the Checklist: Stress-Free Travel

You’re about to set off on your glorious new adventure; the last thing you should be doing is wondering whether you remembered to unplug your hairdryer before you left. And who wants their poolside time to be interrupted by emails from their house sitter? Enter the checklist: that heaven-sent shortcut to organization and efficiency. Here are some samples and suggestions on creating your perfect travel checklist. Stress-free travel, here we come.

checklist for travel

Long-Term Planning

By long-term, I mean months in advance. As in, maybe even book the tickets. Why, you may ask? Let’s look at the first item on your list: passport. Do you have one? Many people don’t, and getting them can take longer than you may think. You never know when there might be some kind of a delay, and trying to travel without a passport is almost impossible. (Almost. But take it from someone who’s been there – don’t try it.) This checklist might include downloading certain forms, going to state department offices, getting your birth certificate and proof of address together, and so on. You should be able to find assistance by calling your local government office.

Another thing that might take a really long time is a visa. This depends both on the country you live in and the country you’re visiting. Sometimes, you can get the visa online any time up to the minute before you leave the airport. Or you might have to drive to the country’s consulate in your nearest big city and line up outside. Other times, you can just get your passport stamped when you enter the country. Find out what you’re going to need as soon as you know where you’re going.

You might also consider looking at your spending options while overseas. Find out what services your bank has available. Fortunately, we have another article detailing options for you to check out.

Travel and Transport

Obviously, booking your main travel will be the first thing on the list – this will probably be a flight. Once you have the fight dates set, you’ll need to decide how you will get to and from the airport on both sides. This checklist might involve comparing taxi prices, or finding a friend to give you a ride and making sure they’re available. If you have a good public transport option, you will need to check what time to catch the train, bus or shuttle.

The same goes for when you’ve arrived at your destination. You can wait until you get there and work out your options, but it can be much more relaxing to know that you have it sorted before hand. Speaking from a few experiences, I am not a fan of haggling for taxi fare late at night.

Preparing Your Home

If you want to book a house, pet or plant sitter, you can make a checklist of all the things they will need. Keys, codes, walk-and-food schedules, emergency contact numbers, and so on. This should be done as early as possible, so if you need to do anything like extra keys cut there won’t be a rush.

Making a list of all the perishable foods you need to eat before you leave might also help. You can write them all down and see how many meals you can make out of them. Otherwise, be sure to give away anything that might expire in your absence.

Safety, Security and Health

A list of people to inform of your trip is always a good idea. Your neighbors should be told, even if you are going to use a house sitter. Your bank should be told, to avoid any confusion about your card being used overseas. You might want to tell your alarm company as well, just in case something gets set off and they have trouble reaching you.

Travel and health insurance may need their own lists, especially if you’re going to be shopping around for options. You might also need to check off things like filling your prescription, picking up extra contact lenses, or getting immunization shots.

Packing

I’m not going to give you a list of clothes to bring. This is hugely variable, so much so that we’ve just started an entire series dedicated to packing for different types of trip. Some things, however, you will always need to bring.

Items such as an extra backpack, portable power bank, and travel pillows, should go on the list early, as you may need to buy these specially. You should also make sure to get travel-sized toiletries sorted out, making sure they comply with TSA regulations.

A list of every item that you will be taking with you is a great thing to bring along. This way, every time you need to pack up and move on, you can make sure that you haven’t forgotten anything at your accomodation.

Documents

This is a crucial list. You need to know exactly what is going to be checked at the airport, both on your side and once you’ve arrived at your destination. This will include your passport and visa, and (I would recommend) hard copies of your various tickets and reservations. It is a good idea to have a folder in which you keep all these documents, to stop anything from getting misplaced. You can also eliminate the need to start scratching through your handbag at the front of the line when you realize you accidentally put away your boarding pass (we’ve all been there).

Day Of

Most flights have the option to check in online around twenty-four hours before you get to the airport. I would definitely put this on the “day of” list.

You might have packed the night before, but make sure that anything you’ve left out goes on the list. Toothbrushes are notorious for being left behind, as they can never be packed too far in advance.

I always make sure I have a list of things I have to do around the home on the day of departure. These are as basic as “all lights off”, “unplug appliances” and “all windows closed”. Not that these are difficult to remember. But they are the kind of thing that might cause me anxiety. If I close all the windows, then check the box saying I did, I will be less likely to doubt myself.

The very last thing on my list is usually “take out trash”. You certainly don’t want to leave it for the time you’ll be away, but you may need to throw stuff out right up until you leave.

I hope you find these tips useful in creating your own travel checklists, and that you can adapt them to suit your needs. Do you have any checklists of your own that I haven’t included?

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Kate Downes

Kate is a freelance writer and travel blogger. Some people say it's a tough gig, but she has previously taught high school, worked retail, and been a bartender in London, and would take five thousand words on a deadline any day. You can find more of her work at readlongshorts.com and signedkateelizabeth.com.

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