Your Pre-Travel Checklist
There are many benefits to traveling. Taking a vacation can help you de-stress, not think about work, and truly relax while you experience an all-new place or culture. Even traveling for school or work can be exciting, as you learn to navigate a new city, and can form long-lasting relationships with the people you meet.
Yet as important as travel is for your mind and spirit, there is no denying that planning for a trip can be a bit stressful. Whether you’re leaving the country for a month, traveling south for the winter, or just taking a quick weekend trip, there are so many little details to remember and bases to cover. Constructing a thorough pre-travel checklist can help you prepare for your trip, and below are some ways to help you stop stressing and start planning.
Plan Your Travel
When it comes to making an itinerary for your trip, sometimes having minimal plans on how to spend your vacation time can be the most relaxing option. However, there are still some preparations you should make before you leave, such as figuring out how far away from the airport your hotel is, or how you’ll get around town once you arrive.
Creating an itemized itinerary on the day of your flight, train, or drive can help you prepare properly before you leave for your trip. For example, making notes on what time it’ll be locally when you arrive, what documents you might need to take with you (will a driver’s license work, or do you need a passport too?), the layout of the airport or train station and even some common phrases in the local language can all help take some of the stress out of traveling.
Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when planning your travel:
- Before booking your trip: Research your destination for any potential health or safety risks. If you’re traveling internationally, check in with the local US Consulate or Embassy office to let them know you will be in the country for whatever amount of time you’re there. That way if a natural disaster or incident happens, the Consulate will know to look for you and provide you support if you need it.
- 2 weeks before your trip: Research your destination and determine how you’re going to get around (taxi, Lyft, Uber, public transportation, rental, etc.) and how you’re going to get to and from the airport both when you arrive and when you need to leave. Make sure to have a couple of backup options just in case your first one falls through. Leaving for a vacation can be stressful enough, but missing a flight or train is no laughing matter — especially when you’re in a foreign country.
- 1 week before your trip: Make a list of all the things that you need to check or do before you leave the house. This might include paying bills, scheduling a pet sitter, watering your plants, mowing your lawn, notifying your bank of your international trip, downloading your preferred entertainment, or simply making sure the house is organized. Add to it as you go along if you remember more things you need to do.
- 24 hours before your trip: When checking into your flight, do you also need to check baggage? Can you check in on your mobile device or computer? There’s certainly pros and cons to checking into your flight early — one positive is that you’ll be able to guarantee your seat on the flight, but a negative is, if flights are delayed, canceled, or rescheduled, you may not be able to hop on the next most available flight. Keep these pros and cons in mind as you plan out the start of your trip.
- 3 hours before your trip: How soon should you arrive at the airport before your flight? In the United States, TSA suggests accounting for the time it takes to find parking, find your check-in area, get through security, and the time it takes to get to your gate. Depending on the airport you’re using, this can mean showing anywhere from 3 hours to just an hour before your flight. Additionally, keep in mind that some airlines require you to check into your flight at least 30 mins before your flight leaves its gate, although this policy can vary depending on the airline you’re using, as well as the specific airport you’ll be departing from. If you’re anxious about checking in, you can contact TSA (or use their app) to determine how long the security lines are at your airport, and you can contact your airline to get more information on your flight and when you should check-in.
Make a Packing List
Before your trip, you should also make a packing list that includes all the essential items you will need while on your trip. Keep in mind, you should always check the expected weather at your destination so you can bring the appropriate clothes to keep you warm or cool. Additionally, always make sure to bring any medications with you — especially if you’re flying, make sure to bring these with you on your carry-on, just in case your luggage gets lost or stolen.
Other items, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, makeup, shampoo, phone chargers, and more will most likely be available for purchase in the area that you’re visiting. If you’re trying to save space, or you simply forget an item, you can most likely purchase items when you arrive. However, if you plan on packing them, be sure to keep liquids in a bag in case they leak (pressure changes while flying or driving through mountains can cause packages to burst), and follow all the applicable laws if you’re flying with liquids in your carry on.
When it comes to packing, keeping your luggage light can make traveling a lot easier. If you’re worried about space, try slimming down the clothes you bring, or consider packing your luggage tightly to conserve space.
One popular packing method is the Konmari method, developed by author Marie Kondo. When it comes to packing your suitcase, following this organization style can help you save space and avoid overpacking:
- Folding your clothing as small as possible is one of the key aspects of the Konmari method. Typically, items are folded into a rectangle shape and then folded into thirds. Additionally, sheer or light fabrics can be rolled up to prevent wrinkles.
- Keep like items (undergarments, shirts, pants, dresses, etc) together in your suitcase.
- Use shoe bags or a liner to keep shoes separate from your clothes.
- Only put in your suitcase the things that you really wear, and ask yourself if the things you are bringing “spark joy” for you.
Organize Your Home
Once all your items are packed and your itinerary is set, the only thing left to do before you leave your home for a trip is to ensure your home is neat and organized for when you get back.
This step is certainly optional, but preparing for a trip can provide you with the perfect opportunity to organize your home a little bit. Sometimes taking vacations can leave travelers a bit mentally exhausted, so organizing ahead of time can help ease the stress of returning to normal life. There’s nothing like coming back to a well-organized, clean, and comfortable space, so utilize some spring cleaning tips to get your home in order.
If your trip is more long-term — such as leaving for a study-abroad program or an extended stay down south during the winter — then there may be some additional steps that you need to consider. This can include finding boarding for pets, a housesitter, a lawn or garden-care service, or storage for your car to ensure it doesn’t get stolen, broken into, or damaged. Additionally, if you decide to vacate your home or rent it out for a time to offset travel costs, you may need to store your furniture and other personal items in a storage facility. It’s important to research what options are in your area and entrust your items to a reliable storage company.
When you do come back home from your trip, you’ll be thankful that you had the forethought to organize your home before you left. Traveling is exciting, and seeing new places and meeting new people can be especially engaging for your mind, but it can get exhausting quickly, as well.
Wherever you end up going and however you get there, this list should help make your trip just a little less stressful. Happy travels!