Everyone knows the last few days before a trip can be hectic.
Whether you are going to the beach for a weekend or traveling abroad for a month (or two, or three), it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the tasks that need to be done.
To help alleviate a lot of stress and last-minute running around, we created this handy pre-travel checklist.
Here are the 24 things you should do BEFORE you travel:
1. Buy travel insurance
For most people, this is really only necessary if you are traveling outside of your home country.
There are a variety of travel insurance plans and options, but they typically cover emergency medical coverage, evacuation, lost luggage, and trip cancellation.
Check out our guide to the best travel insurance to learn more.
2. Get an international driver’s license
Not every country requires an international driver’s license, but it’s a good idea to have one in case you run into any issues.
Plus, it’s super easy to get an IDL.
If you’re an American, you can go to any AAA and they can set you up with one. Just bring two passport photos and $15, and you are ready to go.
3. Pick up extra passport pages
This may seem obvious, but depending on how much you travel it’s important to be sure you have the correct pages available in your passport, especially if you need any visas.
Most countries will not put a visa on any page other than a visa page, meaning an “amendments page” will not work (something we learned the hard way).
Also, if your passport expires within 6 months of your trip, some countries will not allow you to enter.
4. Get the right visas
Often overlooked? You bet.
Every day, people are turned away from a country because they don’t have the proper visa, and if this happens, you cannot even leave the airport.
You’ll be forced to leave the country immediately on the next available flight, which means this “little mistake” could end up costing you thousands of dollars.
5. Get shots
It’s always a good idea to visit your doctor before taking a trip to make sure you have any prescriptions you need up to date and filled and to discuss any other medical measures that need to be taken.
Depending on what country you are going to, you may also want to get certain vaccinations. Not sure if you need vaccinations before visiting a country? Check out this guide from the CDC.
6. Pre-book one night’s accommodation
Depending on what type of traveler you are — adventurous and spontaneous or carefully planned and structured — we recommend you have at least one night’s accommodation booked in advance.
If you arrive at a new destination and don’t have a place to stay you, you’ll eventually find a spot…but not without some stress involved.
We’ve found it’s worth it to book something in advance and put your mind at ease that first night.
Then, you can always explore the area the next day to find a better location if you’d like.
7. Print copies of your accommodation reservation
Although almost everywhere will accept a copy of a reservation on a smartphone or laptop nowadays, it never hurts to have a hard copy.
This way if you don’t have cell service or wifi, you don’t have to worry.
You are prepared and that makes everything much easier.
8. Print copies of your tickets
As with accommodation reservations, not everyone will accept digital copies of tickets.
We’ve had this trouble on trains quite often, and the result — buying a whole new ticket while on the train even though we had a confirmation number and digital copy on our smartphone — was not only frustrating but also super expensive.
Let our mistakes be your guide, and don’t let the same thing happen to you!
9. Make copies of your passport
Better safe than sorry, and making a copy of your passport is good for two reasons:
- If you lose your passport, at least you have a copy.
- Some accommodations may require a copy. While most places have a copier, there are some instances, such as Airbnb, where we have had to find a place to make copies to give to our host.
10. Give a copy of your itinerary to a friend or family member
In the event of an emergency, it’s wise to have someone at home know your whereabouts.
This also puts your family’s minds at ease knowing what parts of the world you are in.
11. Join the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
Join the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program program on the U.S. Department of State website — it’s easy and free!
By joining, they will help you if your passport is lost or stolen while you travel or if there is an emergency. This program will also send you alerts and updates so that you can stay informed.
12. Double-check the dates for your reservations
As with most of the advice in this guide, this tip comes from one of our mistakes.
When traveling by high-speed train from Rome to Milan, we made the reservation for the wrong day.
$150 later, we vowed always to double-check the dates!
13. Check the restrictions on carry-on and checked luggage
Every airline is different, so make sure you are not nickeled and dimed at the check-in counter, especially if you’re traveling on budget airlines.
14. Check the weather at your destination
Now that you can see the forecast at least 10 days in advance, you should have no trouble packing for your trip.
This way, you can decide whether those extra layers or a raincoat are necessary.
15. Pack a survival kit
For us, this means:
- Eye mask
- Sleep aid
- Prescription medications
- Hand sanitizer
16. Use packing cubes
Organization makes traveling (and packing) much easier.
Instead of your suitcase exploding all over your room, you can use these packing cubes to keep your possessions in order. Plus, it makes repacking a lot easier!
17. Pack a travel adapter
Of course, a travel adapter is necessary for when you arrive in a new country, but many airports have space to plugin now.
It’s always a good idea to have this easily accessible in order to get some work done or (let’s be honest) check Facebook or Instagram while at the airport.
18. Charge your electronics before you leave
This way if you forget your adapter, you’ll have plenty of battery.
Or if your mode of transportation doesn’t have entertainment, you can easily read or watch a movie on your device.
19. Bring some snacks for the airplane or airport
Depending on your flight, train or bus ride, there might not be many, or any, food options available.
Always plan to bring some snacks to hold you over until you arrive at your destination.
We usually hit up the grocery store and stock up on cheap, healthy options.
For more flight tips, check out our guide to surviving long-haul flights.
20. Change your bills to autopay
If you set up your bills online to automatically pay, then you don’t have to think about it while you are traveling.
If this isn’t possible, then pay the bill early, before you leave.
21. Arrange to have your mail picked up or held at the post office
If you aren’t able to have a friend or family member pick up your mail, you can contact your post office, and they can hold your mail until you return from your travels.
This is especially important if you’re traveling for an extended amount of time.
22. Notify your bank of your destinations
We usually remember to do this.
In some countries – like most of Europe, which is considered “safe” by your bank – it doesn’t matter, and your bank won’t usually reject your card.
However, as soon as you enter a “high risk” country you can forget using the ATM unless you have notified your bank, as you’ll quickly be shut down.
Make a quick 5-minute call to your bank before any travel, and you should have no problems. Many banks also let you notify them online.
23. Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees
Our favorite card for travel is the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Not only can you earn points while you travel, but you also don’t get charged any extra fees for currency exchange.
To see more cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees, check out our list of the best travel credit cards.
24. Always carry a small amount of cash with you
This way, if your ATM card doesn’t work, you can always use your cash and exchange it into the local currency. It’s also a good idea to carry a bit of the local currency with you in case you go to a restaurant or shop that doesn’t accept credit cards.
Travel Worry-Free with Our Pre-Travel Checklist
We hope this checklist has helped put you at ease for your next trip. Going through a checklist may seem like a small step, but it can prevent a lot of stress and frustration.
For more travel tips, check out these posts: