I consider myself a pretty good traveler. It doesn’t take me that long to pack, I’m not usually bothered by kinks in the road, and, hell, I started a travel blog to share the things I’ve learned. Still, nearly every time I prepare to go out of town for any reason, I get overwhelmed by the long list of things I need to do before I leave. The night before we leave, I’m always up late scrambling to get ready, which is never a good way to start a vacation.
I recently realized that whether I’m leaving for several weeks or just a few nights I do most of the same things to get ready to go. This became very clear this past weekend when I was getting ready to leave for a quick, three-night visit to Los Angeles. Our house wasn’t going to be totally vacant–Kevin would be home at night, but he’s been working very long hours, so I knew he would be coming home only to sleep. He wouldn’t be going into the kitchen at all AND our dog would be going to stay with a friend, still I somehow had just as many things to do to prepare for this trip as I would a long vacation. And as usual, I was up late the night before frantically packing and cleaning.
To help me (and you!) get organized and plan for future vacations, I decided to put together a travel checklist of things to do before you leave on a trip. I sorted the list into things I do a few days (to a week or more) before I leave, things I do the day or two before, and things I do the morning I leave. With very short trips (or if you don’t have pets) you’ll have to do fewer of these things and with very long trips you may need to add some more, but this is a good place to start.
Use this list to create a list of your own so that you can reduce the anxiety of planning your next trip. (And leave a comment below to tell me what other things you would add!)
Things to do a few days before you leave:
- Write out your packing list–include everything you want to bring with you: clothing, accessories, personal care, etc. Need ideas? Click here to check out my one-bag carry-on travel packing list.
- Do laundry. It’s important to do this early so you have everything you might want to pack. Far too many times I’ve stayed up late the night before I leave waiting for a specific item of clothing to dry.
- Start to eat any produce and perishable food you currently have in the kitchen. Try to limit your purchases of any new perishable foods.
- Get out your suitcase and start to throw things on top of it that you want to remember to take.
- Make sure you’ve contacted anyone you want to meet up with during your trip and make arrangements for when you may be free to meet. Make sure you have their contact information written down or saved on your phone.
- If you have pets, make a plan for their care while you are away.
- Try to wrap up projects you need to finish for work. If at possible, say no — don’t agree to take on additional projects or obligations or attend events in the days leading up to your trip.
- If you will be traveling internationally, contact your bank and credit card company to let them know what countries you will be traveling to. Most banks let you do that online–log in and look for an option called “travel notification form” or “submit a travel notice”.
Things to do the day before you leave:
- Make transit arrangements for your trip from home to the airport — figure who will be taking you and agree on what time they’ll pick you up or call to reserve a taxi.
- Call the hotel or AirBnb you will be staying on the first night of your trip and find out the best way to get there from the airport. Save that information and any itinerary in a notebook in your carry-on (I always carry one of these little notebooks) or a smartphone itinerary management app like Tripit. Want to give Airbnb a try? Click here to get $20 off your first stay!
- Eat, throw out, or give away any perishable food you won’t be able to eat. I cut up any remaining fruit, vegetables, or cheese and put it into baggies to take as a snack on the plane.
- Pull together all remaining things you want to pack and spread it all out on your bed so you look at it all together. When you have collected everything you want to pack, go through it and try to remove as much of it as you can before finally packing it into your suitcase. (Need some tips for packing light? Here’s my carry on-only packing list)
- Lay out any clothes you’ll be wearing the morning you leave for the trip.
- Leave a note next your suitcase to remind you of anything you need to remember to pack the morning you leave (eye glasses, retainer, water/snacks from refrigerator)
- Clear off and reformat all memory cards for your camera.
- Clear all the photos off your phone and sync it to back up the data–that so important, especially in case you lose it!
- Charge camera/laptop/phone and all spare batteries.
- Pack chargers for each device.
- Pack your pets’ things if they will be going somewhere. Include a few day extras on food and medications (in case your trip is delayed) and contact information for your vet. If your cat is staying home (to be cared for by a friend stopping by), leave out an extra full bowl of food and an extra bowl of water. Empty and clean out the litter pan.
- Arrange for care for your pets (drop them off, schedule a time to meet, etc.)
- Wash all dishes in the sink and run the dishwasher.
- Clean off all the kitchen counters and clean out the sink to be sure there is no food in the drain that could rot or attract bugs.
- Take out garbage/recycling/compost from every room in the house
- Do any pre-travel personal care routine you have (do your nails, eyebrows, etc.)
- Water all plants
- Get some cash out of an ATM, so you have it for last-minute travel needs.
Things to do the morning you leave:
- Pack up any last-minute things you need to take (eyeglasses, retainer, water/snacks from refrigerator)
- Turn off all power strips/unplug any electrical devices you won’t be using. This protects your electronics from power surge and reduces the energy use.
- Turn off the heater/air conditioner if you live somewhere temperate. If the weather may be freezing or if you have any pets staying in the house, set the heater to maintain a temperature comfortably over freezing (50F or higher). If it’s hot and you have pets in the house, set the AC to cool the house down if it rises above 85F.
Additional things to do before a long or international trip:
- Ask neighbor or friend to keep an eye on your house and give them the information to call you or landlord if anything is wrong. Make sure a neighbor or friend has a spare set of keys to your house in case of emergency.
- Call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be abroad.
- Put your mail on hold (unless you have someone coming over to check in on the house/pets/plants)
- Study the exchange rate of the country you are going to and write down how much money in local currency you want to take out when you go to a local ATM upon arrival.
Other pre-travel resources on EIT:
- Looking for tips for packing light? Check out my carry-on only packing lists
- Packing for winter travel or outdoor adventures? Check out my winter travel/outdoor photography packing list
- Having a petsitter come to stay? Check out my tips for preparing your house for a housesitter
- Will you be traveling with your pet? Check out these tips for traveling with your dog (most of them apply to other pets)
Want to save this checklist for your next trip? Click here to pin it on Pinterest:
Photo credit: flickr/Chiew Pang.