Whenever you are planning for a vacation, do you ever get overwhelmed by all the things that need to be done? To reduce that stress, a pre-travel checklist will be very helpful. Here’s a list of 20 things I do before I travel. It is not a 100% stress-relief list but it might at least reduce some last-minute panic attacks!
Make sure that your passport has not expired. If you have kids, check theirs too because their passports are only valid for 5 years vs 10 years for adults. It is also necessary to have at least 6 months validity. Many foreign countries will not let you in if you have less than 6 months left on your passport. If you don’t have a passport, make sure you apply early as it will take about 4-6 weeks to get one.
2. TRAVEL VISA
Check the US State Dept website for visa requirement for your destination country. It is also a good idea to check travel warnings and watch the news for out-of-ordinary happenings just to make sure that you will have a safe travel.
3. BANK & CREDIT CARD COMPANIES
Inform the bank and CC companies of your travel plans else your ATM or credit cards might be flagged as fraud and cannot be used in the foreign country. Make sure this is done if you do not want to spoil your vacation because you don’t have any money.
4. TRAVEL INSURANCE
Travel insurance may not seem necessary but it is absolutely necessary. Emergencies can never be predicted and you do not want to be stuck with a huge medical bill overseas or even worse, you need to be evacuated for political reasons. This past summer, I purchased my travel insurance from World Nomads when I travelled to SE Asia for 2 months.
5. INTERNATIONAL DRIVERS LICENSE
It is always good to get the international drivers license before travelling. Even though most countries will allow you to drive on a US license temporarily, some countries do require the International Drivers License to rent a car. It costs $15 (and 2 passport photos) to get it at American Automobile Association (AAA)
Depending on your destination, it is always a good idea to get shots. Check the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Travelers’ Health website to determine the vaccine you might need for your destination country. For example, if you are travelling to a country where mosquitos are prevalent, it is always advisable to get shots for malaria.
It is important to pack at least some basic medication like Tylenol / Aspirin / Neosporin / Bandaid etc.. Don’t forget to bring along your prescription medication if necessary. Sometimes you will not have immediate access to the local health care, so having a basic medical kit will be helpful.
8. BOOK ACCOMMODATIONS
Some people like to prebook accommodations and some don’t. I think it all depends on how much time you have and who you are travelling with. This summer, we were on a very short trip to Japan and it makes sense to prebook all our accommodations so that we can make use of whatever short time we have to enjoy the sights of the destination. If I am on a long vacation without time constraints, then I might prebook at least 1 nights accommodation and leave the rest till I get there.
9. HOLD ALL MAIL & NEWSPAPER
This is the one I always forget. You do not need to attract unwanted people to your house with a pile of newspaper on your driveway.
10. MANAGE YOUR BILLS
Just because you are on vacation, bills still need to be paid. Before you leave, make sure all your bills are paid or at least arrange for autopay.
11. TRAVEL ADAPTERS & VOLTAGE CONVERTER
Don’t forget to bring along a travel adapter or two or three! It’s amazing how many devices we need to charge nowadays between tablets, phones, cameras etc.. I like the all-in-one plug adapter just because you will never know what kind of plug you will need. Also if necessary, you may need to bring along a voltage converter. Some countries uses 220 vs 110 in the USA. Thankfully most electronics have dual voltage but do check it carefully.
12. TRANSPORTATION & ATTRACTION TICKETS AT DESTINATION COUNTRY
Sometimes there are special discount tickets available to foreign tourists that are only available for purchase overseas. One prime example is the Japan Rail Pass which offers unlimited rides on JR trains for a certain number of days. Japan Rail Pass can only be bought outside Japan.
13. CELL PHONE & INTERNET USAGE
Data roaming is very costly. I know that the moment I leave the country, I turn on the airplane mode on my phone. For most countries, you can buy prepaid sim card to be used on unlocked phones. For some countries like Japan, you can rent the wifi routers.
14. BRING SOME CASH
It is always advisable to bring along emergency cash. Even though credit cards are internationally accepted, many places like the hole-in-the-wall food places or street food vendors or bus rides still only accept cash.
15. MAKE COPIES OF IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS
Make copies of passports, visas, credit cards and drivers license & keep it separate from the original documents. You could also scan them and send them to your email. Leave an extra copy of all documents & travel itinerary at home with family or friends.
16. EMERGENCY NUMBERS
Keep a list of phone number to call in case your cell phone does not work or your credit card gets stolen.
17. REGISTER WITH THE NEAREST EMBASSY
Enrol with the nearest US embassy with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) before you travel just in case of any emergency.
18. DOWNLOAD TRAVEL APPS
Apps like conversion converters, language translators & travel budget apps are very helpful when you are in a foreign country. Just make sure that the apps work offline or you have internet access if they don’t.
19. CHECK BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE
Baggage allowance differs from country to country & from airline to airline. This is extremely important when you travel to many countries. For example, travelling from US to SE Asia, the baggage allowance is very generous. However, once we got to SE Asia and had to travel with the local airline, our luggages were way overweight!
20. PET CARE
If you have pets, don’t forget to make arrangements for pet care.
Do you use a pre-travel checklist? Did I miss anything? Please feel free to share your pre-travel tips in the comments below.
** UPDATED 03/02/2016: Click HERE to get a free printable pre-travel checklist!