It's easy to get swept up by the hype when you're planning out a trip. Whether it's international or local travel, daydreams of relaxing on a beach or skiing down snowy slopes can easily occupy your mind. Of course, you won't forget the basics like booking your flight and getting your travel visas in order. Meanwhile, packing lists, house chores, reservations, and transport arrangements take a back seat, right behind the more exciting stuff. As with everything important, though, it's not until you need something that you realize it's not there. Luckily, we've got just what the travel doctor prescribed: 37 things to do before your next trip.
Each item on this list will ensure that everything is in order, from your packing checklist to your house plants. If you’re looking for a quick step-by-step guide, feel free to follow the bulleted travel checklist below. For a more detailed walkthrough, follow along with the video at the end of the list and read on.
A Month Before
- Create a travel packing list
- Book your accommodation
- Apply for an International Driver’s Permit (if you plan on driving in another country)
- Check for vaccination requirements
- Get an advanced supply of prescription medication
- Get travel insurance
A Week Before
- Check the weather and change your packing list accordingly
- Pack your bags
- Notify your bank that you’ll be traveling
- Get your finances in order
- Make arrangements for someone to take care of your household
- Confirm your reservations
2-3 Days Before
- Organize your travel documents
- Arranging transportation to and from the airport
- Share your itinerary, accommodation address, and contact info
- Charge your batteries
- Double-check your bag
- Start adjusting to timezone differences
- Clean your house
A Day Before
- Take out the trash and any perishables
- Pack your travel snacks
- Double-check your personal item bag
- Unplug the electronics you’ve been charging
- Put your bags near the door
- Check in to your flight
- Download your digital boarding pass
- Set an away message for your email
- Lay out your outfit for the next day
The Day Of
- Eat before you go
- Take out any remaining trash and leftovers
- Pack up your toiletries
- Make sure the plants have been watered and the pets have enough food
- Unplug appliances around the house
- Grab your phone
- Triple-check you have all your essential travel documents
- Adjust the thermostat
- Grab your bags and go!
A Month Before
A month before the big trip, it's important to decide what gear you'll need, i.e., (1) create a packing list. It essentially acts as a travel checklist, but only for what goes in your bag. Packing checklists depend on a lot of things, such as your destination's climate, duration of stay, personal and work-related needs, and local customs and culture. That last one is a bit nuanced, but a good example would be how temples and other religious sites enforce dress codes that require the head and shoulders to be covered.
At the core of any packing checklist for a vacation (or otherwise) are your absolute necessities, like clothing, toiletries, travel documents, and medication. It’s these items that must go first before you can move on to less essential gear like electronics, cosmetics, and other accessories. If you aren’t sure where to start, you can check out ours—such as our Digital Nomad and Budget packing lists—which are good templates that you can modify as needed.
Once you’ve got a working manifest of everything you need, it’s time to (2) book your accommodation. If your trip coincides with a holiday season or travel-heavy seasons in general, hotel and Airbnb prices usually go up during those times. Additionally, finding a place to stay tends to get more difficult as more and more people book. In other words, it’s better to lock one in as soon as possible.
If you’re traveling internationally and plan on driving a motor vehicle, like a car or motorcycle, you’ll have to (3) apply for an International Driver’s Permit. Procedures and requirements may vary from country to country. The processing time can be a few weeks, so it’s best to get the application process rolling early.
While you’re on the web looking up those permits, (4) check the vaccination requirements for the country you’re visiting. If you’re unsure which vaccines are required and which are recommended, the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) website has an extensive travel checklist and is an excellent resource to get you sorted.
On the subject of health, make sure to top up and (5) get an advanced supply of your prescription medication from your doctor. You never know if you’ll have to extend your stay, and your specific medication may not be available at your destination. Furthermore, it’s important to check the laws and regulations on bringing medicine and drugs into the country beforehand to avoid legal troubles or confiscation.
After you have your vaccination and prescription medicine prepped, one additional layer of readiness you’ll want is (6) travel insurance. Travel insurance coverage varies depending on your provider, but typical coverage includes emergency medical treatment, personal liabilities, and loss of personal items like travel documents and baggage. Again, you never know what could happen while you’re traveling, so it’s best to be prepared in case of an emergency.
A Week Before
A week before your trip is a good time to (7) check the weather and change your packing list accordingly. Weather is one of the most finicky aspects of a travel checklist, as a particular day can go from sunny to rainy in a snap. That said, forecasts are still a safe bet for adapting your packing checklist. After all, what good are flip-flops and shorts when it's going to rain the entire trip? You can still wear them, but you'll be sad, wet, and look totally unprepared.
Now we really get into the thick of things: (8) packing your bags. We've already gone over how you should create your packing checklist, but there's also the question of how it all comes together. Start the process by laying out everything you think you need, then try cutting the quantity down in half. It's never too late to unburden yourself of excess weight, and who knows—maybe the extra space can afford you to bring something you initially had to cut.
Some items need to be packed last because you’ll be using them right up until you leave the house—we’re talking about toiletries, chargers, and house keys—so make sure to save some space in your bag for them. (Psst—that's where this travel checklist comes in handy.)
Once everything’s packed, keep track of your bag’s (or bags’) total weight. If you’re traveling with just a carry-on, airlines have different weight and size limits, so be sure you’re well within them. You can check your bag’s weight by weighing yourself on a bathroom scale with and without the bag then subtracting the difference. If you need a guide for packing a carry-on, we’ve got you covered.
Other than friends and family, you’ll also want to (9) notify your bank that you’ll be traveling. No, you won’t need to shed a few tears of sadness for them like you would for your pet. You’ll be doing this so that they won’t flag your purchases outside your typical area as fraudulent. Tell them the exact dates you’re traveling and where you’ll be. There are few things more embarrassing than having your credit card declined when you’re trying to pay for a fancy dinner; worse if you’re treating someone else.
On that note, check up on any upcoming bills that may come your way while you're gone. In other words, (10) get your finances in order. Don't worry—this won't be as complicated as doing a complete audit; you're simply making sure you're not coming home to find the electricity and internet disconnected.
This one's for the pet lovers and plant havers: (11) make arrangements for someone to take care of your household. Oh, how we wish we could just take our dog and/or three-foot fern with us to the Bahamas. But alas, it's not the most practical idea. The next best thing? Ask a neighbor, friend, or family member to feed and water them from time to time while you're away. Just make sure to bring them back something nice (for the caretaker and the pet/plant).
Someone else who might miss you while you're away is the mail carrier. To keep mail from piling up unnecessarily, you may want to contact your local post office to put your mail on hold if you're going on an extended trip.
While you're still a week away from your trip, (12) confirm your reservations. This not only goes for your accommodations but also for restaurant reservations and any specific events you plan on attending. Last-minute changes to events aren't unheard of, so it's worth re-checking.
2-3 Days Before
Okay, by this point, your hype levels are probably fast approaching critical mass. Hold your horses and passports, though, because there are still a few things to do during these last few days.
Still holding your passports? Okay, good, because it’s time to (13) organize your travel documents. Without these, there is no trip, except to the terminal or station. The documents you’ll want to keep track of are your passport, itinerary, insurance, visas, and tickets. If your everyday wallet can fit all those, then great. If not, passport wallets do exist, and some bags come with dedicated security pockets that can take them in.
The trip from where you're staying and to the terminal probably isn't the one you're particularly excited for, but it's worth prepping for anyway. (14) Arranging transportation to and from the airport is just as important in our eyes, unless you fancy a long walk. To avoid expensive parking fees or taxi fares, you can ask a friend or family member to give you a ride. There's a chance they won't be available on that day, though, so having someone extra as a backup is a good idea. If you’re taking an Uber or Lyft, schedule a pickup in advance so you won't have to wait long on the day itself. The same goes for when you're riding from the airport to wherever you're staying; book it now, so you aren't left waiting needlessly for a ride.
At this point, you’ve already told friends and family about your big trip, but now it’s time to (15) share your itinerary, accommodation address, and contact info. You won’t be doing this to brag, but to make sure they know where you are and how to reach you in case of an emergency.
If there’s something that needs constant attention throughout this travel checklist, it’s the (16) charge levels of your batteries. Even when they're just idling, laptops, smartphones, and handheld consoles like the Nintendo Switch are slowly but surely sipping power. Topping them up just before you leave ensures they're ready when you actually need them.
Okay, now it’s time to (17) double-check your bag. It's not like anything's escaped between now and the time you've packed it a few days back—this is just to make sure you haven't forgotten anything. Plus, it gives you the chance to make a few tweaks to what you've packed and to squeeze in some last few items if you want to.
After you’ve double-checked—and maybe even triple-checked—your bag, you’re probably feeling a bit tired. Too early to go to bed? It may not be the worst idea to (18) adjust now and prevent jet lag. If you’re traveling to a different time zone, you can prepare yourself for the switch by changing your habits. This includes eating dinner an hour earlier or later (depending on the time difference), and the same goes for your sleep schedule.
This may be the least popular tip on the list, but it's worth doing anyway: (19) clean your house. Think your house is dirty as it is? Imagine it days or weeks later when no one's been home to keep things tidy. Trust us, piled-up laundry (worse: piled-up dirty dishes) only becomes more of a chore after you've come back from your trip, exhausted from all the traveling you just did. Do them now.
A Day Before
You've already cleaned the house, expelling all the dirt off of plates, clothes, and any reachable surfaces. But this is the day before the main event, and there's one more thing (or set of things) to throw out. Have you guessed it? Yep, time to (20) take out the trash and any perishables you have lying in the kitchen and pantry. We support eating as much as you want of the perishables since wasting food is just, well, wasteful.
While you’re in the kitchen, you can go ahead and (21) pack your travel snacks. Airport snacks tend to get pricey, and you won’t believe how much you can save just by bringing your own. Just be mindful to pack foods that are easy to eat, not messy, and don't smell. It’s also worth checking out which foods are considered liquids and need to follow TSA’s 3-1-1 rule (we’re looking at you, goat cheese).
Now, (22) double-check your personal item bag, a.k.a your carry-on. This is to ensure your travel essentials are all there, especially your travel documents and money. After you’ve done that, (23) unplug the electronics you’ve been charging, like your laptop, game console, and power bank. By this point, almost everything is packed up, so (24) put the bags near the door where you can grab them and go.
There are just a few more things to sort out before you hit the hay! Before you go to sleep, (25) check in to your flight to save time at the airport. Most airlines have an app that allows you to check into your flight 24 hours ahead of time. Checking in this early lets you pick a good seat, so do that if you haven't already. If you've been issued a (26) digital boarding pass, take this chance to download it to your phone now to save you the hassle later.
Before you put down your phone for the night, make sure to (27) set an away message for your email. That is, unless you’re traveling for work or working remotely. If this is your vacation, turn off all work-related notifications so you can make the most out of your well-earned rest.
Once you’ve put down the phone, (28) lay out your outfit for the next day. Having your clothes laid out and ready will help speed things up as you’re rushing out the door. We don’t know about you, but we move faster just before we sleep than after we’ve just woken up.
The Day Of
At last, we've finally arrived at the day you've been waiting for. It's the main event: the day you actually leave for your trip. Hopefully, you weren't kept up all night by the excitement for your adventure, though we really can't blame you if you were. At the very least, you can go ahead and (29) eat breakfast or lunch to help stave off any hunger that could lead to unnecessary snack purchases at the airport. After you're done eating, (30) take out any remaining trash and leftovers you still have lying around.
Remember when we said some items need to be packed last? Well, it's time to get those aboard as well. After you've freshened yourself up, (31) pack up your toiletries and place them where you can easily get to them when you get to security. Putting them underneath anything else will hold up the line as you search through your bag to get to them, as TSA officers need to check those fluids to make sure they meet regulations. Bring out your packing checklist and ensure all remaining items are in your bag.
And don't forget about your housemates! Namely, your house plants and pets. (32) Make sure the plants have been watered and the pets have enough food to last until your designated caretaker gets to them.
The next tip will help you save money on electricity. (33) Unplug appliances that won’t be in use while you’re away, as they can still sip a tiny amount of electricity if, say, they have LED indicators. This includes TVs, microwaves, coffee makers, and desktop computers. Plus, unplugging will help prevent any potential fires if something accidentally shorts while you’re away. Speaking of unplugging, make sure you (34) grab your phone, earbuds, or Kindle in case you’re doing any last-minute charging.
Yay! You’re almost out the door. But wait! It’s time for another passport check. (35) Triple-check if you have all of your essential travel documents. You can never be too careful in trying to avoid being that person awkwardly digging through their bag at the last minute just before boarding.
While you’re walking towards the door, make a quick (36) walk-over to the thermostat and reduce the temperature. No one’s going to be home, so there’s no need to rack up a pricey heating bill. Needless to say, keep your pets and indoor plants in mind when you’re adjusting this. At this point, consider doing one last pass over this full travel checklist to make sure you're all set to go.
Got all that? Well then, time to (37) grab your bags and go! Careful not to trip in excitement!
If you’re reading this while you’re on a train or aboard your flight, congratulations! 37 travel checklist to-do’s sound like a lot, but once you’ve completed this travel checklist a few times, it becomes second nature. These are tips we follow ourselves and we haven’t missed a beat ever since. No missing passports, accommodations are on point, and the pets are just as happy to see us as when we left them—and it makes the trip all the more worth it.
This travel checklist is brought to you by the Pack Hacker team. We’ve collected these tips through many fun trips and a couple not so fun ones.