Creating a pre-travel checklist

I always find the days before a trip to be hectic, but with a checklist I can take a quick glance at it and make sure I didn’t forget anything I meant to do. It’s great to have a checklist detailing what you want to pack, but a checklist of things to do in the days before a trip is helpful to keep you organized.

The following are some items from my pre-travel checklist. It is based on being a single person with pets but no children, and a neighbor who will bring in the mail when she comes over to feed the cats. I’ve excluded any trip planning — making hotel reservations, deciding what I want to do while there, etc. — because those actions were completed during the travel-planning stage.

Home preparation:

  • Update cat/home care instructions as necessary.
  • Make sure there’s enough cat food and kitty litter.
  • Decide if there are any bills to be paid before leaving (and then pay them). Alternatively, schedule payments electronically to go out at appropriate dates during my trip.
  • Check thermostat levels and adjust as needed.
  • Clean out perishables from refrigerator; use them up or give them away.
  • Take out the trash.

Packing preparation:

  • Makes sure I know the luggage rules for my airline.
  • Get prescription refills as needed.
  • Make sure all the over-the-counter medicines I want to take have not expired; replace if need be.
  • Buy any gifts I want for people I’m visiting.
  • Check the weather forecast for my destination.

Electronic devices preparation:

  • Charge up any electronics I’m taking with me.
  • Load any documents I might want to Dropbox.
  • Get all contact information for my destination into my cell phone.
  • Download any apps I want that are specific to the place I’m visiting.

Additional travel preparation:

  • Arrange transportation to the airport, if needed.
  • Get maintenance done on the car, if needed.
  • Get a haircut, if needed.
  • Remove unnecessary things from my wallet.
  • Remove unnecessary keys from my key ring.
  • Mail off my absentee ballot, if traveling at election time.

Just-in-case preparation:

  • Make sure relevant people have my travel itinerary and know how to reach me.
  • If I’m traveling internationally, make sure those people also have a copy of my passport.
  • Make sure I have a hard drive with a recent full backup in my safe deposit box.

Preparation regarding responsibilities to others:

  • Make sure any roles I serve in organizations will be covered while I’m gone.

Early preparation, for international travel:

  • Make sure I’m OK on passport and visas, if needed.
  • Understand immunization requirements, and get any that I need.
  • Understand any other health issues, and prepare accordingly. (For example, are there any concerns about the drinking water?)
  • Learn a few key phrases in the language of the place I’m visiting, if it’s not English.

Additional preparation for international travel:

  • Call credit card companies and tell them charges will be coming in.
  • Decide if I need to use my cell phone — and if so, figure out how to do that most economically.

Why create such a checklist, especially when it’s all pretty much common sense? Because I’ve had a few close calls when I’ve forgotten to do things that would have seriously disrupted my plans. One time, I didn’t realize my passport was about to expire, right before an international trip. Fortunately, the friend I was traveling with noticed it in time for me to get a renewal. And, I once got a last-minute immunization at the San Francisco International Airport, right before boarding a flight.

There have been less serious incidents, too. Many years ago, I found myself in New Orleans during an unusual cold snap, without warm-enough clothes. I’ve also found myself running around at the last minute getting a new bottle of Advil and a tube of Neosporin.

I got tired of having this type of thing happen, so now I have a checklist. What is on your pre-travel checklist? Share your must-do items in the comments.

12 Comments for “Creating a pre-travel checklist”

  1. posted by Melissa on

    I have standing pre-trip and post-trip to do lists that I have used for years. I also have standing packing lists that I can adjust depending on the weather and destination. I have a list for camping trips too. I set dates for each item then when I do them I don’t check them off the list I just delete the date. That way they are there for the next trip.

    Depending on how long you will be gone and if your home will be empty think about canceling services like the newspaper or trash pick up. Have your mail held at the post office. Turn off or unplug appliances. Put valuables in your safety deposit box or safe.

  2. posted by LB on

    I don’t have a list like this per say. We took a long road trip several years ago and I kept the pre-travel list I made for it, referring back to it for subsequent trips. However, we take short trips often to visit family, and our most helpful list is one we call “just before leaving the house” checklist:

    Check the cat litter box and food and water, take out the trash, empty the dishwasher, lower the blinds, check the thermostats, turn off electronics, double check our luggage for glasses and prescription meds (we say anything else you forgot could be easily bought), and double check all doors to make sure they’re locked.

    It gives us such piece of mind to run through that checklist before leaving. We also say a silly little saying when the garage door closes so we remember it went down.

  3. posted by Caydence James on

    I used to have an actual paper checklist but now I use an app called “Packingpro” on my iPad Mini and so far it’s been a life saver! At first it looked extremely complicated but once I added a few considerations to my paper checklist (Categories, locations, etc) it’s been great! I now know exactly what I need to do, what I brought, where it is (or who has it) and it even allows me to have a master packing list so that I can add and take away items depending on what I need or add new things to any one of my lists! Other than TripIt and Flightpro, this is my most valuable travel app!

  4. posted by Charlene Intriago on

    Great checklist. I plan on incorporating most of these items into my current checklist.

  5. posted by Tiffany Lynn Lepp on

    Great list Jeri.

    I’ve actually added “contacts” to my travel list. They are my eyes and most important.

    I forgot to bring contacts along on one trip. I woke up one morning, went to put them in, and nothing.

    It was quite a nightmare trying to get to a store and begging the employees for a sample set (all while almost blind).

    I’ve never forgotten them since. 🙂

  6. posted by Viki on

    Once my husband and I arrived at the car rental desk in our destination only to discover his driver’s license was expired. We now check the date before leaving.

  7. posted by Jai B on

    This is quite helpful. I’d add reviewing/editing the clothes to be packed, purchasing items to fill a hole or two (recently, a packable windbreaker/raincoat, good walking shoes). Break in the walking shoes.

  8. posted by Cindy on

    I usually use a list which I store electronically and update over time. (Thanks for some good idea.). My husband and I set off yesterday for a trip through the Carolinas. For some reason I didn’t use a checklist and I realized about an hour away from home that I’d forgotten my guidebook!

  9. posted by Robert on

    I think that our app is an excellent complementary tool for pre travel checklists (both business and pleasure). It’s a packing list app (currently android and bb, but in 30 days also for iphone) you can download it at:

  10. posted by Sandy on

    I’ve been meaning to start a list, and this is a great reminder and prompt. I’m selling on amazon and eBay so have to set my amazon account to inactive and stop any eBay listings, plus put my paperbackswap account on hold and make sure I return everything to the library and put my library holds in suspension. I also set my thermostat on vacation hold and put the water heater on vacation setting… Thanks for the inspiration!

  11. posted by liz on

    For longer trips – disconnect & lock your garage door. My door has opened while away due to someone with a similar code. Turn off water at your washing machine. Disconnect computers and TVs. Make sure your lawn is taken are of as well as snow removed.

    However, put timers on lights. There are some that have variable on/off buttons. I also set my radio to go on in the morning so there is noise in the house.

    If your home is monitored, let the company know so they dispatch asap in stead of trying to reach you first. Some police departments also have a vacation watch lists.

    My dad had a book which described opening & closing process for their condo in Florida. It helped them as well as other family members who would use the condo. It also had the condo rules, repair guys, restaurant info, etc.

  12. posted by Elizabeth B on

    The only thing I would add to the list is (alongside all the passport items): get foreign currency.

    This may, of course, be less relevant in the States. I know that many/most transactions can be done on credit card, and banks now have cash machines all over the place, but having a small sum to hand when you arrive has to be useful.

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