I started jotting down these checklists about a month ago, from my bedroom in Lancaster, PA… travel-sized toiletry containers and lightweight clothes strewn around the room, and vaccination appointments up & coming.
Typically, I send personalized pre-travel checklists to clients depending on their destination & travel style, and I have realized it could be helpful to both myself & other travelers to just make one all-encompassing list. Something to breeze through before any & all travels for peace of mind.
Plus, I’ve recently needed to get organized and plan more for my personal travel than I ever have before…
…I’ve been dreaming & devising a trip around the world!!
The timing & my bank account seemed right, and I can even grow professionally as a travel agent, while working remotely from other countries.
In the earliest planning phases, my trip was wide open for daydreaming. It had some budget constraints but no real limits on time. And that actually made it so much more difficult!
If you have 1 or 2 weeks vacation, it’s easy enough to pick a handful of destinations to seek out, but having “unlimited” time makes it so so tricky to decide which places to rule out, which places not to miss, how easy it is to travel between destinations, and how long to spend at each one. (Again, with the primary limiting constraint being budget.) And that’s not even to mention considering weather, high vs. low season, and over-tourism!
I ended up ruling out places like Morocco, Greece, and Vietnam, but adding in places like Malta, Komodo National Park (an island in Indonesia that is home to thousands of wild Komodo Dragons!), and New Zealand.
So anyways, after hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of planning (seriously so much more time than I ever would have thought, even though I plan travel professionally), I have finally settled on a 6-month long itinerary bouncing around Central Europe, Southeast Asia, then finally Australia & New Zealand. Beginning with a red-eye across the Atlantic and ending with a long-haul back across the Pacific.
My grand adventure started about two weeks ago, and I’m finishing up writing this in Prague. But I can’t really overstate how much preparation was required!
So I’ve funneled some of that prep time & energy into the below checklists, organized by whether your trip will be domestic, international, or more long-term. I hope you can find this as helpful & convenient as I have. Happy prepping & daydreaming!
- For flights starting May 3, 2023 (pushed back due to COVID-19), make sure you meet Real ID requirements or bring your passport.
- Make sure you have the right suitcases for your carry-on & checked baggage allowances (size & weight requirements). Check your airline’s website directly.
- Get all of your necessary toiletries into TSA-approved containers (3.4 oz or less).
- Check the weather at your destination(s). Do you need a light rain jacket? More comfortable walking shoes? Hiking boots (Iceland, anyone?) or new swimsuits for the Caribbean?
- Notify your bank & credit card companies of your travel plans, so that they don’t put a hold on your cards for suspicious activity.
- Decide whether it’s worth it to open rewards accounts with any vendors you’re booked through. For example, with many airlines it is little work to apply your rewards numbers to existing bookings and build up miles.
- If you will be renting a car during your travels, see if your credit card offers rental car insurance coverage (most do!). Consider requesting a letter of coverage from your credit card company, as some rental companies will require this proof in order to waive their [expensive] coverage.
- Make copies of your itinerary & important travel documents (passport, any visas, prescriptions). Take some copies with you, and leave some with loved ones (electronic and/or hard copies).
- Consider getting travel insurance. This reimburses you incase of flight delays or cancellations (if they cause you to miss a night at your resort, for example), lost or stolen possessions, or medical issues (especially abroad).
Most International Travel
- Make sure your passport will be valid for at least 6 months after your travels and has enough blank pages — at least 2 blank pages is a rule of thumb, in case you need 2 full-page entry & exit stamps…. And make sure you actually have your passport (Read about a time I made this mistake here!)
- Determine whether you need a visa. By the end of 2022, US citizens need an ETIAS visa waiver to visit Schengen countries in Europe.
- Check for any travel advisories in your destinations from the US Bureau of Consular Affairs. Consider registering for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) with the nearest US embassies in your destinations.
- Visit a travel health clinic if your destination has any special vaccinations or medications recommended (Caribbean, Asia, Africa, etc). Consult the CDC website to get started. There are not many destinations that legally require vaccinations for entry, unless you are traveling from a country with yellow fever. Websites like GoodRx.com can help you find the best prices on prescriptions for travel that your insurance may not cover.
- Research whether tap water and street food will be safe to consume. Otherwise you will need to drink only boiled or bottled water. Maybe also avoid uncooked fruits & vegetables. (One unfortunate example from Nepal comes to mind — read about it here!)
- Research currencies in other countries and make a plan for accessing & spending money. Will your credit card be widely accepted? How much cash should you carry? Will you be able to access an ATM? What will be the least expensive way to get local currency? (I typically prefer to withdraw local cash at a bank’s ATM in the new country.)
- Make sure you have a credit card without foreign transaction fees, and understand your ATM withdraw fees internationally. You can find a list of cards without foreign transaction fees here. It may even be worth applying for a new credit card with special travel benefits (anything from trip insurance to travel discounts & reimbursements). Here’s a list of credit cards with great travel benefits.
- Research tipping customs for restaurants, bars, transfers, tour guides, etc.
- Research the local power outlets in the other countries you’ll be visiting. You may need power plug adapters and/or voltage converters.
- Contact your cell phone company to see if you can have affordable international coverage. (Or just rely on wifi abroad, and turn off international roaming.)
- If you won’t have cell service, download offline maps of your destination. I do this using GoogleMaps and then use walking & driving directions as needed (However you can’t download for all countries, like Japan!).
- If you will be renting a car in another country, research whether or not you will need an International Driving Permit. If so, you can easily get one for $20 from AAA.
- Download helpful apps, like currency converters & translators. WhatsApp can be great to stay in contact with family & friends, and TripCase can be helpful in managing your itinerary.
Longer and/or Farther Travel
- If traveling for an extended amount of time, consider reducing the insurance coverage on your car while it sits at home un-driven. Some insurance companies call this “garaging” your vehicle.
- Have you ever heard of an Around the World plane ticket? Different air alliances have various names for them. All are slightly different, have complicated rules, and may or may not save you money. But worth looking into!
- Consider getting a travel insurance annual plan. There will likely be more limited coverage compared to typical travel insurance, but depending on the length of your travel, this could end up being significantly more affordable and feasible.
And finally…. if you feel overwhelmed by any of these lists or tips, always book through a travel agent so they can help you navigate the ins & outs. If you checked out some of the back-links in this article, you can see first hand I’ve learned from a lot of experiences and mistakes;)
I hope you can refer back to these checklists for all future travels, and stay posted for lots more travel blogs in the next 6 months… especially if you’ve ever wondered things like if it’s impossible to be a vegetarian in Bangkok, how rowdy Oktoberfest closing ceremonies are in Munich, or how giant a Komodo Dragon is in real life!
Need some tips for what to pack? Here are some of my top recommendations!
- Comfortable day-to-day walking shoes — I love these ones because they can double as hiking shoes, too
- A good day bag, for when you leave your large piece of luggage at your hotel. Ideally one that is secure with zipper pockets & you can wear against your body, but doesn’t scream “tourist!”