If you’re trying to plan a trip for this upcoming travel season, then be sure to stay prepared and pack everything you need. Never forget anything with a proper travel checklist!
The Ultimate Travel Checklist
These tips assume a one-week to ten-day vacation, with extra information on handling longer trips. So keep reading!
Destination Planning Checklist
First things first, you have to choose a spot for your trip. Each vacation will differ based on your bucket list and travel budget. The time of year can also affect your destination as different parts of the world have different travel peak times.
Choose Your Destination
- Decide your budget
- Consider the timing of your vacation…is it possible to find an off-peak destination?
- Do your research about the destination. Things to do, see, eat, experience, and note costs.
- Create a spreadsheet to keep all your research and information in one place.
To Do Before You Leave
Call your credit card company to let them know you will be traveling; this way, they won’t block any transactions abroad for fear of fraud.
If you’re planning to go somewhere less well-traveled, consider checking the State Department’s site on Travel Advisories, which details the safety level of your destination. Often, local conflicts can make traveling to certain parts of the world more dangerous. Knowing the status beforehand can help you plan and make informed decisions.
Double-check whether or not you need a visa for your destination. If you are a US passport holder, you can travel to most countries without a visa. However, some require them. Depending on the country, you’ll have to get it beforehand and pay a fee (you usually can do this online; sometimes, you’ll have to send your passport to the embassy). You can obtain and pay for others at the airport when you arrive. More information on that can be found here.
Once you’ve picked your vacation destination and figured out things to do, now you need to pack. Your packing should align with what you are doing/have planned, but also be flexible to allow for last-minute changes in weather or accidents (spilled food, stains, etc).
Clothes You’ll Need
- 3-5 pairs of bottoms
- 7-10 tops
- 2 cardigans (or light outerwear) in neutral colors
- 3 shoes: One pair of sneakers, one sandal, one closed-toe shoe (this will differ if you’re doing something like Patagonia or cold weather, so adjust accordingly)
- Enough undergarments for one week
- Include anything else you need for vacation activities e.g., swimsuits and coverups, hiking shoes, snow gear, etc.
If you’re going for longer than 7-10 days, you should plan to do laundry abroad. Many hotels have that option for you, or you can find a laundromat. You’ll remove the need to pack so many clothes and save a ton of space this way.
- Makeup (if applicable)
- Get travel sizes of all your favorite daily-use products
- Feminine hygiene products and birth control (for the ladies, don’t forget to think about that time of the month!)
- Small umbrella
- Phone charger
- Reusable water bottle
- Up-to-date passport
- Travel credit card
- RFID-blocking travel wallet
- Print out, or keep in one place, tickets you have purchased for events/activities
- Personal ID/Student ID (with student ID you can sometimes get access to discounted tickets, so take it with you!)
- Any prescriptions medications that you take
To Do: Enroll in TSA Precheck and Global Entry
With many travel credit cards, the cost of these is included. The transportation security administration (TSA) precheck and Global entry (customs and border patrol) cost $100 for five years. This pays for your background check, and you must do an in-person interview for each. With Precheck, you will save time during check-in by skipping long security lines; with Global Entry, you will save time coming home by skipping customs lines.
General Packing Tips
I highly recommend you stick to packing lightly to avoid having checked luggage. Instead, check out this article for packing hacks to help you use just a carry-on and backpack (make sure you check out the tip on the collapsible duffel bag!).
Have a separate, safe spot for your travel documents and other important documents for your trip.
Emergency Travel Checklist
Everyone’s worst nightmare (well, mine at least) is that you’re stuck abroad, surrounded by a language you don’t speak, and you need help. A big part of getting out of a bind is knowing where to go and who to ask. Nowadays, an emergency situation can arise at any time. We all have to be careful and practice travel safety. In addition, we should arm ourselves with information and go prepared.
Things you should know in the event of an emergency
Keep this information in a safe place.
- The phone number and address of the US Embassy at your destination
- The phone numbers of your contacts here at home (because who even memorizes phone numbers anymore??)
- The number and address of the hotel/Airbnb or whatever lodging you’re staying in
- Look up and note the safest means of transportation at your destination (for instance, in Vietnam, some taxis companies were known to cheat tourists and not be safe)
This stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. How it works:
- You sign up before you travel anywhere outside of the US
- Your information is saved with the State Department – which means the government knows where its citizens are at any given time
- If an issue arises in a country you are visiting, they will be able to communicate with you directly. For instance, you’ll get updates on travel information, flight availability, and safety concerns.
- I have a colleague who was stuck abroad at the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic lockdown, and she said this was the single most helpful thing in regard to knowing how to get home and when it would happen.
Emergency First Aid Kit
You should always make a mini kit just in case of injury or requiring medication.
- Anti-inflammatories like Tylenol, Ibuprofen, etc
- Sleep aids – melatonin, CBD (can help you with jet lag too!)
- Anti-histamines – Benadryl, Zyrtec, Claritin, etc
- Anti-diarrhea – Imodium
- Antacids – Pepcid or Maalox chewable tablets
- Cold medication – Dayquil, Nyquil tablets, Sudafed, cough drops
- Motion sickness tablets – Dramamine
- Lubricating eye drops
- First aid
- Neosporin or bacitracin ointment
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Small ace bandage
As long as you’re armed with the above information, you will be well-prepared for any issues. However, day-to-day interactions while you travel can sometimes trigger your instincts or make you concerned.
Carrying some Mace with you is a great way to ensure you can escape a sticky situation. If you don’t (and I never remember to pack this), what you can do is this:
If you feel unsafe or unsure about your safety, carry a set of keys and put each key between each finger. Create a metal claw (buying a knuckle ring can get you in trouble at the airport, so don’t do that).
This ultimate travel checklist is not exhaustive or tailored to any specific vacation, especially the section on packing.
However, the rest of it should be considered a standard “to-do” and “to consider” before going anywhere. Having a travel checklist that you can consult to remind you and double-check that you have everything can be invaluable.
So, whether traveling by plane, train, bus, or car or staying stateside or abroad, be prepared, be safe, and never forget what you must pack!
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