When it comes to traveling, there is a long list of things that must be done before you leave home to help ensure a worry-free vacation and homecoming. With all the things no doubt running through your mind before you leave (what to pack, reservations to be made, how much fun you’re going to have!) then it is inevitable some things can, and will, get missed if you don’t have a list to help remind you.

Opening Image Credit: @DollarPhotoClub #57687734

Today I’d like the share my travel preparation checklist with you. These are the things I run through before I leave on a trip – except for watering the plants. I can’t seem to keep a plant alive when I’m home, let alone when I’m traveling, but realize a great many of you likely aren’t quite the plant killer I am. Unfortunately if you don’t make a noise in my house then you just might not get fed or watered when you want to be. Thankfully our cat realizes this and has quite a persistent meow when she needs something. :-)

Please feel free to download a streamlined version of this Travel Preparation Checklist that you can print out and use for planning your next trip.

In Advance

These things can be done as far in advance as you would like, but ideally will be done no later than a week to two weeks before your trip.

  • Arrange for pet care. If someone will be stopping by to check in or will be staying with your pets now is also the time to get a key made and give it to them. It is also a good idea to stock up on food and cat litter, if needed, so your sitter won’t need to run those errands.
  • Arrange for your mail to be picked up, especially if your mail box is at your house. An overflowing mailbox is a sure sign that nobody is home. If you have a community box, like I do, then not such a must-do if you’ll be gone for a week or less. Another alternative is to have your mail held at the post office and then delivered upon your return.
  • Confirm your passport is still valid, and will be for at least six months if you’re traveling to a country that requires that. Also check to see if you need a visa and apply for one if you do. For more resources about which countries require visas and how to renew passports, please refer to this post I wrote if you are Canadian, American, or British. Ideally you would not wait until two weeks prior to the trip to take care of this task.
  • Make copies of your passport and other important documents and forms of ID, like driver’s license and travel insurance policies. I like to have one set of copies with me, another set at home (as long as someone has access to them), and then give another set to a family member or friend. You can also take photos of them, or scan them, and then upload to Dropbox or Google Drive but if you find yourself without internet access you might be stuck.
  • Send your itinerary and contact details to friends and family who may need it. Especially send it to anyone that might be checking on your home and/or pets. I also like to ensure my neighbor has my number and the number of my friend who’ll be checking on my house as he’ll be the first one to see if there are any issues.
  • Write up or print off a packing list. There are tons of packing lists online to choose from, you could use an app to create one (I’ve used Wunderlist before), or you could just go old school and write one down on a piece of paper. Whatever gets the job done the easiest for you.
  • Make some dinners that can be kept frozen for your return. This one might be seem like a hassle but really how nice would it be to walk in the door at 4:00 pm after your flight lands and know that with a little defrosting you’ll have dinner ready to go for that night? Really nice, that’s how nice it would be. And one day I’ll achieve this after every trip. :-) Looking for some ideas for those meals? Check out Pinterest– it is full of ideas! Or do a search for “freezer meals” (or just click here and I’ve already done that part for you).

One Week Before Departure

The excitement is really starting to build now as you are on the countdown to the last few days before your trip. No doubt you’re also pretty busy at work wrapping up some assignments and tying up loose ends but there are also a few things that need to be done at home too.

  • Print off all your reservations, airline and rental car confirmations, and attraction tickets. Like your important documents you can also save these to Dropbox or Google Drive but I like having the printed copy just in case I don’t have internet access. In addition some places might not take a copy from your phone, plus they make great souvenirs after.
  • Call your bank and credit card companies to advise them of your travel plans. Most are as simple as logging on to your account and adding a travel notification, while some you can call and just go through the automated prompts. It only takes a few minutes and it sure beats the hassle out of trying to reach them from a foreign country if they put a hold on your card.
  • Purchase your travel insurance. If you don’t have a policy that covers multiple trips now is the time to ensure you have adequate insurance, especially medical insurance. A site I use to find travel insurance is Insure My Trip which lets you compare policies from different companies and has tons to choose from.
  • Update your travel apps. If you use travel apps, like WorldMate or TripIt, now is the time to ensure you’ve got everything loaded in to them. These are handy to use to put all reservations in one place and they can even send you flight delay notifications and help you with directions.
  • Pay your bills or schedule your bill payments. If you don’t have all your bills, like electricity and cable etc. , on auto-pay now is the time to ensure everything is either paid before you leave, or is scheduled to be paid while you’re gone. It’s also nice to do the same for the bills that will be due the week after you get back too so you won’t have to worry about remembering them when you get home.
  • Mow your lawn or arrange to have it mowed. If your lawn mowing is scheduled with a service then ensure you’ve left them payments, or prepay them, for the times they’ll come while you’re away.
  • Empty your memory cards for your camera. Nothing stinks more than getting out your camera for your first photo in a new place and realizing the memory card is full from the last trip! Take this time to clean those memory cards off and back-up your photos if you haven’t done so already.
  • Refill prescriptions and get them picked up. If you’ll be away quite a long time you may also have to call your doctor to get a refill approved to be picked up early.
  • Set your suitcase out and open on your bedroom floor. As you go about the next week drop things in it that you don’t want to forget, but won’t need to use this week. Don’t worry about packing them just yet, you just want to start rounding things up and putting them in one place. This is always an exciting task for me. Once the suitcase is out I know the trip is close!

Day Before Departure

Are you excited now? If not, you should be! You’re leaving tomorrow for a great trip. Today is the day to take care of the remaining things you need for your trip, as well as some things to help make your home a little more relaxing to return to. There are several things to do on this list, but hey, when they’re done everything will be nice and tidy for your return plus you’ll be exhausted so you’ll sleep well tonight.

  • Do all of your laundry. Agh! All of it you say? Yep, all of it. You’ll have enough dirty clothes when you come home and unpack your suitcase, do you really want to do even more on top of it? No, probably not. Plus if you’re like me and don’t have a ton of clothes then some of the things you have worn since your last laundry day are things you want to pack.
  • Change your beds. You want me to do all the laundry and change my bed? You’re crazy Stacey. Hold on though. You know how nice a fresh bed feels right? Imagine that tonight when you’re exhausted from all your last minute prep, and then again the night you come home and are exhausted. It’ll be worth the 10 minutes to change the bed. Trust me. :-)
  • Clean the kitchen. This includes doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, throwing out perishable food from the fridge and pantry, and taking out the trash. Nobody wants to come home to something in the trash bin stinking up the whole house.
  • Tidy up the other rooms and run the vacuum through the house. It’ll make it so much calmer feeling when you’re sitting down this evening, and when you return home, if everything is in its place and tidied up.
  • Remind your neighbor you’re leaving so he can keep an eye out and pick up any packages off your door step if you’re expecting them.
  • Set the timers for lights. To help your house still look lived in while you’re away a few lamps on timers will help do the job.
  • Clean out your wallet. Throw out all those receipts you don’t need, remove your library and loyalty cards, and dump out the spare change. If you’re anything like me your wallet will immediately be 50% lighter. If you have any foreign currency that you brought home on from your last trip now is the time to dig that out and put it in your wallet, which of course makes it heavier again. But at least it’s now heavier with useful things.
  • Water your plants. For everyone except me (a.k.a. the “plant killer”) give your plants a little TLC so they’ll be make it through your vacation.
  • Put all your electronics on their chargers for the night. I also suggest charging them near your suitcase, even if that isn’t their normal place to charge. It’ll be hard to forget them if you almost trip over them to get to your suitcase in the morning.

Day of Departure

It’s travel day! Yay, you’re going on a great adventure! You’re also almost ready to go, just a few more little tidbits to finish up. At most the things on this checklist will only take about 30 minutes total so if you’re heading out on an early morning flight or drive, wake yourself up a little early to allow enough time to get them all done without being rushed.

  • Feed your pets. Top up their food and water bowls and put out extra for the next few days. I also like to set the bag of cat food out on the counter so it’s easy to find for my friend who checks in on my cat.
  • Unplug small appliances and electronics. Things like your coffee maker, electric kettle, TV, computer, etc. don’t really need to be left plugged in while you’re away. I also make it a point to unplug my stereo because it has a weird habit of turning itself on after a power outage and I have come home to find it on after being away!
  • Double-check that all your doors and windows are locked. If you’re in the habit of not locking the door between your house and garage, now is the time to lock it.
  • Flush all the toilets. Especially important if you have kids that sometimes forget. You can also sprinkle a little vinegar and baking soda in there and they’ll work at cleaning and freshening your toilets while you’re away.
  • Give your kitchen sink another quick cleaning to make sure there isn’t any juice, milk, or food in there that might have been dumped the night before.
  • Set your thermostat a little higher or lower than normal so you’re not heating or cooling a house with nobody in it. If you have pets don’t let it get too hot or cold for them though.
  • Put your carry-on liquids in a plastic bag for quicker security screening. If you don’t have the right size bag at least put them all together so you won’t be rooting through your purse and make-up bag in line. Then when they give you a bag you’ll have one for next time. Or for a more permanent solution you can purchase one like this or this and they’ll last longer. Plus they just look cool. :-)
  • Double-check your packing list– especially toiletries and electronics (and all their chargers) to make sure you have everything you need and want to bring with you.

Phew!! So much to do eh? While it does seem like quite a lot most things only take a few minutes each and you’ll end up spreading them out over a few weeks so it won’t be so bad. Plus they are worth it when you can leave home with the peace of mind that you didn’t forget to take care of something important.

If you missed it at the beginning of the post here is the streamlined version of my Travel Preparation Checklist for download and printing. If you find it handy and helpful, please feel free to share with your friends and family, on Pinterest, or on your favourite social media sites.

Happy Travels!