Ultimate Pre-Travel Checklist

Written By: The Planet D

So, you are ready to go on your vacation or travels but what should you do to prepare? We’ve set up the ultimate pre-travel checklist to help you be prepared before you travel. Plus, these travel tips will help you plan for any emergencies or surprises on vacation.

Anything can go wrong. So, we make sure to follow this travel checklist before we go. It makes things go smoothly when we’re ready to travel. 

Our Pre-Travel Checklist

Wondering what to do before a trip to prepare for international travel? We’ve got you covered.

The time for worry and stress is not meant to happen on vacation. To make your trip more enjoyable, we’ve taken the guess work of planning to make it easy and fun. That’s why we have a system we use on every trip This is the pre trip checklist that we go through for each trip. 

Choosing a Suitcase

travel checklist luggage

Before we start packing we think about what we are going to carry everything in. And that choice starts with where are we going? The destination can make a difference in how we pack and what we pack our things in. 

For Asia, Central or South America

If we are going to Southeast or Central Asia, we usually opt for a backpack as we’ll be hopping on different trains, boats and busses through more rugged terrain and rougher roads. We want to be mobile and have an easy time weaving through crowds. 

For Europe or Australia 

If we are traveling Europe we usually pack a suitcase as we normally travel between cities by train or car and it is easy to use a rolling suitcase on sidewalks in Europe, Australia and US cities. 

For Polar Regions or Remote Lodges

When going somewhere remote, usually pack a rolling duffel bag. When having to get into small planes, we need a suitcase that is soft and easily packed. 

A duffel bag alone is too hard to carry through airports, so we choose a rolling duffel. They are lightweight for small planes and can easily be pushed and packed into cargo area. But we can also stuff our layers into it easily. 

For Caribbean Travel

We can usually get away with carry-on only luggage for the Caribbean. It’s hot and the clothing we pack is lightweight and smaller than when we go to other destinations. Plus, charter flights usually charge more for checked baggage, so we keep it light and save on the fees. 

Pro Tip – Make sure to put something to your luggage to make it easily identifiable. Luggage wraps, colourful handle identifiers that can be velcroed to your handle or some people even tie yarn or ribbons to your luggage. We have been with people who have taken someone else’s luggage all the way to their hotel and didn’t notice it wasn’t theirs. 

Which brings us to another important thing to check on the list.

Before you Leave

When leaving the country, you don’t want people to know you are gone. It’s a good idea to go through these steps to make sure your house is safe before you leave the country.

  • stop your mail. If you are going away for awhile, you might want to call the post office and have them hold your mail. Mailboxes fill up fast, so put it on hold, especially if you are going away for a few weeks or months.
  • Have a family member stop by every once in a while to check on your house.
  • Timers for lights – We have our outdoor lights on timers and when we are traveling, we also put our indoor lights on timers as well to make people think we are home.

Airport Restrictions

travel packing list baggage restrictions | airport handler

Luggage Restrictions

We now always check with our airline to see what luggage is included. There is nothing more frustrating than getting to the airport and finding out we have to pay $79 for extra luggage. (speaking from personal experience here). 

That is why we are now loyal to one airline carrier. Having gold status lets us have two free bags every time we fly. But we know what it’s like to have to cram everything into a carryon when we don’t have to. 

Drone

A lot of people are starting to carry drones with them and we never leave home without it. But we do check to make sure that drones are allowed in the country.

We know of people that have had their drones confiscated at the airport. So we always check to see if we can even bring a drone in before we fly. We don’t want to take the chance. 

And we always look up the rules of each destination. Some countries have stricter rules than others, and we follow them. We don’t want to ruin future droning laws by unwittingly breaking the law. 

It’s easy to look up, so we always check it out. Read our Airport Security Tips and Common Travel Mistakes for more details.

Pre Trip Checklist – Documents

travel packing checklist | computers and electronics
  1. Call our Bank. We call our bank to make sure they know where we’re going so our credit cards and atm card works at the machine.
    Recently we didn’t do this when flying to Cuba and my card was frozen after using the ATM. It was an added stress to our travels that we didn’t need. 
  2. Bank Fees – Ask your bank about foreign transaction fees on your credit card, and see what insurance your card has included.
  3. Check for immunizations. New diseases are breaking out and we know people that have been very sick from things like Malaria.
    It’s worth popping into a travel clinic to talk to a professional to see what we need if it is a new destination. 
  4. Check for Visas. The more we travel, the worse we have been at this. We have come close to not getting into a country because we assume we are fine and don’t need a visa. When flying into Istanbul a couple of years ago, we didn’t check for Visas and saw that we needed to buy a Visa on arrival. 
    We didn’t have any cash on us, and the ATM was out of money, so we had to be escorted through the airport to the other side to get cash. (they didn’t take credit card) We were lucky they were nice, or we could have been refused at the border and sent home. 
  5. Passport – Make sure your passport is not expired or about to expire. Many countries require passports to be valid for six months. So even if it is valid, you may be denied entry even if you have a few weeks or a couple of months left until it expires.
  6. Backup Copies – Make copies of your travel documents, driver s license and passport. It’s good to have electronic copies, but it is also good leave copies with a friend or family member.
  7. Boarding Passes – load your boarding passes on your phone for faster check-in and check in in advance. In 2021 especially it is good to have everything saved electronically.

Travel Checklist – Safety Tips

ultimate packing checklist

Travel Warnings

Before we choose our destination, we take a look at things like weather and warnings. There is no sense going to the Maldives if it is monsoon season or the Caribbean if it is hurricane season. We then check warnings to see if there are any areas we should avoid. 

We have gone to countries where there have been travel warnings. For example, there have been warnings in Mexico when we were traveling in Cancun. But Mexico is a big country. If there is a warning for Chiapas and we are going to Cancun, we are far enough away, that we don’t need to worry. So check to see if there are warnings near where you are going or if they are thousands of miles away.

Travel Insurance

Be sure to buy travel insurance is all in order and up to date. Our travel insurance renews yearly, but we make sure we have the emergency numbers on hand. We always check to make sure it covers everything we need. 

We never leave home without travel insurance. Travel is expensive and it wouldn’t make sense for us to spend a lot of money on a trip, and lose it all if an emergency should happen like:

  • If we have to delay our trip because of an emergency
  • Or we had to cancel our trip and could never take it. 
  • Something happened and we had to return from our trip early. 
  • We were injured or became severely ill during the trip

Or what if we were playing volleyball on the beach and knocked out a tooth? We can be reimbursed for our travels if we make a claim for a covered reason. 

That takes me to.

Knowing what Your Travel Insurance policy covers

travel tips insurance coverage | phone call

Simply purchasing travel insurance isn’t enough. You need to double check what is included and covered. We always call and speak to a licensed agent to learn which plan would best suit our needs during our travels and to make sure we fully understand what is and isn’t covered by our policy.

Dave and I are big fans of calling when in doubt. That way we know ahead of time what we can do on vacation and what we’ll end up doing at our own risk. 

Travel Apps and Technology

We all want to get away from technology when traveling, but it’s a fact, it’s the way of the world. While it is nice to be disconnected,  a lot of travel relies on technology. Travel apps can play a large part in saving money and in planning.

Apps like TripIt will help you stay organized and alert you of any last minute changes of flights, XE Currency Converter will help you with prices in your destination and Google Translate helps with communications. We have an entire list of apps for travel that you should have on your phone.

RFID Bags

packing checklists rfid bags

When we travel, we now only use RFID blocking bags and wallets to keep cybercriminals from stealing our identity. The latest scam is using wireless transmitters to gain information about your credit and debit card identification chips. Se eour The Best Anti Theft Travel Bags and Accessories

At the Airport

deb at the airport | packing lists tips

Flying can be the most stressful part of travel, so we always work to make it comfortable and fun. 

Lounge Access

If we don’t have status on a specific airline and don’t have lounge access, we have a Priority Pass to get into a lounge before flying. Being in a lounge before a flight is a wonderful thing. It let our vacation begin at the airport rather than at the destination. 

We can enjoy peace and quiet, food and a glass of wine. When flying out of Toronto, our Platinum American Express Card gives us access to the American Express lounge and we get a fast track to security. For people looking to gain lounge access, we suggest looking into your home airport to see what credit card lounges they have.

If you plan on flying more than once or twice in a year, we really love Priority Pass. A lot of times their lounges are nicer than the airline lounges. 

On the Plane

vacation packing list | dave and deb on plane

If we can’t manage to get an upgrade to business class. (we often try because we fly a lot and have gold status, so we use e-credits with each flight) we still try to make flying coach as comfortable as possible. 

We both pack care packages with essentials in our carryon.

Pre Travel Checklist – What’s in my Carry on

  • Noise cancelling headphones – this makes all the difference if we have a crying baby or loud talker around us. 
  • Eye Mask – It’s nearly impossible to get to sleep on a plane, but an eye mask really blocks out the sun (if we are sitting near someone that refuses to put their shade down) and the florescent lighting that is on the plane. 
  • Scarf or sweater – it seams that planes are always either too hot or too cold, so I always pack a big pashmina scarf to wrap myself up in on the flight. Dave uses a lightweight merino wool sweater
  • Socks – When flying to a warm destination I usually board a flight in sandals or shoes that require no socks. But when flying, nobody wants to look at bare feet, and my feet usually freeze on the plane anyway. So I pack a pair of socks that I can put on for the flight. 
  • Foldable water bottle – The cost of bottled water in an airport is highway robbery, so we carry a foldable water bottle through security and then fill it up when we get across. 
  • Lip balm, moisturizer and nasal spray – Airplanes are very dry and we have all the gadgets to keep us hydrated in our care package. 
  • Sunglasses – We always have our sunglasses handy. Whenever I wake up, my eyes are dry and sore and sunglasses help ease the glare of the cabin. 
  • Load Up Your phone or iPad – We have large phones, so we load up movies or TV series on our phones. We never rely on the airlines entertainment system. They often don’t work (we’ve had it happen on more than one occasion) and we’ve often seen everything they have in their choices. 
  • Portable USB charger – Sure, many airlines say they have chargers, but many times they don’t work. We keep a portable charger handy at all times. 

Travel Packing List

packing tips for international travel | suitcase and packing cubes

We could go share a complete travel packing list, but we find every one is different. Some people will never travel with checked luggage, while others would never dream of going carry on only.

Some people like to have a different wardrobe with shoes to match each day, while others (like us) prefer to mix and match.

We do have a travel packing list that you can check out here

But we do have items in our suitcase that we never leave home without no matter what type of trip we are going on. Be it a winter trip, a beach holiday or an expedition, these items are always in our travel bag. 

  • Dry bags – When taking a boat trip or even going to the beach, we put all our electronics and cameras into a dry bag. 
  • Headlamps – Great in the backcountry and on adventure trips. But we also use headlamps a lot when taking photos at night.
  • Packing Cubes – We put everything into separate nylon cubes and compression cubes for bulky items.
  • Toiletry Bag – The Pacsafe foldable toiletry bag hangs for ease in hotel bathrooms and has different compartments for all our needs.
  • Packing Envelope – Dave never leaves home without it. He folds all his collared shirts and pants into an envelope keeping them from wrinkling and taking up less space.  
  • Steripen – We never worry about bottled water because we use a Steripen to purify our water no matter where we are.
  • Belkin Mni Surge Protector – It has three outlets and 2 USB chargers. Plus a surge protector to keep our electronics safe. 
  • World Plug Adapter – The world plug adapter is compact and covers everywhere in the world. There’s a USB charger as well.
  • Mesh Laundry Bag – great for letting laundry air out so it doesn’t smell, but still keeps it separate from our clothes. 
  • Tweezers, nail clippers, scissors –  this accessory kit has come in handy more times than you’d think.
  • Waterproof/Windproof Jacket – for cold weather we layer warm wool and fleece underneath, for warm weather we use it in the rain, early mornings or when climbing up to higher altitudes. 
  • Pegless Clothesline & Universal Sink Stopper – For quick washing and drying of items like bathing suits and underwear. 
  • Hiking Shoes – We love the outdoors so you never know when we’ll be going on a good hike! 
  • Water shoes – We have a light pair of watershoes that we use in tropical climates and a heavier pair that we use in mountains and northern travel. (we switch them out depending on the trip)
  • Flipflops – great for going to the pool or beach.
  • Packable Daypack – folds up small and can be Brough out when going on a day hike. 
  • Goo Toobs – Puts all our lotions and liquids into small containers that are airline friendly. 
  • Our Own Canvas Bag – Instead of using plastic bags and local markets, we bring our own.

First Aid Kit

international travel packing list | first aid kit

We used to carry a really big first aid kit, but we have found that we can easily buy most of what we need. But we still do carry a basic first aid kit. 

Things we include in our First Aid Kit are:

  • Prescription Medication – with a photocopy of our prescriptions
  • Insect repellent 
  • Sunscreen
  • Gravol – for nausea  
  • Bandaids
  • Benadryl and Claritin – For allergic reactions
  • Allergy Eyedrops
  • Imodium – for mild diarrhea
  • Rehydration tablets and electrolyte tables – in case of dehydration or severe diarrhea.
  • Topical Ointment like Polysporin or prescription Fucidin Cream – For cuts and scrapes
  • Antisceptic spray – it’s important to clean cuts quickly, especially in tropical climates. 
  • Moleskin – I recently bought shoes I loved for China. They were sketchers and comfortable at home, but they gave me serious blisters after walking for a day in Shanghai. I needed moleskin for the rest of my trip!
  • Read our full Packing a Travel First Aid Kit For Long Term Travel

Vaccines

You may want to look at see what vaccines you need for places you are traveling to.

We suggest going to a travel clinic to discuss with a doctor what medications and vaccines we need. It varies from country to country. But you may want Hepititus,

And that is our complete pre travel checklist to help you pack smarter. And now you are ready to go! So what are you waiting for, grab your passport and happy travels! Remember, planning for travel will give you peace of mind to create a stress-free vacation.

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Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • World Nomads - Digital Nomads or Frequent Travelers.
  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

18 thoughts on “Ultimate Pre-Travel Checklist”

  1. This is really the best post I have came across and very helpful. In fact, I am going to travel in the next month and just before I found this post and see that I forgot many items.

    Once again very informative and useful.

    Thanks for writing.

    Reply
  2. This is such a great list! I usually pack some snacks and chewing gum as well. Lately, I have been using compression socks for long-haul flights and I will bring them in my carry-on as well.

    Reply
  3. That’s quite a comprehensive list. I travel frequently and always wished to have a to-do list of items. Most often than not we tend to forget some items or important procedure. Thank you for sharing the list. It is quite useful.

    Reply