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My pre-trip checklist for international travel

Prague architecture

I remember the first big international trip I planned, paid for and took on my own. Before I left, I was a wreck trying to finish all my work, shop, pack, and organize my trip materials. Thinking back on that experience now makes it seem so long ago; these days, I barely give a trip abroad much thought, and it’s because I’ve got my process down to a science. Starting to prepare well in advance of your trip overseas will take the stress out of the whole lead-up, and you’ll head out feeling confident that you’ve got it all together. Here’s the pre-trip checklist I use for every international trip, including what tasks I make sure to take care of and how far out I check them off my list! 

MY PRE-TRIP CHECKLIST FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

ASAP

ORGANIZE THE ITINERARY

I don’t know about you, but I have to have a document outlining my itinerary before I leave for a trip, and I tend to start making it as early as possible. It generally has a breakdown of each day of the trip with any transportation I have planned (flights, trains, etc.), my accommodations, any reservations I might have (food, ticketed events), and possible activities I might do that day. As the trip gets closer, I begin to map out my days a little more and add in other possible stops I might make based on where I’ll be during the day and what I’ll be doing. Organizing everything this way and having a visual aid helps me make sure I’m not missing any details or forgetting to book anything crucial!

LOOK INTO NECESSARY MEDICINES/VACCINES

I’d be lying if I said I’ve always been super proactive about doing my medical research or seeing a travel doctor before a trip. On the contrary, I’ve been caught a couple times learning that I needed a shot or prescription very close to my departure date, and I can tell you from experience that it’s not a situation I ever want to be in again! Having to add a doctors’ visit and trip to the pharmacy to your to-do list last minute is unnecessarily stressful, so get this one out of the way as soon as you can. Start your research by searching for the country you’ll be visiting on this page of the State Department’s website.

TWO WEEKS OUT

ORDER THINGS ONLINE

If this seems early to do in your pre-trip checklist, let me preface this by saying I know I’m the only millennial without Amazon Prime. But even if you can have things delivered to you almost overnight, there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t wait that long to order anything you might need or want for your trip. For one, you’ll avoid the stress of whatever it is not arriving in time before you have to go, and for another, you’ll have your items before you’re ready to start packing. Plus, if you need to make any returns, you’ll have time to do it before crunch time begins!

MAKE RESTAURANT RESERVATIONS

The next in this pre-trip checklist is a super subjective one; if food is really important to you, you likely have already made some restaurant reservations at this point. On the other hand, if you’re someone who likes to just find a hole-in-the-wall spot and wander in off the street or get advice from locals, you might skip this step altogether. But two weeks out is when I start researching where I want to eat and locking down reservations if necessary. There’s nothing worse than arriving at a destination without having done the research and spending your precious travel hours looking at menus online!

Vegetarian dinner

THE WEEKEND BEFORE

SHOP FOR TOILETRIES, PRESCRIPTIONS

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel like my prescriptions always run out when I’m abroad! The weekend before I travel internationally, I’ll take some time to look over all my travel toiletries and prescriptions to make sure I’ll have everything I need for a trip. And if I don’t, this is a great time to head to the store or pharmacy to pick up refills!

STOCK UP ON SNACKS

If you’ve read my tips on how to survive long flights in economy, you know I don’t go overseas without chocolate in my purse—and depending on where I’m going, sometimes I’ll bring additional snacks as well. This is particularly true when I’m going somewhere I’m not sure I’ll have many options (as someone who eats vegetarian and gluten-free). On my last weekend grocery run before a trip, I’ll pick up whatever it is I want to bring so that I’ll have it ready to be packed whenever I’m ready to start.

THE WEEK OF

CALL THE CREDIT CARD COMPANY

To avoid any interruption to your service caused by a fraud-blocker, it’s never a bad idea to call your credit card company and give them a heads up that you’ll be leaving the country. Telling them where you’ll be reduces the chance of them freezing your account in fears of fraud. Of course, you’ll also want to make sure you’re bringing a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. To learn more about how to choose the right travel credit card for you, visit the 52 Cities free resource library or register to join me on an upcoming masterclass!

Hilton Honors Aspire credit card

START PACKING (OR AT LEAST MAKE A PACKING LIST)

Okay, I’m not going to pretend that I always pack several days in advance, but even when I don’t, I do have a packing list ready to go a few days out. I try to wait long enough so that I have a good idea of what the weather will be on the trip (and I’m not packing things I’ll need to take out and wear before I go), but not so long that it becomes a stressful, last-minute activity. For me, the time-consuming part of packing is figuring out what I’m going to bring, so making the list in advance gets some of that heavy lifting out of the way.

PRE-TRIP CHECKLIST: THE DAY OF

CLEAN

I fully understand that some people will read this and say, “yeah, right,” but if you’ve never tried cleaning up your house or apartment before you leave for a trip, I highly encourage you to give it a shot! Coming home to an orderly surrounding does wonders for my mental health upon returning from a trip, whereas walking into the scene of your last-minute packing frenzy will inspire the complete opposite emotions. While you’re at it, don’t forget to empty the fridge of perishable items that’ll expire while you’re away!

REMOVE UNNECESSARY ITEMS FROM WALLET

I’ve been pickpocketed enough times to know that you don’t want to be carting around plastic that isn’t absolutely necessary. I leave cards home that I won’t need or use; why risk losing them if you don’t have to?! 

ONE HOUR BEFORE

SHOWER

For me, feeling as clean as possible is key for getting through long flights. For this reason, showering is the last thing I do before I leave the house to head to the airport! This practice definitely helps me feel less gross when I wake up after having slept overnight on an airplane. I actually go ahead and take it a step further, braiding my hair when it’s wet so that it won’t dry overnight. To me, having wet hair makes it feel cleaner for longer!

soap

Hope this pre-trip checklist helped you prepare for a trip! What else do you do before leaving the country? Let me know in the comments! >>

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