Tips for Making Pre-Travel Checklists

I watch a lot of astronaut movies….Mostly Star Wars. And even Han and Chewie use a checklist.

Jon Stewart

Is this a ‘sexy’ topic? Absolutely not. It is, however, an extremely helpful task to set for yourself no matter how long your trip is. The closer you get to your vacation, the more excited you are…and less focused. Vacation brain is a real thing and no one enjoys reaching your destination with a bunch of missing items you wished you remembered to pack.

There’s a fix for that though! I am a checklist queen and I want to share what I do to help make sure I don’t forget anything. The easiest way I’ve found that works for me is by having several. Seeing one giant list stresses me out, but having several for different categories and days makes it much more manageable. Check out how I break everything up below!

House To Dos Before a Trip

One of my least favorite things to come home to after an amazing vacation is a dirty house. It feels like a slap in the face back to reality. I want to come home and spend time with the pets and just relax. Packing is bad enough, so I never want to add cleaning to that. Here are my tips for a stress-free way to clean your house/apartment/etc.

  • Start a few weeks before you leave with larger tasks that only need done every few weeks
  • Go room by room and clean one or two each week until you leave
  • Vacuum, do dishes, take out trash and do anything that involves dust, dirt and smelly things the day before you leave
  • Leave out potpourri or spray something nice so you come back to a nice smell
  • Water your plants before you go
  • Take care of the lawn if you have one
  • Charge security cameras, doorbells, etc
  • Clean out your fridge before you leave to prevent science experiments running wild while you’re gone.
  • Order a grocery delivery for the day you get back by ordering it when you are on the way home. OR have a takeout plan already in place with some snacks stocked in the pantry
  • Back up any electronics you’re taking with you so you don’t lose anything on them
  • Set your house temperature so it’s a steady temperature or turn the AC/heat off
  • Make sure someone can collect your mail for you so it’s not obvious you aren’t home

Prepare the Pets and Pet Care

One of the most difficult parts of traveling for us is finding pet care. We’ve got 3 cats and 2 dogs. We’ve got a kitten, a cat with glaucoma, an old dog, and pretty much everything in between. It can be either ridiculously expensive and stressful to have a stranger come stay or we feel bad asking friends. Either way, we’ve got it down now even if it takes some finagling.

Your fur babes should be a priority when you’re planning travel. Who is taking care of them and when and where. Here are a few things to prepare before you travel so your pets are well taken care of.

  • Make a care sheet for each pet with personalized information and vet information
  • Triple check your pet care is set up for the right dates and has your contact information as well as a friends in case you aren’t available
  • Buy extra food just in case so it’s on hand
  • Have any medication clearly labeled in and full supply
  • Take your pets to the vet 1-2 weeks before you go for some peace of mind
  • Groom them even if it’s just a brushing or nail trim
  • Get in extra snuggle time so they don’t feel stressed leading up to your departure. Any stress you feel, they will notice
  • Clean all water and food bowls
  • Clean their sleeping areas and their bathroom areas
  • If you’re boarding your pet, make sure to bring something that smells like you so they feel more at home
  • Set up a check in schedule with your pet sitters to make sure you get updates as often as you want them
  • Leave emergency contact info with your sitter. I also like to leave an emergency credit card in case something happens so I know if the worst did happen, they would be taken care of.

Itinerary Check Lists

Did I remember to book this? Where were we staying again? What’s the address for the excursion we planned? No one wants these questions jumping around their brain which is why I create a folder in my phone and a physical one for travel. It has all of the documents for where we’re staying, addresses and contact info of those places, excursion information, transportation arrangements, and even a language cheat sheet just in case. Make sure you take a look at these tips to ensure you don’t overlook something before you head out.

  • Print out your accommodation information including the address and contact information
  • Double check the dates 1-2 weeks before your trip
  • Take time off work as soon as possible and send out a reminder to your manager and team 1 week before
  • Book excursions 2-3 weeks before you travel
  • Plan out your transportation and the best way to move around where you’ll be staying
  • Get cash in the local currency 1-2 weeks before your trip
  • Double check your passport is valid before you book your trip
  • Check in early to your flights
  • Save all confirmation emails just in case
  • Check flight before you leave for the airport just in case there have been changes
  • Preplan ideas for excursions, activities, and meals before you leave so you have options before you arrive

Packing Lists — Carry On and Checked Bags

Forgetting items is only a smidge better than lost luggage, so it’s best to plan to pack effectively in both your carry on and checked bags. I’m a super late packer, but I always have a packing list dedicated to each trip I take. You definitely don’t have to get this intense with it, but I find that it always helps me. Here are a few basic tips I always follow when I’m packing.

  • Make a list of your essential items that you can’t replace or can’t forget to reference when packing
  • Put all cameras, money, expensive items, toiletries, and medication in your carry on so it can’t get lost
  • Always pack a change of clothes in your carry on just in case your checked bag is lost
  • Label your bags with your contact information
  • Pack a snack and reusable water bottle in your carry on. No one likes a hangry travel buddy
  • Check the zippers and wheels of your bags before your trip to see if they need reinforcement or to be replaced
  • Check if you need outlet adapters 1-2 weeks before you leave so you can prepare
  • Check if you need special items such as a certain type of sunscreen. Some areas of the world require a bio safe sunscreen, so it’s always best to check items just in case
  • Check the airline requirements for liquids and pack accordingly
  • Weigh and measure your bags once they’re packed to avoid fees when you get to the airport

Spread Out the Work

You’ll overwhelm yourself and probably cut corners or skip things if you try to do everything all at once. Use my house tips above to take it easy and break everything up. My boyfriend and I like to split up the tasks to make it even less stressful.

  • Start with room room at a time and go from top to bottom with your cleaning before moving on to the next room
  • Divide up the work with your roommate, partner, etc.
  • Start the cleaning early and have a plan of where you’re going to start and where to go next
  • Make it more enjoyable by listening to an audiobook, podcast, music, etc
  • Task lists will be your best friend
  • Be strategic. Don’t start with the rooms you use everyday and will just get dirty immediately. Leave those rooms for last and conquer the rooms that don’t get used as much first.

Once you’re done, you’re going to feel like a rockstar. You get to go on vacation without a care in the world knowing that when you come home you won’t have a giant heap of responsibilities around the house to take care of. You get to live in that vacation bubble for just that much longer.


One thought on “Tips for Making Pre-Travel Checklists

  1. Supremely helpful, thorough, well organized, and well thought out. An essential trip planner. Especially appreciate the excellent pet tips. Thanks!


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