Travel preparation? It sounds like work to prepare to go on vacation, right? After doing all the planning and itinerary building, you’d think the only thing left to do would be to go, right? You’re eager to leave work behind, get unplugged and get to the airport to start your much needed and deserved vacation.
But don’t rush off before making a few very important travel preparations first. There extra steps could save you time, money and even a few headaches.
Taking the time to properly prepare will inevitably lead to a more satisfying and relaxing vacation. Each time we leave for a trip, we run through the same checklist to make sure we’ve covered all our bases and aren’t forgetting something important.
Below, you’ll find the list that we follow. It’s not incredibly tedious and it will give you a better peace of mind while you’re getting ready to go.
Be Prepared For Travel
Planning is the most important part of any successful trip. Do it the easy way:
🧳 Travel Packing List | ✔️ Why You Need Travel Insurance | ✈️ What to Do Before You Leave Home
- Find and book the best hotel (our favorite booking site is Expedia)
- Research flight options (our favorite tool is Skyscanner)
- Book a tour (we always use Viator to find the best tours)
- Rent a car through Discover Cars (they search the best deals for you!)
Travel Planning Checklist
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Up to One Month Before
- Go over your plans again to make sure there aren’t any missing pieces — have you booked all your hotels, car rentals, transfers and dinner reservations?
- Call or email all tour companies to reconfirm excursions and double check times and pick up locations.
- Give a copy of the first page of your passport to someone back home, along with your itinerary details. Also keep a copy in your carry-on bag, separate from your actual passport, in case it gets lost.
- Buy a travel guide and map for your destination. Read through and circle or highlight important information.
- Research and pack the proper adapters for the country you’re going to.
PRO TIP: Figure in buffer time. Don’t work right up until the minute you leave or arrive home the night before you return to work. Leave yourself a buffer on both ends. It’s a real relief to have extra day before heading back to the office so you can ease back in, adjust from jet lag and do an advance cleaning out of your email inbox before being slammed with work.
One Week Before
- Get any COVID tests, fill our passenger locator records, and check all regulations and rules for your destination.
- Sign up online at USPS.com to have your mail held by the post office. Suspend paper delivery.
- Download any entertainment you might want onto your tablet, computer or Kindle for the plane ride or beach reading.
- Pay or schedule all bills that might be due while you’re away.
- Clean out the refrigerator. There’s nothing worse than coming home to a smelly house.
- Prepare meals that use up the last fresh food in your fridge.
- Transfer money into your checking account. Sometimes money in a savings account can’t easily be accessed through an ATM.
- Withdraw the cash you’ll need during your trip if staying in country. You can also pre-calculate how much you might need in foreign cash, so you’re prepared to pull out money when you arrive.
PRO TIP: The easiest and cheapest way to get cash in a foreign country is to use the ATM at the airport. Just be sure you’ve alerted your bank that you’ll be traveling overseas.
A Few Days Before
- Arrange for someone to water your plants.
- Find boarding for your dogs or find someone to come over and feed your cat. You can also purchase an automatic cat feeder for shorter trips.
- Begin to pack your bags, taking care not to over pack. Here’s our guide on packing light. Everything should be packed and ready to go at least two days before you leave. This will give you time to remember any items you’ve left out or to rethink unnecessary items.
- Print out or save all of your important travel documents, including flight, hotel and car confirmations, details for excursions, plus driving or walking directions you’ll need.
- Clean the house and do the laundry so you’re not overwhelmed by it when you return.
- If you live in a city with grocery delivery, order ahead for delivery the day you arrive home, so there will be food in the fridge..
One Day Before
- Pack snacks and/or a sandwich for the plane ride.
- Reconfirm your ride to the airport. Make sure you’ve left plenty of time so you’re not rushing and stressed about missing your flight.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Turn off all appliances. Be sure to unplug your air fryer and Instant Pot, if they’re sitting out.
- Turn off or down heating or air conditioning.
- Leave an away message on your work and home emails and phones.
- Check in for your flight.
- Print boarding passes, or download an online boarding pass to your phone.
- Confirm that your seat assignments haven’t changed (i.e. make sure you’re still sitting together)
- Take out the trash.
- Try to turn off your phone and go unplugged at least 2 hours before you leave for the airport to avoid unnecessary distractions and stressors.
PRO TIP: If you check in the moment it becomes available, you may be able to get better seats, or pay a small amount for premium seats — always double check the seating chart.
During Your Vacation
- First and foremost: Remind yourself that you’re on vacation. There will inevitably be things that go wrong, but you won’t let them ruin your mood because YOU’RE ON VACATION!
- Check out our list of beach drinks to order at all inclusive resorts.
- Stay unplugged. Is there really any need to update your Facebook and Twitter every minute? If you must, keep it to 30 minutes per day.
- Out of sight, out of mind. If something is happening back home or in the office, there’s nothing you can do about it now, so don’t let home problems creep in and destroy your relaxation.
- Save the best activity for last. You’ll be so busy looking forward to that last activity that you won’t have time to dread the going home part.
PRO TIP: If you suffer from jet lag, follow these tips to minimize the effects. Ease back into your schedule. You can easily get back to normal by adjusting your bedtime by 15 to 30 minutes each night. See how to detox from your vacation when you return.
Preparing for a vacation can be very daunting and you might be tempted to leave everything to the last minute, which will just stress you out more. Use this helpful guide to plan ahead and have a peaceful, stress free vacation.
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited over 75 countries.
20 thoughts on “Travel Preparation: How to Plan for the Perfect Vacation”
Make sure that is everything is well planned from Flights, Hotel accommodations or place for you to stay, cash and credit cards and don’t forget to bring along a dictionary if you are traveling to a country with different language.
Very true, Rosemary! We always have Google Translate within reach!
Wonderful! !!!! So so helpful! Thanks so much!
In addition to the great comments above, tell a neighbor your travel dates. They can help watch your home while you are gone. Also, turn off the water to your washing machine. The hose is under pressure from the water and you don’t want that breaking and pouring water all over while you are away. I would not recommend leaving an away message on your home phone. Your friends and work know you are traveling. Anyone else calling may just be trying to find out if someone is home or not! Put lights on variable timers so they go on and off at different times during the day/week. Have them start a few days before you depart (aka while you are still home) so anyone watching your home would not know if you are actually home or have left the residence. If you live in a snowy climate, make arrangements to have your driveway shoveled if needed to make it look like you are home. Have neighbors park in your driveway now and then while you are gone too. Taking steps before you leave will make for a worry free trip.
Thanks for your tips, J! These are great.
You get so busy planning your trip that it can be easy to forget about your home. I agree with J that you should make sure someone is watching your house while you are gone. If you don’t know or trust your neighbors, you can probably hire a service or a security company to check on your house while you enjoy your vacation.
It sure was nice when you said that during the vacation, it is best to take the mind off the house and the office and just focus on relaxing and having fun. That is especially true if the family has chosen such a wonderful vacation rental to spend their vacation in. We haven’t chosen yet, but I will still take note of this advice because I want to make the most out of my vacation. Thank you!
It’s a difficult decision, but you should love where you stay, so also a very important one.
It was helpful when you suggested reconfirming the ride to the airport the day prior to the trip so that the person can avoid unnecessary problems that may cause them to miss their flight. I will be sure to call the transportation company again tomorrow morning because my brother and I will be traveling to the Dominican Republic for our vacation. Of course, we want to make sure that to and fro, we won’t have any issues whatsoever. Thanks!
Very good idea, Dino.
Check with the CDC and make sure you don’t need to have shots where you’re going . You can pull them up online.
Great tip, Ginny. Thanks.
Even better than keeping the cell usage to 30 minutes a day, try to make those 30 minutes WiFi only. If you need a reminder to make sure that you don’t get a surprise $1000 cell bill, download a reminder App like Hoogo – On the Move Alert.
I would add that at a week out you should double check any medications that you are taking. If you will be close to needing a refill, it is best to do so in case of flight delays, etc. you don’t want to run out!!!
That’s a very good point. I’ve been caught without a few times myself.
I have a lot of friends who love to travel, and I was looking for a nice article which describes what a perfect checklist for a trip should be. Love it thanks.
Awesome! Travel tips is a really amazing , it gives me a very clear idea about travel.
It’s great that you explained how to plan a vacation and what to do one month before your trip. My wife and I are excited to travel for our summer vacation, but we have no idea where to go or what activities to do, so we think we’ll start looking for fun things to do while we read your tips. Thanks for the advice on preparing your tour and excursions and verifying their confirmation with anticipation.
Having a plan at least one month before going on a hotel vacation is an idea that really makes sense to me. You would want to make sure that you know what you want to do and have a good idea of the location first before you go so you don’t waste time getting lost. I’ll make sure that this is something I prepare beforehand so I’m ready to book a hotel & lodging close to where I want to hang out.