Your Pre-Travel Checklist
Thank you to Capital One for sponsoring this post.
If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I travel a lot. On average I’m flying somewhere every two weeks – mostly with my kids. That’s a lot of trips to coordinate, and a lot of details to think through.
I’ve always used spreadsheets to track some of the larger items, like making sure I have flights booked for each trip, but a lot of things are in my head, or they’re things that I did once and haven’t thought about again. So this was a fun exercise: thinking through every item, big and small, on my pre-travel checklist, so that you don’t forget anything either! Some of these are money-based items, and others are more practical advice. And many are specific to overseas destinations, but you can use this list for domestic trips as well.
Passports and Visas
- Have you checked your passport expiration dates recently? Most countries require a minimum of six months’ validity. If you have a summer trip planned and your passport expires in November, that’s not good enough. Renew it now!
- Does the country that you’re going to require a visa?
- Have you made copies of your passports? It’s always good to travel with printed copies. And use your cell phone to take pictures of the photo/data pages and keep them in your camera roll.
- If there is only one parent traveling, do you have a notarized authorization letter from the other parent? Some countries won’t let you in without proof that you’re allowed to travel solo with your kid(s).
- Have you arranged for someone to look after your animals and/or made a reservation for boarding? Definitely don’t wait until the last minute. Animal care issues can derail a vacation.
- Have you stopped your mail, or arranged for a friend or neighbor to pick it up?
- Have you set up light timers or otherwise done things to make it look like you’re still at home while you’re traveling?
- How are you getting to the airport? We drive most of the time, but if our trip is longer than three weeks it’s less-expensive to pay for a shuttle service to drive us back and forth than to pay for airport parking.
- If you are parking at the airport, do you need a parking reservation?
- Do you have transportation arranged at your destination? If you’re not renting a car, you may want to arrange for your hotel or a shuttle service to pick you up at the airport. It eliminates worries, and is usually worth the added expense.
- If you’re renting a car, do you need an international drivers license? This varies from country to country.
- Do you and your family have all required vaccinations? We hadn’t thought about this until a few days before we were leaving for Africa, and my wife and kids had to get a lot of last-minute shots.
- Do you have enough prescription medications for your entire trip? You may need to get an early refill.
- Do you know what your health insurance covers or doesn’t cover if something happens overseas?
- If it’s not covered by your insurer, have you looked into a separate medical evacuation policy?
- Have you looked into trip insurance?
- Do you know what your credit card covers? Capital One Venture provides travel accident insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and car rental insurance through its Visa Signature benefits, for example. Always check your card’s benefits guide for specifics.
Language and Culture
- Have you learned a little of the language where you’re going? We’re big fans of knowing hello, goodbye, yes, no, please and thank you in the local language.
- What is the tipping situation? We tip housekeepers everywhere we go. But tipping for taxis and restaurants varies widely from country to country. It’s easiest to look this up in advance – before you get into a taxi to your hotel and have no idea whether to tip or not.
Communications and Money
- How are you going to get cash when you travel? Do you need to notify your bank in advance of travel to make sure you can use your ATM card?
- Do you have a backup way of getting cash if you lose your ATM card or your card is cancelled due to fraud? We always travel with two ATM cards – I leave one in the safe in the hotel room.
- What’s the foreign exchange rate right now? When you get to the ATM in the airport, you need to know whether to withdraw 500, 5,000, 50,000 or 500,000 units of the local currency.
- Do you have the right credit card? You want to earn miles for all of your spending, and you want to avoid foreign transaction fees. Capital One Venture is perfect for both. And in case you think I’m biased for recommending Capital One Venture, CNBC just named it the best travel credit card.
- Do you have a cell plan that will work overseas? Check with your carrier. Some companies charge for data or require you to sign up for an international plan.
- What power outlets / plugs are used at your destination? Do you need adaptors?
- Do you have any electronics that may need a power converter? Most phones, laptops and chargers can handle 110 or 220 volts, but curling irons and hair dryers generally can’t. Be careful plugging anything in overseas if you haven’t checked its voltage ratings (says the guy who once blacked out an entire train car in Vietnam because he plugged in a 110v power strip).
- Have you signed up for frequent flier accounts for everyone in your family? You can do it after the fact and then request that your flights be credited, but it’s easier to do it in advance and save a step.
- Have you checked your flight times and connections recently? Airlines are constantly adjusting their schedules. It’s possible that your flight is now leaving at a different time, and/or that the two-hour layover you thought you had is now 45 minutes.
- Have you double-checked your seat assignments? If anything has changed with your flight since you booked it, there’s a chance that you’re no longer in the seats you had selected.
- Did you download your airline’s app? You can get flight updates, but also inflight entertainment on a lot of airlines.
Right Before Walking Out the Door
- Do you have passports for everyone, or if you’re traveling domestically, IDs for the adults?
- Do you have your credit card? You can pretty much forget everything else as long as you have your passport and your Capital One Venture card. It’s fun to shop on vacation anyway!
- Have you turned down your heat, or turned off your air conditioning? No sense paying to heat or cool your house when you’re not there – unless you still need to for animals or another reason.
- Do you have snacks for the plane? If there’s a flight delay or issue, hungry kids are grumpier than non-hungry kids!
- Have you thrown away or given away perishable foods, or packed them up to take them with you?
- Have you emptied your inside trash cans?
And for ease of use, this checklist is available for download here: Travel Babbo Pre-Travel Checklist
Is there anything I’m missing? What else is on your pre-trip checklist?