Before You Go Checklist
Avoid the last-minute frenzy, learn more about what to do before you go to ensure that your trip starts off stress-free and stays that way till...

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For most of us, vacation planning revolves around the exciting stuff: plane tickets, hotel reservations, and creating an itinerary of exciting or relaxing activities. The less exciting pre-trip details tend to get overlooked. A travel checklist can provide an organized way of preparing for your trip.

There are also certain things you should do to ensure your trip is as safe as possible—particularly if you are headed to a foreign country.

Avoid the last-minute frenzy and learn more about what to do before you go to ensure that your trip starts off stress-free and stays that way till the end.

In the trip-planning excitement, it’s easy to remember the dress shirts and swimsuit while overlooking certain important items. While you certainly want to avoid over-packing, remember these essentials as you plan your trip.   

Contact Info & Essentials

For You:

  • Bring a cell phone and charger. If you are travelling abroad, consider renting an international cell phone. There are many companies offering this service—typically, you pay a small rental fee, and then any calls are charged per minute. The per-minute fee will be high, so use it only on an as-need basis. 
  • Take a printed list of emergency phone numbers, in case you lose your phone or the battery dies .

For Them:

  • Leave a travel itinerary with a neighbor, friends, and family, including a list of where you can be reached, when possible.  

Personal Prep

Make sure all your documents are in order. Important papers and other documents should remain close to you, in a purse or wallet, instead of in luggage that will be stowed on the plane. Make sure you have:

  • Any needed visas. To find out if you need a visa, visit the U.S. Department of State’s visa information website.
  • Your passport. Make sure it’s current; some countries require that it’s valid six months before arrival.
  • Travel insurance is something you may want to consider. It can cover medical expenses, travel delays due to weather, trip cancellations due to the financial default of travel suppliers (like tour groups), and other losses that can be incurred in the course of traveling.
  • Cards. Take only what’s important—driver’s license, insurance card, one or two credit cards, traveler’s checks. Leave the unnecessary cards at home.
  • Keep an extra stash of emergency cash in a safe location (separate from your wallet).
  • Don’t forget your house keys (and car keys, if you are parking your car at an airport or other departure locale).

Security & Home Prep

Before you travel, make sure your apartment or house is neat and tidy. Arrange for a neighbor or friend to periodically stop by so that your house continues to seem lived-in and avoids becoming a target.


  • Lights: set lights on a timer, so the house doesn’t appear to be vacant.
  • Temperature: turn the thermostat up or down to match the season.
  • Plants: water plants and arrange for a friend to continue to water them.
  • Mail: suspend mail delivery, or have a friend collect it for you.
  • Trash: empty all waste baskets and wash any dishes in the sink .
  • Food: store some food in the freezer so you have options when you return, and remove all perishable items from the refrigerator.
  • Locks: lock all windows and doors.


  • Yard: put cleaning and gardening services on hold, or discuss having a friend or neighbor help with lawn upkeep. 

Vaccinations & Medicine Kit

Be informed of the health requirements of your destination. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) divides vaccines for travel into three categories: routine, recommended, and required. Make sure you are up to date with your routine vaccinations and find out if you need any other vaccines for the countries you’ll be visiting. The CDC has an extremely useful tool for determining health requirements of every country across the globe.

Speak with your doctor about scheduling a vaccination, and keep in mind that most vaccines will take time to effectively work.

What to Do

  • Get vaccinations (at least four to six weeks before your travel date).
  • Consult with your doctor before you go if:
    • you are pregnant
    • have a pre-existing condition

What to Take

  • aspirin
  • cold/sinus medication
  • anti-diarrhea medicine
  • Band-Aids
  • antibiotic ointment
  • sunscreen
  • insect repellent
  • contact lenses and solution
  • supplements and vitamins
  • prescription medications (Tip: always carry a copy of your prescription in case you need to refill while traveling).
Written by: Amy Boulanger
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by:
Published: Jun 27, 2011
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
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