The ultimate list of things to do BEFORE you travel abroad - a free printable pre-travel checklist

So, If you've been following this blog with any regularity you'll know I'm planning a long trip to Nepal in a few weeks. and, while i cant boil an egg or make a batch of macaroni and cheese, i do have other talents- mainly travel know-how and extreme list-making abilities. it's not so much the lists that i enjoy- but more so crossing items off. Sometimes i'll even make lists of things i've already completed in the day just so i can cross them off.  'wake up' CHECK. 'walk downstairs'  CHECK CHECK! winning already. so accomplished!  

and, so, my dear friends, i am going to bestow upon you the stuff you probably haven't thought of (or wish you would have done)  to do BEFORE traveling abroad.  Here we go: 

Destination Photographer Lexia Frank is a film photographer on the west coast photographing luxury weddings and ethnic weddings worldwide.

2-6 Months before travel

  • Double check that your passport is still valid, and that it wont be expiring before, on, or shortly after your trip. Many people don't realize that they may not allow you to travel if your passport expires within 6 months of your travel dates. so, be pre-emptive and set a google calendar reminder to renew your passport a year in advance of when your passport is set to expire. 
  • Buy your tickets on the right day and time to get the best deal. Historically, the most research says that tuesday is the best time to buy a flight, because airlines announce deals on monday, and by tuesday other airlines are scrambling to match that deal. however, the wall street journal did a bit of research and came up with Sunday being the best day to buy a flight because airlines are targeting leisure travelers. so, keep your eye out for good deals.
  • before clicking the 'purchase' button on your flights, go to to compare different flights on different airlines to see what amenities you will or wont be getting on your flight.  for me, i'd much rather have a flight with a plug for my laptop and wifi... but someone else might prefer more leg room.  I also want to know if i'm going to be able to bring my cary-on with me (a deal breaker) or if they are going to force me to check it at the gate (a no-go for my profession). you can find the best in-flight meals, best airport lounges, in=flight amenities, etc.  
  • If you happen to be traveling with children or you're a mother, research the airports that have rooms for nursing/pumping mothers and playgrounds for children. unfortunately, only 8% of airports have a room for breastfeeding or pumping mothers (shameful), and almost all of those airports consider a 'family restroom' adequate space (yuck). If pumping, try to schedule flights so you will have time during your layover to pump as it is somewhat easier (though definitely not 'easy') to pump in an airport than on a plane. here is a good place to research airports with nursing areas:   The eight airports that met minimum requirement for a breast-pumping mother are as follows: San Francisco International, California; Minneapolis–St. Paul International, Minnesota; Baltimore/ Washington International, Maryland; San Jose International, California; Indianapolis International, Indianapolis; Akron Canton Regional, Ohio; Dane County Regional, Wisconsin; and Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional, Florida.
  • if you're traveling with a pet, try to go through one of these airports during your layover:
  • finally, before you click 'purchase' on your flight, do a little background research on what side of the plane to sit on for the best view.  I get a window seat on all daytime flights, and try to determine (as best I can- things can ALWAYS change last minute in the air) what direction we'll be landing so i can get the best view. if it's nighttime, and i'm taking a series of flights, i alternate the sides for each flight so my neck wont get kinked when i sleep leaning against the window.  
  • contact the kennel (for your pets), a housesitter (for your plants and fish), or a neighbor to just check in on things every once in awhile. this is a good time to also make sure your pets are fully vaccinated and up to date on their medications and appointments. 
  • Register yourself with Global Entry (or at least TSA pre-check) so you can avoid lines at customs and have a significantly better experience through security. you can read about it here.
  • Register your trip with the STEP program (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) so you can receive text messages about safety and security issues in the destination to which you are traveling, and the embassy will know who to contact back home in case of an emergency. 
  • create a physical ICE (In Case of Emergency) card to place in your wallet with loved one's contact information should something happen to you while traveling abroad. 
  • make sure you have the necessary immunizations for the country to which you are traveling. you can get immunizations up to the day before you travel, but for maximum immunity you should really have them at least one month to two weeks before you travel.  for some vaccinations (like hep A and hep B) there are multiple rounds that need to be done over the course of a few months, so planning ahead is key.  if you are only able to get one round of immunizations, you will still have some immunity, so get them even if you wont be able to complete the entire series before your trip. see which immunizations you need for your country of travel here:
  • Schedule a physical with your primary care physician, and a dental appointment before you leave.  this is important if you're going to be away for a very long time (get that cavity filled so it doesn't flare up in a foreign country) or if you're traveling to a place where you might pick up a nasty bug.  I like to know a good baseline of my body before i travel, so if i return with a bug i know for sure when/where i've picked it up.  your doctor can also prescribe you some antibiotics to take with you on your trip in case you come down with the inevitable bad traveler's diarrhea.  
  • make sure your will is up to date.  It's not like I think I'm ever going to die when I travel, but international travel happens just often enough that it is a good reminder to check in with all my paperwork and make sure things are all in order.   
  • get additional passport photos for yourself for entry visas or other needs. you can get passport photos at walgreens or similar stores. 
  • consider purchasing a fakeTV light to make your house look like there is a TV on and the home is occupied while you're away 

1 week Before Trip

  • Pack your suitcase. Do not wait until the day before, so that you will have time to do laundry, make any last minute purchases (do you need a power converter for international travel? loose your toothbrush holder?)
  • head to your local Sephora and Aveda Salon and see if they have any tiny sample sizes of items you normally use (facial moisturizer, eye creams, smooth infusion for your hair, etc) for short trips, or for items you dont necessarily need every single day the free sample sizes of products take up far less space than even your travel size container which can be overkill. plus, who doesn't love free stuff and extra space in your bag?
  • weigh your bag and check your airlines policy on weight.
  • call your bank and credit cards to let them know you'll be traveling abroad and for how long. 
  • contact the post office and put a hold on your mail delivery.  this is SO EASY and can be done in two seconds online here:
  • put a hold on your newspaper delivery - some newspapers will donate your copy to a local school
  • contact any  activities you do to cancel them or let them know you wont be available.  sports activities, music lessons, cleaning lady, pest control, gym membership, etc. anything you'd like to continue while you're away (yard maintenance, etc) you should pay in advance. 
  • Change any batteries in your fire alarms/home security system etc. if no one will be home while you are away.
  • refill any prescriptions you have that you need to take with you (dont forget about your pets that are at home as well) 
  • if you have children you are leaving at home, message the schools and any relevant teachers that you will be away. they will be more understanding if your child seems out-of-sorts or has late/unfinished homework.
  • create a printed itinerary with pertinent addresses, contact information, and times/dates of your trip in case you loose your phone or you do not have access to a charging station. 

The Day Before

  • Charge everything- your phone, computer, laptop, game system, e-reader, electric shaver, electric toothbrush, fitbit, etc.  change batteries in things like your watch, your camera's flash, etc. 
  • head to the bank to get some cash- and small bills for tipping. bonus points if you can get a little bit of foreign money as well. in third world countries it is not a given that an ATM will be ready and working and waiting for you at the airport. 
  • While you're out, return library books, and anything you've been meaning to return to the store. by the time you get back, the return policy on items may have expired. 
  • clear off any un-needed photos or videos on your phone and camera so you will have plenty of space to document your trip
  • backup your computer to an external harddrive and store in a secure location at home
  • download any games/movies/podcasts to your devices that you may want on your flight
  • confirm everything and check in. confirm hotel, car rental, pet sitter, house sitter, vacation activities, etc. 
  • check the weather, and make any adjustments to your packing to reflect the changes. 
  • set an email away message,
  • Home-Care bonuses: I do a thorough clean of my entire house before i leave on a trip. I love the feeling of returning to a fresh clean house after an exhausting trip, and it makes unpacking my suitcase a little more manageable if i'm not looking at a messy house. All sheets are changed and washed and sprayed with essential oils, floors are mopped, windows washed, closets organized, dressers organized, dishes unloaded and put away, bathroom scrubbed, and kitchen cleaned. 

Walking out the door

  • unplug all electronics 
  • take out the garbage
  • water the plants
  • set the AC/Heat
  • shut off the hot water heater
  • disconnect hoses (if winter and you expect frost)
  • cover sensitive plants (if winter and you expect frost)
  • give perishable food items to neightbors
  • shot off water to ice maker and washing machine
  • check stove, oven, iron, and curling irons
  • turn on fakeTV light
  • close all blinds/drapes
  • lock the doors
  • give a key to a neighbor for emergencies
Destination Photographer Lexia Frank is a film photographer on the west coast photographing luxury weddings and ethnic weddings worldwide.
Destination Photographer Lexia Frank is a film photographer on the west coast photographing luxury weddings and ethnic weddings worldwide.

And the only thing better than this massive list is getting a free printable Checklist of your own!  Enter the form below with the code: TRAVELCHECKLIST and download it straight to your computer!