If travel is in your future, you might want to create a pre-travel checklist. It sets up a framework for listing both the important and mundane tasks that need to be looked after before heading off on your adventure. A checklist makes preparing to travel less stressful. It might even encourage you to travel more, and heighten your excitement for doing so.

Why create one?

In the last year alone, all of the following have happened to me, or to one of my travelling companions. Do you have similar examples? If so, it might be time to work on that pre-travel checklist.

  • Purchased travel insurance when you already had sufficient coverage through some other source?
  • Come home from a trip abroad to a hefty bill from your carrier because you neglected to disable data roaming on your mobile phone?
  • Couldn’t get your passport renewed in time to take advantage of a travel deal?
  • Applied for a visa twice (and paid the $80 fee twice) because you couldn’t remember whether or not you’d already done so?
  • Lost a fat wallet to a pickpocket?
  • Had your main credit card cancelled by your financial institution two days before departure when their screening system detected a fraudulent charge?
  • Failed to check in online and get bumped from your overbooked flight?

A pre-travel checklist is no guarantee against adversity creeping into your travel plans. However, chances are good that things will go smoother with some checklist-inspired pre-trip research and planning.

List making isn’t easy

List making isn’t rocket science, but it doesn’t come easily to many folks. If it did, more people would do it. I’m always surprised when I find those who travel without a packing list, but that’s another (though related) story.

But how does one create a pre-travel checklist? Where does a person start?

Generic lists aren’t the answer

There are plenty of downloadable checklists, but it stands to reason that no one checklist mirrors each person’s unique circumstances.

  • Check the spare tyre on the RV? Good to do if you’re heading off on an RV trip.
  • Need a visa? Perhaps, if you’re travelling abroad.
  • Stock up on cat food and kitty litter? Fine, if you have a cat.

Generic checklists aren’t the solution, but they can be useful tools when working on your own customized version tailor-made to your specific circumstances.

Create a customized pre-travel checklist

Organize your customized checklist in a way that works for you. Here are some thoughts on how you might go about it.

  • Identify your most comfortable medium for recording ideas. Lined paper? Post-it notes? A blank distraction-free document in your favourite word processing program? A list-friendly app such as Evernote? A dedicated packing and travel checklist app such as Packing Pro? A voice-recording app such as Dictaphone – Audio Recorder for capturing ideas while on the move? Maybe you’ll choose a combination. The important thing is that the medium itself doesn’t complicate things, and distract you from creating your own template and list of tasks.
  • Dig out one or more of your previous lists and use it/them as a guide.
  • Establish parameters. For example, your pre-travel checklist might focus on tasks other than booking travel and packing your bags. Maybe you’d like to build everything into the one checklist, or create a number of separate lists.
  • For inspiration, review a few lists produced by other travellers. Take a look at Extra Pack of Peanuts’ Pre-travel Checklist: 24 Things to Do Before You Travel, U.S. Passports & International Travel’s Traveler’s Checklist, and Indie Traveller’s Backpacking Checklist: 15 Things You Shouldn’t Forget Before You Go.
  • Visualize yourself travelling. Treat it as a mental rehearsal of your expectations of what lies ahead. What needs to happen to bring you to that point? Jot down ideas on what you need to do or accomplish between now and then.
  • Maybe “mind mapping” might work for you. Thea (of Time with Thea) demonstrates the process in Preparing to Pack for a Trip.
  • Download my annotated 14-page guide, Pre-Travel Checklist: Tasks, Tips and Tools. It has lots of ideas on what to include in your own more concise tailor-made version. Look for the SUBSCRIBE box at the end of this post.
  • Travelling with another person from your household or community? Designate a specific time to get together to brainstorm what needs to be done. Might inviting someone who hasn’t travelled encourage you to “think outside the box?” Know someone who’s travelled extensively? Invite him or her to join in, or to review your first draft and make suggestions.
  • At some point, your tasks should be organized in categories (e.g., documentation, insurance, finances, health and residence). Maybe you’d prefer to start with categories, or jump between tasks and categories as you go along.
  • Add a timeline, or assign timeframes to tasks, especially those that are time sensitive. Life Journeys in Pre-Trip Checklist categorized their tasks into time frames such as “three months ahead” and “one day ahead.”
  • Assign responsibilities. Designate who will do what by when (unless you’re travelling solo).
  • Figure out a system for recording when tasks are completed. Our Big Fat Travel Adventure created a three-column chart with headings for “tasks,” “completed,” and “notes” in Travel Checklist – Tasks to Do Before We Go Travelling.
  • Save your pre-travel checklist for future travel adventures. You could store it in a cloud-storage app, and make amendments as you think of them while travelling.

And finally…

Check off the tasks on your pre-travel checklist, head off on your travels and have fun. You’ve deserved it.


What other suggestions or resources come to mind?


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