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Travel is super fun and exciting, the anticipation and dreaming is part of the pleasure. The days leading up to a major trip, however, can be stressful and chaotic, even for the highly experienced traveler. I have found that there is a list of things that always need to be done or at least thought about and some that cannot wait until the last moment.

I’ve just left for a trip that will be a bit more than a month, and here is my travel task list for you to consider. I probably wait longer than other people to do things, so if you’re a worrier or need more time, slide this timeline a bit.

If you’ve got some suggestions of items, let me know and I’ll add them to this list.

1-3 Months Ahead

•Buy plane ticket. Have someone else look at it before purchase to make sure you’ve got it all correct. There’s a reason I suggest this, let me learn the hard lessons for you.

•Make a spreadsheet of where you will be on what days, which hotels you will be at and other travel reservations day by day. Once you’ve got it filled in, email out to friends and family.

•Make hotel or apartment arrangements. If you prefer to travel more spontaneously without reservations, at least make reservations for your first and last nights.

•If you need new luggage, do your research now. Better to have plenty of time to pick out exactly what you want.

•Research destinations and read up. The more you know about your destination, the more interesting your trip will be. Guidebooks are a good foundation, but also look for fiction and nonfiction books about your destination for local flavor.

•Go for dentist and doctor check-ups. There’s nothing worse than medical surprises on the road. Make sure your immunizations are up to date and get travel shots if you need them. If you have regular prescriptions, get paper copies to take with you in case you lose them.

1 Month Ahead

•Pick out your shoes. Go buy new ones if needed and wear often to break them in before departure. Walk on different terrains to gauge how they will work in your travels.

•Make rental car arrangements if you need a car.

•Look into airport transportation connections at your destination and make reservations if needed.

2 Weeks Ahead

•Put your suitcase in your bedroom and start tossing in potential items as you think of it.

•Make a packing checklist (or use my list as a starter) and decide what you have already and what you need to buy.

•Decide on what outerwear will work best for your trip. Shopping now will give you time to order something if you need it.

•Arrange to buy some local currency for your destination. For example, I always have about $100 each of Euro, GBP and Swiss Francs, just in case. Your bank may need to order this, so ask earlier rather than later.

•Call your credit card company and let them know you’ll be gone, otherwise they will cut your card off after one transaction. Most cards have automated systems now, you simply call and enter your travel dates. Do this ahead of time to make sure it’s in effect when you go.

1 Week Ahead

•Select and pack your clothes. Open the bag every day before you go and scan to make sure you’re happy with your choices. Inspect all clothes for damage or needed repair or alteration. Invite a patient friend over to critique your choices. Wine is a good bribe.

•Assemble toiletries. I will put my toiletries bag on my bathroom sink and just start using it at home as if I’m on the road, then I’ll notice what’s missing.

•Examine shoes that you plan to bring. If they are older, inspect soles and insoles and repair/replace if needed. Toss non-leather shoes in the wash with some towels, and add vinegar to the wash water to get rid of smells. Wipe down leather shoes. If stinky, wipe out the insides with diluted bleach or vinegar. A reader suggested salt as another option, I haven’t tried it but I’ll take any advice on this topic. Spray with deodorant.

•If you need something that has to be ordered online, do it now. Don’t wait for overnight shipping, that never ends well. Trust me.

•Completely pack your bag. Keep a piece of paper nearby as you pack and write down everything as you pack it.

•Call to have mail and newspaper stopped.

2 Days Ahead

•Toss all clothes and washables into your washing machine, all together. Wash as carelessly as possible, replicating the dodgy washing machines you may encounter while traveling. If a piece of clothing doesn’t launder well, it doesn’t go. I always add a cup of vinegar and a generous amount of pleasant-smelling fabric softener to my last wash, to try and lock in a fresh smell.

•Double check that the bank got the message that you’re traveling. Being broke in a foreign country sucks.

•Do all of your grooming. Clip fingernails, shave, pluck eyebrows, etc. If you like painted toenails, do it now so that they dry on time. I’ve had too many last-minute pedicures ruined by paint sticking to my wool socks on the plane. Yeah, I know, first-world problems.

•Check your flight arrangements online. Select your seats if you haven’t already, ask for an upgrade if you qualify for one.

The Day Before

•Get a haircut. This should probably be done earlier, but I love the head massage part and, boy oh boy, do I need a head massage the day before I go. It gets the stress and tension out, and being pampered a little starts your trip off in a positive way. If you don’t need a haircut, consider going for a massage.

•Go through your bag one more time and try to take something out. Weigh it. Take something else out. Remember to leave room for souvenirs (meaning: take something else out). Put your packed bag by the front door.

•Lay out your plane outfit. Remember how cold planes can be.

•Double check that you have your passport, credit cards and driver’s license with you. Double check that you have all electronics and associated cords with adapters.

•Leave a printed copy of your itinerary with your housesitter/dog sitter/neighbor.

•Check in for your flight…maybe. If you’re flying internationally, online check-in is a waste of time. You’ll need to show your passport to an agent, so you’ll have to get in line and reprint your boarding passes anyway.

•Plug in and fully charge all electronics but remember to put them in your bag with their cords and chargers before you go to bed. Keep your phone charger in your day bag so that you can plug in your phone on the plane.

Departure Day

If you’ve done all of the things I’ve suggested, you have only these left….



•Grab bags


(And if you’re like me, ride to the airport trying to figure out what it is from the travel task list you forgot to do…. )

AWS Staff

This post was published by the Adventures with Sarah team. Click here to find out more about the people that make everything at AWS happen.


  • Linda Shore says:

    I am in the last 2 days before Europe trip; London, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome. I’m taking my raincoat. Wet is not a good way to travel. Very exciting!

  • Kathy Johnson says:

    I always photocopy&scan things-driver’s license,credit cards,passport,insurance cards,airline tickets,car rental agreements,hotel reservations,tour reservations,rail pass,packing list,meds/contacts list(see below),etc. I take at least 1 extra copy of all the reservation paperwork,&I also email a copy to myself. Just to be sure,I copy them all to a thumb drive or SD card. Yes,I know,I’m both paranoid and OCD.I have a list on my computer that has all the Prescriptions/over-the counter meds/supplements that I take, the names&addresses of doctors/dentist,&names,addresses,and phone #s of contacts/family members,&allergies/sensitivities. Not just for traveling, I keep a copy in my purse,my car,the RV,my suitcase;hubby has his. If I am incapacitated for any reason,the info can be helpful so doctors/police.I love for small travel sizes of just about anything you might want in the way of snacks,toiletries,first aid supplies,laundry supplies. I use small containers(available from backpack stores)for small amounts of things(face cream,hand cream,etc)that are not available in travel sizes. I don’t take big containers of anything. I keep these things in either my quart-size bag or a small toiletries case. I don’t unpack most of it&am less likely to forget things. I have separate bags for picnic supplies,make-up,laundry. On my computer I have lists of what goes in each bag;periodically I check it out to see what needs to be replaced/refilled.I also have a master list of things to take of a trip–everything except specific clothes. Not everything on the list goes on every list(no snorkel gear for a trip to Europe!). For a trip, I can mark off what I don’t take&add things I take for that specific trip.Then print it out to take.When I pack,I always pack a travel bag (daypack/purse)as my personal item. In it I put things I might want while in my seat–snacks,Kindle,MP3 player,slippers,blow-up pillow,flashlight–so I don’t need to get in my carry-on bag. When I arrive, I move things not needed while sight-seeing back to the suitcase.

  • Pam says:

    I don’t think I saw these: 2 weeks – Notify your bank and CC company of your travel plans then I verify with the bank one week out that they have updated. 24 hours ahead – Clean *liquids* (like hand lotion, eye drops) out of your purse and put in 3-1-1 bag.

  • debbie z says:

    How about packing copies of passport, DL and credit card numbers to call if lost or stolen? My husband and I put copies of each other’s passports in the other’s carry on, just in case!! Love all the suggestions… especially, working out of cosmetics bag ON the bathroom counter. Too often, I forget things!!

  • Kathleen Hart says:

    I would add: Arrange for mail/newspaper to be stopped/held.Notify banks/credit card companies of travel plans.

  • debbie z says:

    oh yeah! Those bank cards can be tricky… as in NOT allowing you to use them if they don’t know where you are!!

  • Linda Shore says:

    The photocopying/scanning info is great. We can also leave that info with family. I have different toiletry bags for traveling; one for car trips, one for tsa carry-on travel. I’m trying to get wily about my toiletries & use non-liquids. Another thing we use are Soap Nuts for laundry. They are great & last about 10 washes. Thanks for the help!

  • SandyS says:

    Hi Sarah, do you really wait until 1-3 months before a trip to buy an airline ticket? Is that because the cost is lower? I normally purchase 6 months out or more thinking I will save money, but lately I notice this isn’t the case anymore. Thoughts?

    • says:

      I don’t usually have the option as my schedule doesn’t get confirmed until closer to the date. But I have observed that tickets are not necessarily cheaper many months before- often the opposite. The sweet spot seems to be 2-3 months ahead.

  • Maria F says:

    Love the planning and time line – I do have one comment that contradicts yours however.One reason to check in online 24 hours before is to get your seat assignment – if you haven’t purchased it earlier. Waiting until arrival at the airport may mean the difference of having a confirmed seat or missing out altogether due to an overbooked flight.

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