Jetsetting around the world may seem glamorous but any traveller knows it takes a lot of work. Even if you’re on organised tours, there’s still the real life stuff at home to take care of before you fly out. Will someone watch your dog? Check your mail? Will your medications last the whole time you’re away? Have you got a miniature toothpaste for the plane?
My boyfriend and I have been home from Europe for a month but it’s almost like deja vu as we prepare for our next trip. We’re going to China in just 60 days! On top of planning the holiday itself (five cities in three weeks), we need to get our visas, check whether our travel insurance will cover some pretty intense hiking and organise foreign currency.
But there’s all this other stuff too. Like freezing my gym membership. Making sure I have enough iron tablets for the journey. Putting our mail on hold. I’m determined to avoid the last minute rush and panicking. My weapon? I’ve created My Pre-Holiday Checklist! You can download a printable PDF of this list at the end of this post too.
ASAP after Booking Flights
1. Check your passport expiry date
Some countries will refuse you entry if you have less than six months remaining on your passport. Don’t risk it! The current fee for renewing an Australian passport is $277 and more if you need a rush service. Read more on the Department of Foreign Affairs website.
2. Check visa requirements
Depending on your destination(s), you could need a plethora of visas to gain entry. Find out visa applications specifics by visiting Consular websites in your country of residence. Note how far in advance you need to obtain your visa, along with fees and any necessary documents or photo requirements. For example, our China visas require us to submit a full itinerary and apply one month before arrival. I’ve also heard of Australians forgetting to apply for their ESTA under the United States Visa Waiver Program when visiting Hawaii. If you have a criminal conviction such as drink-driving, you may be ineligible for visa-free travel in some countries so be sure to read the fine print.
3. Check bank card expiry dates
Order replacements now if any of your debit or credit cards expire while you’re away. Be careful if you used any of them for bookings – you may need to show the original card at your hotel or when collecting tickets, for example.
4. Organise vaccinations (if applicable)
Some vaccinations are recommended for all adults in general, but you might want extras depending on where you’re travelling too. Be aware some vaccinations can require repeated doses over several months to be effective, others may need a booster after 12 months. Vaccinations can also be expensive, so that’s another reason to plan ahead. You can read more on the World Health Organisation website or have a chat to your GP.
One month before departure
1. Buy travel insurance
Whether I’m going away for a week or a month, I always have travel insurance. Except for one time, when I forgot to activate cover on my credit card before departing. This horrible realisation hit me while my boyfriend and I were sitting on the runway at Athens International Airport, where we were stranded after a flight diversion. Thankfully we had alternate cover but I’ll never forget to activate my insurance again! Be sure to check your chosen policy covers things like car hire, riding a motorbike or quad bike, and even cycling if applicable.
2. Order foreign currency/ travel cards
I suggest organising foreign currency a month in advance for a few reasons: 1) you’ve ideally saved most of your holiday cash by now, 2) you’ll need some time to compare rates and fees and 3) foreign exchange bureaus can have horrible hours. While you might be fine grabbing cash from an ATM when you land, you’ll likely end up with big denominations and you probably won’t be familiar with what each note looks like. Travel cards can also take a few days to compare, activate and load. Obviously, buy your cash earlier or wait if you expect a better exchange rate.
3. Check your medications & prescriptions
It could be asthma, vitamins or birth control. Check your quantities and visit your doctor or pharmacist now if needed!
4. Put your mail on hold
This may not be necessary if you’re just going for a week, but most of my holidays are three weeks or longer. If you’re in Australia, it’ll cost you $24 to hold your mail for the first week and $8 each week thereafter. You can do it all online too via Australia Post. Alternatively, enlist your neighbour to mind your mailbox.
5. Freeze memberships & subscriptions
I freeze my gym membership each time I go overseas and I used to get the newspaper delivered, so I’d put that on hold too. Other examples could include grocery deliveries, language or music lessons, sports club memberships, etc. Scanning your bank statements for regular debits is a good way to remind yourself of ongoing commitments.
6. Grab travel essentials
The sooner you get your non-perishable travel essentials, the better! My shopping list includes mini-toiletries for the flight, travel-size toothpaste, dry shampoo, baby wipes, a good book and of course some travel-friendly snacks. Don’t forget electronics – check you have travel adaptors, power packs, camera cables and so on.
7. Birthdays? Special occasions?
Have a look at the dates you’ll be away. Any birthdays or special events? Organise cards, gifts or flowers now. The same neighbour watching your mail might be able to post items closer to the special day, or why not give your little brother or sister a pile of presents and delivery instructions? Yes, I’ve done the latter (thanks sis!).
8. Donate blood
Travelling overseas can make you ineligible to give blood for a short time afterwards. Before I’m treated to the wonders of the world, I like to roll up my sleeve and give something back to the community. I hate needles and dread the appointment for days, but I always feel proud afterwards. Bonus: you can book an appointment online via the Australian Red Cross website.
One week before departure
1. Share your itinerary
I use TripIt to easily send my travel plans to friends and family electronically. If you’re Australian, register your holiday with Smart Traveller so authorities can try locate you in case of an emergency.
2. Clean out your fridge
If you’re going away for any length of time, you’ll likely be out for dinner with friends or family the week before you fly out. Eat or freeze anything that won’t last the distance.
Download a print-friendly PDF of this checklist by clicking here.
QUESTION: What would you add to this pre-departure checklist?