Travel Checklist: 9 Ways To Prepare For Your Next Vacation

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Once you’ve reserved your travel dates on the calendar, it’s time to start the planning process. Seasoned travelers will tell you that it’s good to be prepared and that using a travel checklist helps prepare for vacation. We’ve had enough travel blunders to convince us that vacation prep is important.

Travel Checklist: 9 Ways To Prepare For Your Next Vacation

I must admit, sometimes I get so excited about our travel plans that I forget to properly prepare for our trip. We have experienced enough travel mishaps for me to know first hand what tips I should be using each time we plan a vacation.

  

Once we hit the road, I want my focus to be on the incredible memories we are about to create with our girls, not feeling anxious about whether I did everything I needed to do to plan for the trip.

This is the travel checklist I use to reduce my own travel anxiety. I hope you find it as helpful as I have.

1. Ask The Right Questions About Your Destination

This is the critical first step. Among the questions to ask:

  • Is there any historical or cultural significance in the area?
  • What are the must-try foods?
  • Will there be activities to entertain all age groups?

Once I have created my list of questions, I can proceed with my research. I start by contacting the local tourism office or searching online for answers to my questions.

And I have TravelingMom bookmarked. We cover both US and international travel destinations and we love sharing our expert travel tips.

2. Check For Events Happening During Your Visit

Have you ever visited some place and then learned there was a festival or large event happening while you were there? I’ve had friends visit Texas during the bluebonnet season and the famous Texas State Fair and they had no idea these seasonal events were happening during their visit.

Sometimes, as TravelingMom Editor Cindy Richards discovered, whatever is happening is something you would have preferred to miss. A few years ago, she and her family took a long-anticipated trip to the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota. They were looking forward to peacefully communing with nature in such a spectacular place — except that they unknowingly booked the trip the week of the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Tens of thousands of loud, throaty Harleys roared down the road disrupting every peaceful moment.

Before booking your trip, visit the destination’s official website and check the calendar to see what’s going on during your visit. The easiest way I’ve found to learn more is to follow the destination on social media.

I create a Pinterest board for the destination then pin things we want to do, places we want to see, and restaurants where we want to eat.

I also follow hashtags on Instagram for ideas. For example, if we’re planning to visit Dallas, Texas, I would watch hashtags like #Dallas #DallasTX #DallasTexas.

bluebonnet field alongside Texas highways
Your travel checklist should include checking on events that will be happening during your visit. You wouldn’t want to miss out on a unique experience! Photo Credit: Breeze Leonard

3. Keep Up-To-Date On Weather Conditions. 

Are you booking a cruise during hurricane season? Could your plans be delayed due to winter weather? Severe weather can play a huge role in your travel plans.

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Knowing what to expect can help you pack, plan, and prepare for vacation.

4. Prepare for the Unexpected

You always hope for the best, but a travel checklist helps you prepare for the worst. Among the ways to be more prepared:

  • If you are taking a road trip, carry an actual paper map with you. You might be traveling through an area without adequate signal for your GPS.
  • Keep a paper copy of emergency contacts inside your wallet.
  • Make a photocopy of your important travel documents.
  • If traveling by plane, pack a change of clothes, chargers, toothbrushes and medication in your carry-on bag in case your checked luggage gets lost.
  • Have passcodes and passwords set on all of your electronic devices. I learned this the hard way and it’s something I wish I would have known before my phone was stolen on vacation.
A photo of the Dallas, Texas downtown area with buildings and a fountain ; look at all angles when you prepare for vacation
Sometimes things don’t always go according to your travel checklist, but a family vacation is always worth the adventure! Photo Credit: Breeze Leonard

5.  Buy Travel Insurance

Part of preparing for the unexpected is making sure you are covered if your travel plans change. There have been times when an illness or an unexpected family emergency has prevented us from taking a trip we had already planned. Not being able to enjoy a vacation you were excited about is heartbreaking. Losing out on the money you already spent just makes the situation worse.

I recommend purchasing travel insurance when you prepare for vacation. We TravelingMoms are big fans of Allianz travel insurance. Because we travel so much, most of us buy an annual plan so all of our trips are covered for the year.

This means I don’t have to add this task to my travel checklist each time I go on a trip. It’s great for those big trips that involve flights and resorts and international travel. But the policy has also come in handy for US road trips, prepaid non-refundable hotel rooms, rental cars and other non-flight-related travel.

Allianz offers a variety of annual plans (Basic, Deluxe, Executive and Premier). Depending on the plan you chose, you can be covered for: 

  •         Trip Cancellation
  •         Trip Interruption
  •         Emergency Medical and Dental  
  •         Emergency Medical Transportation 
  •         Baggage Delay 
  •         Baggage Insurance 
  •         Collision Loss Damage 
  •         Travel Accident 
  •         Travel Delay

In addition to covering pre-paid, non-refundable expenses, such as flight, hotel, or event tickets, the company offers assistance when things don’t go as smoothly as you had hoped. If you have ever been the victim of a travel mishap, then you know how valuable travel insurance can be! I always encourage friends to travel with peace of mind.

6. Read Online Reviews And Suggestions

If you are booking activities or accommodations, read the reviews online ahead of time. Reviews can be extremely useful in pointing you in the right direction or helping you steer clear of places you should avoid.

At times, only those with negative experiences feel the need to leave a review, so keep an open mind as you read them. Find reputable websites or travel writers whom you trust.

We’ve personally found the best local restaurants by reading online reviews.

Read More: 17 Best Countries to Visit with Kids

We found the best ceviche in Playa del Carmen, Mexico! Read online reviews to discover what foods you should try in the area. Photo Credit: Breeze Leonard

7. Avoid Overpacking, Use a Packing Checklist

Will you really need 5 pairs of heels? Probably not. Planning activities ahead of time will help you pack appropriately. Try to mix and match your clothes so you can use the same shoes and accessories for several outfits. Will you have access to a washer and dryer?

Using a packing list can help you avoid overpacking and be sure you leave nothing behind.

Clothing and Accessories

  • underwear/bras
  • socks
  • sleepwear
  • shirts / tops / tanks
  • pants / jeans / skirts
  • dresses
  • sweater / coats
  • gloves/hats
  • purses
  • walking shoes/sandals/flip flops (Check out our list of TravelingMom Approved travel shoes)
  • robe/slippers
  • ties / scarves / belts
  • swimsuits/covers

Toiletries and More

  • shampoo/conditioner
  • body wash/bar soap
  • razors/shaving cream
  • face wash/moisturizer
  • toothbrush/toothpaste
  • mouthwash/floss
  • makeup/lip balm
  • hairbrush
  • blow dryer/straightener
  • hairspray/hairbands/bobby pins
  • deodorant /perfume/lotion
  • sunscreen/insect repellent
  • jewelry
  • tweezers/fingernail clippers

Packing Tip: Use packing cubes (you can find cute ones on Amazon)! It’s the best way to keep your suitcase organized for the duration of your vacation.

Miscellaneous Items

  • medications
  • cameras/memory card
  • cell phone and other electronic chargers
  • laptops / tablets
  • books/magazines
  • earbuds / Bluetooth speaker
  • documents / itinerary / tickets / boarding passes
  • pillows / blankets / eye mask
  • movies/music
  • snacks

Extra Items

​Read More: Expert Packing Tips for your Daypack

8. Make Sure You Can Access Your Money

It’s always a good idea to let your bank and credit card company know that you are planning to travel.

You don’t want to fly overseas only to discover that you don’t have access to your money. Credit card companies will suspend cards with suspicious activities, so they need to know when you are traveling.

It’s also a good idea to carry some cash. I have known travelers who have been stranded because they forgot to carry enough cash.

Consider using a money belt like this one when traveling for your cash and, no, it’s not a fanny pack!

9. Prepare Your Home

It’s important to plan for your travels, but it’s equally important to prepare for vacation for your home to be vacant. It always seems like the hardest part of vacation prep is getting our home and pets ready for us to be away. I always feel a sense of relief once we make it out of our driveway,.

Here are a few tips and reminders:

  • Leave a penny in the freezer. Here’s why.
  • Have a neighbor gather your mail or request a Hold Mail through your local post office or online.
  • Arrange pet care. Pet boarding or finding someone to care for your pet from Rover.com are two good options.
  • Make sure the bills due while you’re gone are either paid or set on auto-draft.
  • If you do not have a security system, consider purchasing a Ring doorbell from Amazon, that way you’re at least notified when someone is at your door while you’re away.
  • Take out the trash! No one wants to return to a smelly home.
  • Adjust the thermostat.
  • Turn off and unplug any unnecessary electronics or appliances.

Additional Travel Checklist Tips

  • Double-check the airline’s luggage weight and size restrictions.
  • If you are traveling out of the country, make sure your passport isn’t expiring in the next 6 months. If it is, apply for an expedited passport.
  • When you prepare for vacation, check your prescription medications to make sure you won’t need a refill before you return home.

If this travel checklist was helpful to you please share it! 

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