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TRAVEL CHECKLIST: WHAT TO DO BEFORE YOU GO

TRAVEL CHECKLIST

You know it, I know it, we all know it: if we don’t follow a travel checklist we’re going to forget something we need to do before that big trip. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve traveled in the past, how seasoned of traveler we mght be, we are human (and prone to error). Here’s my travel checklist for what to do before you go.

Man is fallible, but maybe men are less so.
― Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

11 MONTHS OUT

□  Book international flights, if using frequent flyer miles

  • Award seats typically become available 331 days out
  • Remember that most awards programs allow open jaw travel (fly from Point A to Point B to Point C)

□  Claim your seat, if allowed

  • Check-out best seats on Seatguru
  • If seat selection is not yet allowed, set-up a tickler for yourself for when they become available

6 TO 11 MONTHS OUT

 □  Book international flights if not using miles

□  Book hotels. The best ones fill quickly

 2 TO 6 MONTHS OUT

 □  Order your passport and visa, if necessary

  • Go to the U.S. Department of State website for instructions on obtaining a passport, and for a summary of visa requirements by country. While there check the safety warnings (which tend to be much more dire than reality)
  • Check the pages in your passport: do you have enough blank ones for plenty of stamps and visas?
  • Make sure you have at least two passport photos if you need to obtain a visa upon arrival

□  Obtain vaccinations and medications (some vaccinations are administered in a series and must be initiated months in advance)

  • Go to the Centers for Disease Control website for vaccination and medication recommendations and requirements by country
  • Consult with a travel clinic. Go to the Centers for Disease Control website for a list of travel clinics, by state

□  Book your in-country/in-continent destination-to-destination flights

□  Book a driver, if appropriate

□  Schedule your petsitter or nanny (their schedule may fill-up quickly during holidays)

□  Make restaurant reservations

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TRAVEL CHECKLIST: WHAT TO DO BEFORE YOU GO (part 2)

ONE MONTH OUT

□  Order a hard copy map of your destination at Amazon and/or upload city/country specific apps

□  Confirm flight, ground transportation, accommodation and restaurant arrangements and reservations

  • Determine your airport-hotel transportation

□  If you’ve booked through a travel consolidator, verify your reservation directly with your hotel

□  Book tickets to major attractions online

□  Request certificates for hotels booked with points, if necessary

ONE WEEK OUT

□  Purchase trip insurance, if appropriate

  • Contact your insurance provider to determine your existing travel insurance coverage
  • Go to Rick Steve’s website for an overview on travel insurance
  • Go to Insure My Trip for a comparison of travel insurance policies, and to request a travel insurance quote
  • I always purchase emergency evacuation travel insurance ($7/day) from FrontierMEDEX if I’m traveling to a third-world country

□  Ensure you have the correct converter adapter for the country(ies) you’ll visit

□  Scan your vital passport pages and email the file to yourself and one or two contacts. Print a copy to store in your checked bag

□  Organize your itinerary; email the document to yourself and one or two contacts. It should include:

  • Airlines, flight numbers, flight arrival and departure numbers, flight confirmation numbers
  • Hotels; arrival and departure dates; addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses; confirmation numbers; deposits paid and balances due
  • Other reservations: destination-to-destination travel arrangements, restaurant reservations, etc.
  • Miscellaneous destination-specific research notes (tipping guidelines, recommended restaurants, public transportation instructions, etc.)

□  Buy snacks (I don’t travel anywhere without KIND bars and nuts)

□  Notify your credit card companies that you will be traveling to a foreign country

  • Safe keep your credit card information (account number and international customer service telephone number). I use a password-protected app on my iPhone
  • Know which cards do not charge for overseas transactions
  • Know your PIN numbers

□  Withdraw cash

  • I typically withdraw enough cash to last me the trip, so as to avoid hefty credit card cash advance interest and/or fees. I keep the money in an envelope in a hidden compartment in my carry-on bag, which I lock

□  Confirm arrangements with petsitters, nannies, housesitters, post offices, newspaper delivery, etc.

□  Obtain an international driver’s license if you will be renting a car abroad (go to the American Automobile Association for a list of locations to obtain a license). (By the way, you still need to bring your state-issued driver’s license)

□  Register your trip with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Recording information on your trip allows the Department of State to assist you in case of an emergency and provide travel updates

□  Plot places that you want to visit (stores, restaurants, museums, etc.) on your hard-copy map

□  Determine your communication strategy

  • Do you need to buy a SIM card?
  • Does your current service offer international service?
  • Do you have a Skype account? Do you have sufficient credits?
  • Download WhatsApp for free messaging (and have your home-based contacts do the same)
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TRAVEL CHECKLIST: WHAT TO DO BEFORE YOU GO (part 3)

TWO NIGHTS OUT

□ Pack

  • Go to The Weather Channel for a 10-day forecast or download a weather app
  • Don’t wait until the last minute and pack under pressure: allow your subconscious a few days to mull over your choices

□  Notify trusted neighbors of your trip

□  Download plenty of podcasts, books, movies and songs

□  Get a manicure, pedicure, wax, shave, tan, take a laxative, etc.

□  Begin Malarone if you’ll be entering a mosquito zone in the next two days

□  Prepare at work

  • Save an out-of-office message on your voicemail and email a half-day or day before you leave: You can still reply to important requests, but you’re off-the-hook for having to address non-emergency issues
  • Identify someone (with that person’s permission) as your emergency back-up. List that person as your emergency back-up on your out-of-office email message; mention that person on your voicemail message
  • Be caught-up on your workload so that you have the entire day prior to your trip to handle emergencies

□  Familiarize yourself with the currency conversion and tipping etiquette in your destination country

ONE NIGHT OUT

□  Double-check what you’ve packed against your packing checklist

□  Call your airlines (or look them up online) to confirm the status of your flight(s) and know your departure terminal. If you can book your seat only 24 hours out, claim your seat. Check in

□  Order a taxi to the airport, if appropriate

  • Give the company an address near your house: do not give them your address (thereby notifying strangers of a vacant house)

□  Remove and secure unnecessary items (excess credit cards, bank cards, etc.) from your wallet

□  Lock-up valuables (jewelry, credit cards, checkbooks, keys you don’t need to carry, etc.) if people will enter your premises while you are away

□  Charge your electronics

□  Water plants, fill pet food and water bowls

□  Tag your luggage

  • Your address should not be visible as you announce to other travelers that your house is vacant

□  Set your alarm. Double-check it

□  Leave out instructions and payment for petsitters, housesitters

DAY OF TRAVEL

□  Make mental notes when you turn off your appliances and lock your doors so you don’t drive yourself crazy wondering if you did it later

□  Adjust your thermostat

□  Close blinds, shades, etc.

□  Keep your keys and medications in your carry-on!

HAVE A FABULOUS TRIP!

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