Travel Checklist-25 Top Tips for a Stress-free Vacation
Travel checklist is an absolute “must” for me! In my last blog post, 5 Reasons Why Travel Planning is Important, I wrote about how planning helps you to consider your budget, think about priorities, allocate time for attractions and the “must see”. I know how important it is to plan the “must see” attractions before hand because of my own experience in Amsterdam.
My weekend break in Amsterdam was the one time where no travel checklist was used. Although it turned out to be an amazing weekend, and you can read about Amsterdam in a Nutshell – 18 experiences in 48 hours here, I missed out on one of the most important tourist sights – Anne Frank’s House. Tickets for Anne Frank’s House sold out weeks before I arrived and I was on the waiting list for the limited tickets released each morning. I was disappointed but it did not overshadow the rest of my experiences. Amsterdam is a place I can return to as it is only a little over 4-hours journey on the Eurostar and I will embed Anne Frank’s House into my itinerary.
Read next: Amsterdam in a Nutshell
The Importance of a Travel Checklist
A travel checklist is important because it embodies all the necessary steps that needs to be taken before your vacation to ensure you have a stress-free time. The last thing you need is a bad experience because you have forgotten to obtain the appropriate visa, or you left your passports or you ran out of cash!
In 5 Reason why travel planning is important, I had mentioned that I like “lists”! My travel planning consists of a pretravel, travel and post-travel checklists. So, in this post, I shall share with you what considerations goes into my pretravel checklist. Some of my suggestions may be obvious but I like to include them so that I do not miss it – which is the whole point of having a plan, or a checklist, right? There may be some that I have missed which you may think of. You can add it to the list, and you may want to write and let me know too, so I could update mine.
You can use this Travel Checklist in all situations, scenarios, whether you are family, couple or solo travellers and adapt it to suit. The checklist is useful for overseas travel. Please remember that these are suggestions only and not absolute.
So, here goes…
Travel Checklist – 25 top tips for a stress free vacation
1 | Travel Checklist helps to determine a budget and a buffer
Travel involves money and this is a sensitive subject. However, it is an important one. It is best to decide at the outset how much a vacation will cost, put thoughts to paper and see the numbers. Once you have the figures, you can then shop for best deals on airlines, accommodation and an itinerary of activities.
Numbers on paper and shopping for best deals may give you a good idea of your travel budget. However, from my experiences, a vacation sometimes had taken me beyond my budget. This had mainly been due to unexpected expenses and additional costs to what was budgeted for. There were occasions when I added an additional sightseeing trip to my itinerary, a theatre show or treat ourselves to a lovely dinner in a local cultural setting which we did not previously think of. Sometimes, it can be the costs of transportation from one place to another. For all of these additional expenses, I embed a buffer in my budget.
A budget buffer is the extra cash you set aside for the unexpected expenses whilst on holiday. I suggest a buffer of 30% of total travel expenses minus the cost of flights to be ideal. These are funds which you should have immediate access to if need be. Of course, if you can afford more, all the better 😊
2 | Determine an Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is not to be confused with a budget buffer. The emergency fund is solely set aside for unforeseen dilemmas beyond your control when you are travelling. It is difficult to come up with a figure here because every situation is different and calls for personal judgement. However, as a guide I would suggest 30% of total travel expenses plus cost of flights. I include the cost of flights because I need a cushion if situations were such that I may need to get out of the country, or get alternate flights due to strike actions etc.
3 | Destination
Decide on your travel destination, whether it is a City break, an adventure in the mountains or sandy beaches and blue skies. It is also important to decide if travel involves one destination or multiple destinations. The place and type of holiday is important as it directly correlates with your budget.
This is also a perfect opportunity to think of your activities and how your itinerary is going to be.
As a guide, I have to come to use Get Your Guide who are competitively priced and one of the trusted sources offering thousands of sightseeing tours, attractions and transfers in destinations worldwide. You can also find theatre, show tickets and city passes to suit.
4 | Duration
It is important to decide on the duration of your vacation because this will dictate how much of the destination you are able to see, how much money you will be needing, what it will cost for the sightseeing trips which you may want to include in your vacation and how many meals you will need to pay for etc.
5 | Book your flights and/or trains
Look-out for early birds offer or worldwide sale by airlines. Usually early January/April or May will fetch you a good price.
Utilise comparative sites such as Google flights. Sometimes, you can get a good deal directly with some airlines.
6 | Travel Checklist helps to consider mode of getting around when at destination
Think about transportation and the system. Will you be using the local transport, or will you be walking most of the time? Familiarise yourself with the system and check reviews to see what tourists have to say about your chosen destination.
7 | Accommodation
Consider the following when deciding on accommodations:
7.1 | When travelling with kids, look for family-friendly sites
- Often, you can find adjoining rooms or large rooms where you can have a baby-cot or an additional bed. You can also have twin-beds at no extra cost.
- Search also on what kids-club activities are available on-site. Sometimes these activities club are included in your stay but most times it is not. I have used them liberally when my kids were young to break the day so they can have time with other kids of their age. This also meant that I can have a bit of me-time while they were having fun in a safe environment.
- You can look-up recommended best family hotels in the world 2019 by CNTraveller here.
7.2 | Complimentary shuttle service
Investigate if the hotel offers complimentary shuttle service from the airport to the hotel and/or other sightseeing sights. Places like Orlando comes to mind. We also had a shuttle service when we were in Niagara Falls, from the hotel to the restaurant. It is worth checking.
7.3 | Pet-friendly
With a boom in pet ownership and if you are one of them, you may want to travel with your fur-babies. If you do, you may want to check for pet-friendly accommodations. Click on the links below to find out more on the best pet-friendly accommodations, offered by skycop and CNN Travel.
Always go for breakfast included! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and when I am travelling, I always make sure I have a good and a healthy start. This is a good habit to get into because your day may be filled with activities and you may only have time for a sandwich or a bag of crisps before your next meal in the evening.
Most hotels offer a great selection for breakfast – lots of fruits in addition to continental breakfast. Some hotels may offer more, for example their local breakfast in addition to continental or English breakfast.
I would have a quick browse through their menu, just to be aware of the choices, pricing and whether it meets any dietary requirements I may have.
8 | Type of accommodation
The type of accommodation you choose must meet your needs. Starting early on your search, say before the peak season, will give you greater choices both in the types of accommodation and its prices. Early search helps in securing better deals. Sometimes, it is a challenge to find a property that is 100% suited and to have a certain degree of comfort that you want. As for me, I need that little luxury when I travel. I am quite relentless at what I want, so I persevere to get the closest to suit. I use various search engines to compare availability and prices but over the years, I have come to rely on booking dot com.
booking.com is a travel search engine for accommodations, that offers you a choice of hotels, homes and apartments and B&B’s in 120,000 destinations worldwide – instant confirmation and no cancellation fees. With such a vast choice, I am certain you will find accommodation to suit your needs, whether you are a solo traveller, couples or family. There is something to suit every budget. You could do a search below and discover what comes up.
9 | Safety
For the most part, the world is a safe place to be. We cannot control everything, no matter how well planned we are because things do happen, and these are sometimes out of our control. At this stage of pretravel plans, I suggest that you check whether the country you are travelling to is safe in relation to its political climate. No-one wants to be caught out!
There are several websites and travel blogs that provide comprehensive travel safety advise which you can check. Below you will find two links, one from the US Bureau of Consular Affairs and the other from UK Government offering most up-to-date travel advise. There is information on which countries are safe to travel to, what to do in situations if you are caught-out and how to stay safe.
You may want to check these when making travel plans.
- The US Bureau of Consular Affairs click the link below.
- The UK Government click the link below.
10 | Immigration
- Valid passports with at least 6 months left to expiration.
- Visa requirements – if travelling to multiple countries, obtaining a valid visa to each of the country before you travel.
- If you are travelling to the USA, you will need ESTA
ESTA – Electronic System for Travel Authorisation
ESTA is a mandatory travel authorisation which you need if you are visiting the US either by Sea or Air for under 90 days. Your visit can be for either tourism, business or just visiting friends and family. Most importantly to be aware is that you need ESTA even if you are in transit. Most travellers are caught out by this because we assume that travelling VIA may not require an entry authorisation, but we do!
ESTA is available only for travellers whose nationality is derived from countries covered under the Visa Waiver Program.
You can read more on ESTA by clicking the link below.
Failure to obtain an ESTA can lead to denial of entry at the border and a large fine. You are advised to apply as soon as possible.
I have a personal experience in this respect where I was not allowed to board my flight in Tokyo bound for US, which is a whole blog post itself.
However, in other instances, I obtained my ESTA within 72 hours, but apply as soon as you know of your travel plans and don’t leave it till the last minute.
*Have a look at the country’s respective immigration website for information
11 | Vaccinations
Depending on the countries you are travelling to; you may require vaccinations against:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese encephalitis
- Meningococcal meningitis
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
Please check your country’s National Health website for more information.
12 | Travel insurance
Ensure you are fully covered for the duration of your journey including valuables and equipment. Check whether your home insurance covers your equipment such as your camera.
When considering travel insurance, you will also want to consider whether it is flexible – meaning, whether you can make a claim while you are travelling and the speed at which a claim can be resolved – you will want to be paid as soon as possible!
13 | Inform bank/credit card companies
You need to inform the bank and the credit card company that you are travelling abroad and the country you are travelling to.
This is to ensure that the use of your card abroad is not viewed as suspicious. If viewed as suspicious, there is the possibility that your card will be blocked. You will not be able to use it until the ‘block’ is lifted which can only happen when you get in touch with the Fraud Team of the respective financial institutions. You would not want this stress, I am sure. So, inform your bank/credit card company. It only takes a phone call.
Additionally, you may wish to consider using a cash card, top up as and when you need to. Especially so if you are travelling to remote places and you do not want to risk losing cash or your credit cards. Losing your credit cards runs the risk of it being misused by the thieves.
14 | Foreign currencies
Foreign currencies – it is always good to carry some local currency in cash with you. Keep a look-out on the exchange rates and buy them at a rate when it is favourable to you, even if this means a couple of months before the actual travel date.
It is advised not to use your bank card to withdraw cash at a foreign ATM because you will incur charges for the transactions. In some countries such as China, major credit cards may not be accepted. Only local credit cards are accepted. Best to check before you go.
15 | What to pack?
I am not the best person to advise on what to pack!
I shall share with you the following famous quote of Susan Heller which has helped me of late. I say, of late because I was the sort who would take a suitcase for a weekend getaway instead of a hand luggage – why, because I prepare for various weather conditions, different shoes etc. I am better now, much, much better 😊.
These are the wise words of Susan Heller:
“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money”
16 | Enable mobile roaming
I don’t think this is applicable very much these days and would depend on your carrier and the price plan you have. However, just to be certain, ensure mobile roaming is enabled so that you will be able to use your mobile phone when abroad.
Something you may want to consider when you are travelling for a longer period and unfamiliar countries is to rent a portable mobile wifi device. I found this to be incredibly useful during my stay in Japan
17 | Cancel regular deliveries
This is something that can be easily overlooked – regular deliveries! For example, regular fresh milk delivery. Also, these days, regular grocery orders from local large grocery stores such as Asda/Walmart are more popular. Be sure to cancel these.
18 | Mail delivery
Depending on how long you are away, and if you are away for several weeks, you may want to consider diverting your mail to a P.O. Box. This is helpful to ensure all your mail is in one place, safe and secure and not clogging up your letter box.
19 | Security of your home
Security of your home while you are away on vacation is paramount. You do not want to return to a home that has been ransacked or burgled. A reliable security system in place will give you peace of mind. Alternatively, consider arranging for a trusted person to look into your house every so often while you are away.
20 | Emergency contacts at destination
Ensure you have the phone numbers of your embassy in the country that you are travelling to. You will need this in the event of emergencies
21 | Emergency contacts at home
Ensure you have the contact details of family or friends at home whom you can contact in the event of an emergency.
22 | Hand-luggage restrictions
Hand luggage is the bag you carry through security and keep with you all through your journey. So, please carry only the minimum and what you absolutely need.
Ensure you are fully aware of your hand luggage restrictions.
- Flammable liquids and solids
- Oxidisers such as bleaching powders
- Organic peroxides
- Tear gas devices or any gas cylinders
- Infectious substances such as live virus materials
- Wet-cell car batteries
- Instruments containing mercury – however, thermometers with mercury are permitted in hold luggage (but not hand luggage) only, if they are carried in a protective case
- Instruments containing magnets
- Toy/replica guns (metal or plastic)
- Non-safety matches
- Firelighters, lighter fuel, paints or thinners
- Poisons, arsenic, cyanide or weedkiller
- Radioactive materials, acids, corrosives, alkalis or caustic soda
- Creosote, quicklime or oiled paper
- Vehicle fuel system parts which have contained fuel
- Party poppers
You may only carry small amounts of liquids, gels, creams and pastes. These must be in containers marked 100ml or less. These should be placed into one transparent re-sealable bag, measuring 20cm x 20cm which will be screened separately at security.
I would add a comment made by Roz Zito of Not Yet Decrepit Traveler (https://www.notyetdecrepittraveller.net/home-page) of her experiences when travelling:
This is a great list of things to check before travelling, Georgina! I agree that it really pays to do your homework. I would add to the prohibited list for hand baggage water or any liquid over 100 ml, scissors and penknives. I always read the airline information with great care and pack to the ‘weakest link’, i.e. the airline leg of your journey with the least size and weights or both hold and hand baggage. I also recommend checking if you are staying in an airport hotel for a stopover whether you will be allowed to pick up your hold baggage. In most middle-eastern countries you are not. Your hold baggage has to be checked through to your final destination and you need to pack all your needs for an overnight stay into your hand baggage.R. Zito
UK readers, please click link below:
Ensure all your bags, both hold luggage and hand luggage are identified with suitable Name tags. You are advised to have your name and contact details. This is important so that the luggage can be traced back to you if it goes missing.
[Hope for the best but always be prepared for the worst]
24 | Combination locks/suitcase padlocks
Ensure your hold luggage is secured with either combination locks or suitcase padlocks. You will want to have everything you packed at home to be there for you when you arrive at your destination.
25. DON’T FORGET YOUR PASSPORT
You know what it means if you do!
In a nutshell
Well, as you can see, my list is comprehensive. 25 considerations may seem a lot but believe me, it is worth it. It is worth doing all the research, the prep and the mental calculations before you board your flight so that your vacation is stress-free. Even if you face certain challenges while on holiday, you will be in a good place to resolve it.
Is this travel checklist valuable to you in planning your vacation? If so please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you.
Have splendid adventures!
February 2020, Update.
Amazing! I know nothing about traveling all over the country, what a wonderful looking place to explore.
I am so like that too! 🙂 I know what I need to do but writing it down makes the trip so exciting. Checklists are a great tool indeed! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Appreciate it.
No matter how many times I travel I always writing a trip planning list. It’s not just essential to keep track of what I need to do, but it’s also a good tool to help me get excited about my trip.
That is my intention – that my readers will find this article useful and use it to plan their travels so that their will have a stress free vacation.
I agree completely with you. You could never go wrong with one too many checklist.
This list is really thorough and so helpful. Using this list will definitely help people avoid problems when they travel and insure they have a great time.
This is very useful. It’s important to write a personal travel checklist before the trip. Saves you from lot of problems during the trip.
Thank you so much, Ann. I am usually very organised but sometimes when it comes to travel, it helps to have a checklist that covers thoroughly as many aspects of travel so it is a smooth travel experience. I am glad that you felt that I had thought of everything in my Travel Checklist – 25 Top Tips for a stress free vacation.
Oh wow, you have just about thought of everything… are you always this well organized?
A little prep can go a long way, for sure. Glad you like lists as well and definitely prepares us for the unexpected sometimes.
I like having list when I travel too because I don’t want to be stressed a lotwhen traveling. This is such a helpful list, it will be easy to be prepared for unexpected situations with this list.
A buffer has always come in handy for me and takes a whole load off my mind when sometimes the additional expense was necessary. You are absolutely correct about a list – I often forget something even with a list! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, I appreciate it.
Absolutely! These are very important and sometimes it can be overlooked because we are too busy getting other things done. So glad you also prioritise on shuttle service, cancel regular deliveries and make alternate arrangements for your mail. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, I appreciate it.
Very useful tips on how to plan for stress free vacation. I too always check for complimentary shuttle service always by calling the hotel before I reach to destination. Cancel regular deliveries is very important and also arranging the proxy arrangement for our mails too. Keeping emergency contacts with us is also an important tip.
I’m a big list-maker, too 😀 Using a thorough checklist like this before traveling is so important. I know there’s always something I’m bound to forget about if I don’t use a list. I like that you included having an emergency fund. Sometimes unexpected expenses come up when traveling, and having that buffer gives me peace of mind.
Thank you so much for your comment. Appreciate it. Hope my travel tips was helpful.
I’m so happy to have come across your page, it so wonderful to know how to make the payment right from home without
stress. I gain benefits for registering with Belk credit card. Now I can control and manage my credit card account, make online purchase and pay bills online. Thanks for the tips you’ve made.
ESTA application is an electronic system of travel authorization which is an online application process that is carried out entirely online, and this procedure does not take more than 10-15 minutes.
You are so very welcome. I think such a list is necessary so we don’t forget the obvious which happens sometimes when we a juggling a million tasks! Glad you found it useful. Thank you for your thoughtful feedback.
Great post with excellent tips for any type of trip. Thank you for posting this!
Thank you so much, Joycee! Absolutely agree to staying in a hotel that offers breakfast – just need a good start to the day and helps with budget, for sure. “…take twice the money” is an awesome advice! Glad that you found the tips useful. Happy adventures.
You are welcome 🙂 I really enjoyed coming up with this list especially about taking our pets with us which is becoming quite a trend these days. I am happy to know that you found the 25 top tips on pretravel planning to have covered all the basics. Thank you once again for your kind words.
I am so happy that the 25 top tips on pretravel planning has come in handy for you and Thank You, for your kind and encouraging words. I am delighted you are travelling to one of the most beautiful and romantic countries in the world, Italy. Have a fabulous time.
I really enjoyed reading through this list of travel tips – mainly because I realised I’m more organised than I thought – being a list person and all. We use shuttles wherever possible and only stay in hotels that have breakfasts – even if its coffee and a muffin. Makes a huge difference to budgeting. My favourite travel tip has always been “lay out your clothes, put half away and take twice the money” – works for me, in the western world anyway. Well done Georgina – fabulous tips.
This is such a fantastic preplanning list. You really covered all the basis here. thank you!
Wonderful list! I’m in the middle of planning a trip to Italy and this reminded of a few things I had forgotten. Thanks!
Thank you so much. Really happy that you found the list useful. Much appreciated.
You are welcome. You are absolutely correct ! A travel list can never be comprehensive enough and there’ll be always something that we forget!. Glad you found this list helpful . Thank you so much for sharing and for your kind comments.
I know right! There is just so many to choose from! I love it too and feel so elated when I get a good deal on a 5 or 6 star hotels. Glad you found the tips helpful. Thank you so much for sharing.
I am glad I did because I needed one on my wall 🙂 Thank you and thank you for finding it useful. Much appreciated .
Ohh Becki, that must have been awful! 2 months with the same pair is long!. But you survived and bet you laugh over it now? Glad you found the tips useful and Thank you so much for sharing.
Thank you so much! Glad you found the list touched upon almost everything – there surely must be something I have missed! You know what it is like 🙂
Lots of really useful information her for all kinds of travellers
I can’t agree more – organisation is the key to a stress free holiday. After that being flexible even if you are super organised something will go wrong. Thanks for your comprehensive list 🙂
This is so helpful and detailed! My favorite part of trip planning is choosing hotels. I can spend hours combing through options. We changed a part of our recent trip due to weather (snow in August!) and I had to find a hotel in a few minutes — such pressure! By happy accident I picked an excellent one in the old town and it was perfect. But I still would rather spend hours looking!
Love that you went the extra mile to get all the tips in a pdf. Great post and valuable tips
You’ve listed so many useful tips here. I TRY to do most of these, but sometiems i forget. One time I went away traveling without my shoes! I had the single pair I was wearing to last me a whole 2 months! I regretted not going through my packing list so well before departing.
Awesome list! You touch upon everything that could be possibly needed to be checked off before taking off on another adventure. Thank you for sharing!
Absolutely!. Indeed good to have a list – I have a list for everything. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated.
You are so very welcome. Glad you found it useful. Thank you!
Thank you so much, Heather. Appreciate your kind comments. Sometimes these are easily overlooked but something to consider really, as part of travel planning. Very happy that you found this list useful.
Absolutely!! Twice the money! or a prepaid card acceptable in the country you are visiting. Very happy that you found the list useful. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and your support for the list. Much appreciated.
So glad to hear that you make lists. For me, everything starts with a list, not just travel related but embedded into my daily life, priorities etc.
IT is always good to have this list to ensure you don’t miss anything. All of these items should be considered for sure.
wow, so detailed! thanks for sharing!
You are so lucky to live so close to an airport. If I forget my passport, it just means that I will not be boarding that flight. Glad you found the list useful. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, appreciate it very much.
Please do. You gonna need it if travelling to the US.
These are excellent tips for traveling – I especially love the thinking about whether accommodation offers a shuttle, whether it’s pet friendly – great details!
Guilty. I need to take this packing advice and pack twice the amount of money. I somehow always run out of currency! Last time this happened our bank card wasn’t working in that country and we were really getting worried that we would run out. I printed out your checklist for my next pre-planning session. Thanks!!
I like making a list before I go to a new destination so that I have a list of potential places to visit, but I may not visit them all. I just like to know what I have a choice of.
I also like to leave room in the plan for some impromptu sightseeing while I’m exploring the different neighbourhoods.
Very useful tips. I find now the more I travel the less organised I am. Forget my passport, yep a few times. Fortunately I always check in early and don’t live so far away lol.
I am gonna have to look into this ESTA thing, I only heard about that for the very first time this week 🙂
This Top Tips for a stress-free vacation are the best things you should if you wanted a stress free travel. Thanks for sharing it.
Thank you so much. Really appreciate your comments.
very useful information about ESTA Visa
Thank you so much, Estelle. Glad that you found the pre travel planning list useful. I think it is important to tick a list no matter how prepared we may think we are given our travel experience. Thank you so much for having it on your Pinterest board. Much appreciated.
What a fabulous list of pre travel planning tips Georgina. You have covered everything! I love all your links – they are diverse and very helpful. I will pin this post on my travel planning Pinterest board 🙂
Roz, thank you for your thoughtful suggestions re adding on the prohibited list for hand baggage. I did not know about not being able to pickup hold luggage when on a stopover. Will add your suggestions to the list. Thank you.
This is a great list of things to check before travelling, Georgina! I agree that it really pays to do your homework. I would add to the prohibited list for hand baggage water or any liquid over 100 ml, scissors and penknives. I always read the airline information with great care and pack to the ‘weakest link’, i.e. the airline leg of your journey with the least size and weights or both hold and hand baggage. I also recommend checking if you are staying in an airport hotel for a stopover whether you will be allowed to pick up your hold baggage. In most middle-eastern countries you are not. Your hold baggage has to be checked through to your final destination and you need to pack all your needs for an overnight stay into your hand baggage.
I am glad that you will find it useful. Look forward to your visit. 🙂 Thank you co much for your lovely comments.
Very useful for my upcoming trip to Europe.