The ultimate pre-travel checklist

Same like all big tasks planning a trip can seem like a daunting challenge.

Especially if you aren’t an experienced traveller or it’s going to be your first ever trip abroad. This is where pre travel checklist comes into play. Having a checklist, having a plan, always makes things much more easier. Splitting up large tasks into smaller pieces makes them look less daunting.

If you’re in the planning process right now, then this is for you!

Or save this travel preparation checklist for later.

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Map - Pre travel checklist

The complete pre travel checklist

1. Deciding on a vacation destination

Travel planning starts with deciding where and when to go.

Most of us have a list of countries they want to visit during their lifetime. If we were living in ideal an world we would just pick one and buy tickets. But unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. You have to understand what is your budget and which country fits into that budget.

Before buying an airline ticket do a quick research on travelling costs in a few selected countries, hotel prices, visa costs if any, etc. Choose one that works out the best for you at the moment.

When checking the flights, pay attention to the airline.

Full service and low cost airlines, what are the main differences? See our guide.

Then find out what is the best time to visit that particular country. Think of travelling during the shoulder season. That's the period shortly before the peak tourist season starts and shortly after the high season is over.

Aren’t sure what countries you want to visit?

Don’t worry, it’s normal to feel confused by all that choice!

Here are a few examples:

Love to ski and would like to spend your vacation on the slopes?

3 options for the winter: Gudauri (Georgia), Dizin (Iran), Trysil (Norway). More ski holiday destinations.

Want to travel someplace warm during the winter?

Go to Peninsular Malaysia in February. That’s the part of Malaysia bordering with Thailand and Singapore. Malaysia is distinguished by its Malay, Chinese and Indian cultural influences, and this makes it a very interesting place to travel to. Also there are a few beautiful islands where you can relax on the beach with a fresh coconut in your hand!

**Want to escape dreary spring weather and travel someplace warm in March? **

Go to Mexico!

Want to see the spring in all its beauty?

Go to Japan. Late March to end of April is the best time to enjoy beautiful Japanese spring. 

Where to travel to in June?

Go to Malaysian Borneo. It’s a perfect place for adventurous people, hikers and nature lovers.

Where to travel to in September?

Head to California to extend the summer, enjoy the nice weather and relax on the beach!

Best places to visit in October for sun?

In Europe - Dubrovnik and Lisbon.

Best places to see autumn colours?

Two of the best - Prague & Kyoto.

For more travel ideas check out this list of great holiday destinations.

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2. Booking a flight

How to find the best deals on flights and holidays?

The answer is - compare. Compare. Compare! Compare the deals you find. Few recommendations: Google Flights, SkyScanner, TravelFree.info, Holiday Pirates, lastminute.com. Use these sites to find the cheapest flights.

There are a ton of flight booking sites, and their fees differ. Make sure to compare the final price to make sure you're getting the best deal. Sometimes buying directly from the airline will be your best option.

Don't wanna search for the deals on flights yourself? Sign up to these cheap flights mailing lists - Scott's Cheap Flights and Dollar Flight Club.

Are you thinking of going on a cruise? Check out cruisedeals.co.uk for the best deals.

Note, that the cheapest flight not always is the best choice. Compare the baggage rules and what you are getting for the price. Baggage rules differ from company to company. Check the rules before making a booking.

Planning to spend a night at the airport? Check out the airport guides at Sleeping in Airports - sleepinginairports.net. See our guide on sleeping in airports. And here you can learn more about airport hotels and sleeping pods.

If you have any questions about flights, baggage rules, etc., ask the airline!

Use Twitter or Facebook to get in touch with your airline's customer service.

3. Visa and other documents

First of all, your passport must be valid for at least 6 more months when you are travelling internationally. It means it mustn’t expire at least six months after the final day of travel.

Do you need a visa to travel to your vacation destination? If yes then find out if you can get one on the border (visa on arrival) and what are requirements.

Never travel without a travel insurance! Getting scammed or robbed while travelling sucks. Something else no one is looking forward to is health issues, even less anyone wants to pay hefty bills for a necessary visit to a doctor or hospital treatment abroad.

A good travel insurance will come in handy not only in case of medical emergencies, but also when your luggage gets lost or stolen, when hire a car, your flight gets delayed and you miss a connecting flight. Pay attention to the small print, though.

Make a photocopy of your passport and visas, and keep them in your email or on your phone. So they are never too far away when and if you’ll need them.

If you can’t provide a proof of an onward travel (return ticket counts), you might be denied boarding. As more and more countries are asking for that. Learn more about it before you fly.

If you're a EU citizen travelling in Europe, get yourself European Health Insurance Card. It’s free. With it you will have access to cheaper, state-provided healthcare during your travels.

See our international travel document checklist.

4. Planning your trip

When you have decided where to go make a plan.

It's the same as important as having a good pre travel checklist.

It doesn’t need to be super detailed, just decide on what places, cities or regions you want to visit in the country and how many days you would like to spend in each of these places.

Find out what kind of transport you can use. Are there modern trains, comfortable intercity buses? Or flying between places is the best way?

If you are visiting a large country (e.g, India, China or Russia) consider flying between cities to save time.

Find out if there are day or multi-day tickets or rail passes. Those can help you to save money if you’ll be moving around a lot.

Hop-On Hop-Off buses can help you to see a lot in a short time. If that’s what you are looking for, see if there is such an option in the city you'll be heading to.

Read about travel scams. No, you can’t avoid them altogether. But, if you do a quick research online before the trip, you will learn how not to fall victim to them.

Share your travel plans with at least a couple of other persons you fully trust, and tell them when you're planning to be back. So, in case, you don’t return in time, someone notices it soon.

Write down the address of your hotel or hostel, or at least its name. It's one of the questions you're frequently asked at the arrival in a foreign country. If you’ll be arriving at night, make sure to book a hotel with 24-hour reception.

Learn about unsafe areas, when you don’t know the place you’ve arrived to. One of the best ways to do it is simply asking your hotel manager or receptionist.

Find out how to get from the airport to the city centre. The best way to travel to the centre usually is by airport train or metro (if there is one). Saving both time and money. If you are looking for even cheaper options, find out if there is an airport bus.

Sometimes taking a taxi is the only option (for example - from Fez airport, Morocco, late in the evening or during the night). Find out what are the prices beforehand. So you can haggle if the taxi driver wants you to pay much more.

Learn a few basic phrases and words when travelling to another country. It might come in handy on more than a few occasions.

Use offline maps like maps.me, or download the map of the area you are travelling to on Google Maps. Save the address of your hotel on the map you’ll be using.

Get yourself a local SIM card right after arrival. Unless, of course, your mobile operator offers you really good roaming tariffs. Then use your existing SIM.

Use ride-hailing apps like Uber, Grab, MyTaxi and Yandex.Taxi for getting around in the cities. It’s often way cheaper than taking a regular taxi.

5. Dealing with cash and bank cards on the road

Notify your bank of your travel plans before travelling abroad.

So that the bank doesn’t block your cards because of the “suspicious” transactions you’re making abroad.

Always have at least 2 bank cards with you. In case one gets lost or stops working. If you're travelling to less touristy areas, take both Visa and MasterCard card with you. Because in some places only one of them is accepted. And, of course - bring enough cash.

Always keep emergency cash, when travelling.

One day this will save your day.

Don't wanna pay hefty fees only to withdraw cash from ATM abroad or from ATM’s of other banks? Who wants? Use Revolut, N26 or TransferWise prepaid debit card. Learn more about these travel debit cards here.

Many of the best credit and debit cards come with travel insurance benefits. Remember that when you’ll be thinking of getting yourself a new bank card.

For live currency rates use the free XE Currency App.

Available for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows devices.

6. Choosing the right luggage

Buy lightweight luggage and / or a carry on bag.

You don’t want your luggage and the carry on bag to use up much of the weight allowance. Learn about airplane carry on luggage restrictions.

If you are travelling more than once in a year invest in quality bags.

Choose the right luggage!

If you are a business traveller choose a suitcase.

If you are a business traveller, who moves around a lot - a hybrid backpack with or without wheels.

Backpacks are the perfect luggage for backpackers and adventure travellers. Another good option for adventure travellers are multifunctional travel duffel bags. Luggage sets are the best option for family travel.

Travel light to save time, money and your back. Who likes to pay extra for the luggage and then spend time waiting for it at the destination airport? Or walking around with two suitcases? Right, no one.

If you are travelling to some place warm, think of going with one piece of luggage only. The freedom it gives you is worth it.

Get yourself a packable backpack to use it as your daypack. When going on an adventurous day trip, store your valuables and electronics in a small, waterproof dry bag. You can also use dry bag as a daypack.

If you are planning to stay in hostels or travel by night trains and buses get yourself a travel padlock or luggage lock. We suggest you to use combination luggage locks because keys tend to get lost.

When backpacking take a quality packable rain poncho instead of an umbrella. It will last longer and gonna be easier to put inside your luggage.

When working on your packing list, check out our list of carry on essetials.

And here's one more - 10 things you shouldn't forget to pack.

7. Creating a holiday packing list & packing

Save yourself the trouble - never start packing without a packing checklist! A holiday packing list is a must.

Speaking of clothes - plan ahead, and take only clothes you’ll definitely need. No “just in case” clothes!

When packing a backpack or suitcase, roll your clothes and put them tightly together in packing cubes. This will not only help you to save space, but you’ll be also able to organise your belongings better!

Pack essentials and a change of clothes in your carry on / personal item. In case your checked luggage arrives later than you.

Keep all of your prescription medication in your hand luggage only.

Don’t take your full-size bath towel! Microfiber towels are the best for travel. They are compact, highly absorbent, lightweight and dry fast.

Don’t bring full size toiletry bottles with you when travelling. Because you can buy them at your destination. If you are traveling with a carry on only, you’re not allowed to take full size toiletries on board anyway.

Keep your electronics separated from the rest of your stuff. So you can always locate them in your luggage quick. You can use any large pouch to pack your electronics and cables, or you can buy a special electronics organiser.

Travel with a power bank. In many airports around the world finding a power socket can be a hassle. If your power bank is with capacity of more than 20 000 mAh, check out the rules of the airline you are flying with, if they will allow it on an airplane.

Getting ready for a long-haul flight? Don’t forget to pack ear plugs, earbuds or headphones in your carry on. Do you wanna listen to music and not to hear what’s happening around you? Noise cancelling headphones are there to help you enjoy music to the fullest while on the plane.

If you are a light sleeper, take a sleep mask with you. Not all airlines provide with free sleep masks.

Flying dehydrates you. So it’s very important to drink plenty of water during the flight. Bring a reusable water bottle with you, and before boarding a plane fill your bottle with drinking water.

Bring some healthy snacks in case you get hungry while on the plane. You'll get hungry.

Always take a pen with you, when travelling overseas, in case you’ll need to fill in immigration and customs forms before landing.

What about books and other entertainment? Whenever you are flying, don’t forget to bring some entertainment with you in case there’s no entertainment system on the plane or you prefer your own movies, books and music.

If you are travelling often consider buying an e-book reader.

No one likes to pay excess baggage fees or re-pack right before check-in. To avoid it use a digital luggage scale to check if your baggage doesn’t exceed the weight limit.

More long haul flight tips.

8. What should you wear?

It depends on the place where you are going to.

When deciding what clothes to pack remember that you must respect the beliefs and culture of others! You’re a guest in a foreign country. Don't wear crop tops and tight miniskirts everywhere you go. Try to dress like locals as much as possible.

When flying wear a jacket with pockets, so that after going through security you can throw your wallet, phone, passport in a pocket and take the rest of your stuff faster - to get through airport security faster.

Wear comfortable shoes that can be easily taken off during the flight if needed. If you plan to take off your shoes during the flight, pack a fresh pair or socks in your carry on.

Visiting Northern Europe during the winter? Choose comfortable and warm boots, not shoes or sneakers.

If you are traveling to a tropical destination pack clothing made of lightweight and breathable material. Linen clothing is good, too. Linen wicks away moisture and keeps you cool.

9. Know your rights regarding flight delays and cancellations

Few of the basic things to remember.

You don't have to be European to be entitled to European flight compensation.

If your flight is cancelled and you're notified less than 14 days in advance, your flight is delayed for 3+ hours or you've been denied boarding because there are no more free seets you may get flight compensation of up to €600.

Learn more: Flight delay compensation, Flight cancellation compensation, Denied boarding compensation.

The exact amount of European flight delay compensation varies and is based on the distance of your flight. The longer your journey, the more you can claim (mostly - 250, 400 or 600 euro).

Flight compensation always has to be paid in cash or by bank transfer.

You don’t have to accept coupons or vouchers, unless you want them not money. Even if it's not airline's fault you can receive cash.

Aircraft technical problems mostly are considered airline’s fault.

If your flight gets delayed or cancelled because of that - you may be entitled to flight compensation.

Not all airline staff strikes are the same.

There are staff strikes, that are considered airline's fault, and some - that aren't. If your flight gets cancelled or delayed because of that - sometimes you may get flight compensation. If you aren't sure about the particular case, it's always worth checking it.

In Europe you have the right to care.

If you have to wait at the airport, in Europe you often have the right to care. In some cases you will be receiving free food and drink, in other - free hotel accommodation.

10. Shortly before the trip

Go to the airport early, 2-3 hours before the scheduled departure time.

Because you never know how much is it going to take you today to make it to your plane. Sometimes it takes very little, other times significantly more.

And check your flight status online.

Before heading to the airport.

Use the app of the airline you will be travelling on - to check in online and to save your boarding pass. Paper tickets is a thing of the past. However, we suggest you take a screenshot of your boarding pass or download the pdf document. Don't rely only on the airline’s app or good Wi-Fi connection at the airport.

Remember, sometimes online check-in isn't possible. So you may have to proceed to the check-in desk even if you’re travelling with carry on only.

How to get through airport security faster? Know the rules and come prepared. No scissors or knives. No matches and not more than 1 lighter. No liquids over 100 ml in your hand luggage. Keep all of your prescription medication in your hand luggage only.

If your flight is cancelled or heavily delayed stay at the airport, wait for the following announcement. It will come. See also our guides on what to do if your flight is delayed or cancelled.

That's it! Now you're ready to go!

Bon Voyage!