The Essential Pre-Travel Checklist

Pre-Travel Checklist

Travelling away from home can be daunting. That niggling voice of “what if I’ve forgotten something important?” can be difficult to hush. The best way to ease a nervous mind is to feel prepared.

Checking off this handy pre-travel checklist will make sure all your essential tasks are taken care of before you go, so you can focus on enjoying your travels.

Check Travel Regulations

The rules of travel are constantly changing. Step one is to check your relevant travel regulations – both the requirements of where you are leaving from, and where you are travelling to. Each country will detail entry, exit and transit requirements on their government’s website. Even travelling between certain areas within a country can have specific rules, so check every region.

Ensure Your Passport Is Valid – and Make Copies

Many countries require your passport to be valid for at least 6 additional months upon arrival. Scan and take copies with you – if you lose your passport, copies can help you get a replacement more quickly at an embassy.

Check Visa/Entry Requirements

An obvious but often-overlooked task. Check if the country your passport was issued from is allowed in your destination country without a visa. If not, look into how to obtain the necessary visa.

Many countries allow you to enter for tourism purposes for certain amounts of time. Some places, the United States for Australians for example, have an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) that you must pay online before arrival.

Check the country’s border control rules – some places require proof of an outbound flight before they’ll let you in.

Get Travel Insurance

International travel insurance is one of the few insurances you should never go without. As the wise saying goes: “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.”

It’s relatively cheap as far as insurance goes, and can save you from incredibly expensive, sticky situations overseas. Medical and evacuation bills for foreigners can be astronomical in some countries, so much that you may struggle to get the care you need. There’s also the bonus of some policies compensating you for transport cancellations, lost or delayed luggage, stolen goods and other common mishaps.

Buy your insurance as soon as you’ve bought your flights, so you’re covered in case of emergency cancellations before departing. Providers that operate purely online, such as WorldNomads and Downunder Insurance, are a bit cheaper due to lack of overhead costs.

It’s important to note that different insurers will cover, or not cover, specific situations and items. Sometimes you can pay extra for certain dangerous activities to be covered, such as skiing. Common exclusions include pre-existing conditions, acts of war and pandemics. Read what you are covered for carefully before you travel.

Inform Your Bank

If you’re taking your bank or credit card with you overseas, you need to inform your bank of your travel before you go. If the bank suddenly notices your card being used in a foreign country and you haven’t notified them prior, they may assume it’s fraud and cancel the card. Suddenly losing access to your funds overseas can be very frightening and inconvenient. Most banks have a 24-hour international hotline to call in case of situations like this.

Organise Foreign Currency

Check what fees your bank charges for foreign transactions and cash withdrawals. Check that they operate and are accepted where you’re going. Consider getting a travel card such as Travelex to avoid conversion fees altogether.

Even if you plan to mostly use cards, organise some advance cash in the currency of your first destination – it can come in very handy when you arrive. It will almost definitely be cheaper to get some cash before departing than at the airport upon arrival.

Put Your Documents (Securely) Online

Having your documents on paper with you in certainly convenient, but make sure you can access them online too. Put them in your inbox, google drive, or whatever you prefer, and make sure they’re password protected. This way you can access them anywhere in case you lose the paper copies.

Give a copy of important documents to a trusted family member or friend, in case you need assistance. Itineraries, plane tickets, insurance policies, passport copies, accommodation details, visas and permits can all be backed up in a variety of ways.

Health and Vaccinations

Check with your travel doctor about what vaccinations you may need, depending on your destination. Be aware that some vaccines need to be administered several months in advance to build an adequate immune response. For some countries, you’re required to provide proof of vaccination to re-enter your home country.

Make sure you have enough of any prescriptions you need. Some countries don’t allow certain drugs and medicines through their borders. It’s best to keep medications in original packaging and with a copy of your prescription or doctor’s letter if unsure.


All of your electronics and chargers will be useless without the correct adaptor. Google “power plug (country)” to find out what type you’ll need. You can take the guesswork out by getting a universal adaptor that fits most plugs; some even have USB ports. The only downside is they are quite a bit chunkier in size than individual adaptors.

Register with Your Country’s Travel Database

The United States has the Smart Traveler Enrolment Program (STEP), Australia has Smartraveller, and other countries have similar programs. This is basically giving your government a heads up of your whereabouts, in case it needs to find, contact or assist you in an emergency. The programs keep you up to date in regards to relevant natural disasters, violent conflicts, disease outbreaks and the like. It takes 5 minutes and gives you and your loved ones some peace of mind.

House/Pet Sitter

Make sure you have organised care for your fur-family. A house sitter can also collect your mail for you, or you can request your mail to be held at the post office temporarily.

Auto-Pay Your Bills

If you’re going for an extended period and don’t want to worry about paying your bills at home, set them to auto-pay online. Just make sure there’s enough money in your designated account/credit card so you don’t get an unexpected overdrawn fee.

International Driver’s License

If you’re planning on hiring a car overseas, check if you need an international driver’s license. Many places will let you drive for a short length of time with your home license, but some won’t. Double-check local road rules before you get behind the wheel, especially which side of the road to drive on.

Unlock Your Phone

Unlocking your phone means you can buy and use local sim cards, a much cheaper alternative to roaming fees on your mobile.

Book Your First Night’s Accommodation (At Least)

Even if you’re the adventurous type and plan on making it up as you go while travelling, do yourself a favour and have at least one night’s accommodation lined up. You’ll be grateful after long, sleepless flightsand varying time zones to already have somewhere to crash and collect your thoughts.

That’s the important stuff taken care of – now you just have to decide what to pack, and how much space you can leave for souvenirs! 

Author: Carla Hawk


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