International Trip Checklist: What You Need To Do
So you’ve got your tickets booked for an exciting international trip! Now what? This international trip checklist is the fancy way of saying “here’s what runs through my head in the run-up to a trip”. Most of the bullet points listed below are truly 5 minute tasks, maybe 15 minutes maximum. (Unless you need to actually apply for or renew a passport, which if you plan ahead you can apply for on your own timetable and not in a last-minute panic!) I’d much rather deal with these little things bit by bit than all at once in a frenzy; I keep a running list on my phone so I (hopefully) don’t drop the ball on anything. Plus when it’s written down ahead of time it clears mental space and reduces stress. So here is my international trip checklist, aka, “stuff you want to do before you leave”!
6 months out
Or at least, as soon as you book tickets:
- Check passports: they don’t just need to be valid for your return flight, some countries require that they be valid for a certain number of months past your return date. For example, Germany requires 6 months validity after your return date, and France requires 3 months. Check the State Department page of the country you’re visiting (here’s France’s page). I double-checked a passport that was getting close-ish on IATA’s website (the International Air Transport Association — to which my airline directed me) for peace of mind. You input your travel dates and passport expiration date and it will tell you whether or not you’re good to go.
- Will you need a visa? If you’re traveling to the Schengen area, you currently don’t for stays less than 90 days. Again, check the State Department’s page for the country you’re planning to visit.
- Check/schedule any needed immunizations. (Guess who has that info? Bingo! The State Department pages!)
In addition, the State Department has a whole international trip checklist for travelers should you want to read more extensively about visas and such.
2-3 months out
- If your children are traveling internationally, but will not be traveling with both parents, U.S. Customs and Border Protection highly recommends that you have a notarized permission form from the absent parent(s). There is no official form, but you can find sample wording here, and further guidelines/explanations here. You may never be asked for it, but I’m bringing a letter just in case.
- Check the typical weather where you’re visiting: AccuWeather will give you average highs/lows for the weeks you’ll be traveling, so you have a general idea of what to expect. (Click on the “month” tab to select future/historical weather).
- Then, check that you have needed clothes and shoes for this weather! Living in South Louisiana, our summer/warm weather season sometimes lasts most of the year, so even just cool weather clothes take some planning on my part. I often need to buy fall/winter clothes before my children need them where we live. (Because kids never fit into last’s years clothes, amiright??) Planning your wardrobe early also helps you pack lightly; if you plan ahead you can see gaps and strategically purchase as little as possible for maximum versatility.
- Break in any new shoes; wear ‘em lots and make sure they’re comfortable!
- Book rooms. (See here and here.)
- Book any high-speed train tickets you may need. (The Man in Seat Sixty-One has a supremely helpful website all about train travel!)
- If you’re traveling with kids, check out books/movies/music from the library that are relevant to where you’ll be visiting! (I mean, I think this is great fun even you’re not traveling with kids. . .) If you get to read just one short book a week, they’ll have a robust framework for what they’ll see.
One Month/Two Weeks Out
- Stop mail/arrange to have it picked up.
- Make airport parking reservations, if necessary.
- Notify your bank/credit cards of your travel plans.
- Clear your calendar/hand off responsibilities: So, if you’re leaving on a trip, you’ve probably already figured out what events in your life someone might need to take care of while you’re gone. (Keys to a building? Documents? Books?) One time a certain treasurer left town without handing over her local professional association’s checkbook to anyone else. . . aannd there was a festival for which they needed to write checks. Yeah, that was me. . . Big oops!! Thankfully my mother rescued us all, but this time it’s on my list of things to take care of ahead of time!!
- Get a haircut a week or two before your trip.
Week of Your Trip
- Return/renew any library materials to avoid fines.
- Look up the weather forecast for the duration of your trip.
- Wash clothes and begin to pack. Yes, I am an annoying mother who packs most of my children’s clothes several days ahead of time! Clothes get selected (more on that in another post), washed, and packed away out of reach. No searching frantically for items or late-night laundry for me. . .
Ideally the week of your trip all you have to do is pack and get yourself to the airport, because everything else is taken care of!
The pictures I interspersed in this post are from a magical evening sitting outside the cathedral in Reims. We were jet-lagged, had just managed to find our room after a long search, we were eating take-away sandwiches from a boulangerie. . . and it was glorious. The view was incredible, the sandwiches were delicious, and we sat and looked at each other with wonder that we were actually in France. Hopefully this international trip checklist will cut down on the stress of planning a trip, but remember that the memories are worth the hassle!