I have been accused by certain individuals (my family and friends) of being "too organized" while traveling, showing up at the airport "too early," and bringing along "too many excel spreadsheets full of information." I think they just like to make fun of me. Rather than be anxious and rushed, I simply like to be prepared. You can avoid travel planning stress too, by following my travel planning checklist.
3-6 Months Ahead
___Book travel and accommodations
Flights, buses, rail, hotel/motel, camping site. In most cases the further ahead you book, the better.
___Book hair/grooming appointments
Most vacations are often accompanied by a lot of picture taking. Book your appointments now so you’re not struggling to fit them in the week of travel.
___Locate passports & visas
In case something needs to be updated or applied for, locating what you need well ahead of time will make the process much less stressful.
___Book pet accommodations
Kennels and cat sitters can book up too and many have vaccine requirements that will necessitate a visit to the vet. Don’t leave your pets out in the cold. (More on pet boarding)
1 Month Ahead
___Confirm your bookings
Pour a cup of coffee, sit down and either call, email, or confirm online the travel accommodations you’ve booked.
___Create a travel itinerary
At the same time, create an itinerary to bring on your trip and to hand off to a trusted friend or family member.
___Think about anything you can organize in your home ahead of time
Can you drop something off at the dry cleaners while you're away? Have your knives sharpened? Read the list: Organize Your Home While Your Travel
2 Weeks Ahead
___Put the mail and newspaper on hold
Call, email or log in online to your newspaper of choice and put your subscription on hold. You can put your mail on hold online via the USPS.
___Create a packing checklist
This doesn't have to be right down to the number of socks you'll need, but in general, think about the climate you'll be traveling to and the types of activities you'll be doing.
____Check your camera batteries and accessories
It's better to discover a broken camera accessory ahead of time, and if you need new batteries, you can put them on your shopping list.
___Create a trip shopping list
Leave this somewhere visible and convenient (refrigerator, smart phone) so that you can add items as you think of them.
1 Week Ahead
___Do the laundry
Spend a morning laundering anything you'll need for the trip.
The week ahead is the time to pick up any last minute odds and ends you might need (travel tooth brush, SPF) this way you don't have to store this extra stuff for too long before a trip. (Don't forget your travel journal.)
I like to lay my suitcase out and I will begin packing things I won't need until the trip.
___Begin assembling your carry-on bags
I like to call this the Adult Diaper Bag. More on that in Travel Tips.
The Day Before
___Pack your bags
Pack everything except the outfit you plan to wear the day of travel and the toiletries you plan to use.
If you're flying and have the option to check in online, do so now. It's a time-saver at the airport.
___Go over your itinerary
One last time, go over your itinerary and make sure you have all the documents you need in a secure but reachable spot in your carry on bags.
___Gas up the car
If you're driving and the gas station is not on your travel route, make a special trip the day before to save time on the road.
The Day Of___Pack daily toiletries, medications, and makeup.
As you get dressed/ get ready in the bathroom, pack your toiletries and medication as you use them so you don't forget anything. These may include your hairdryer, medication you take every day, mascara, etc.
___Check your appliances.
Chances are you didn't leave the stove on, but check it anyway. Ditto the curling iron. Turn the heat down if it's Winter.
___Review your checklist one last time.
___Hit the road!