Trip Planning Checklist: Trip Planning for International & Domestic Travel Simplified
Does your trip planning seem like an overwhelming task?
Does trip planning cause you stress….to book flights, hotels, and figure out an itinerary? The planning stage of your trip can be instrumental in its success and actually an enjoyable part of the experience itself. You have a world of options…and plenty to consider.
Here at GoGo Travel we know trip planning! You can plan a trip a lot easier if you break it down into simple tasks. The process of making reservations, booking tickets, and preparing to leave, lends itself well to a series of tasks in a specific order. Read on for our comprehensive trip planning checklist for domestic or international travel.
If you’d like personalized help with your trip planning, consider contacting one of our Travel Consultants.
7-12 Months Ahead
___ Choose a destination. Painfully obvious, I know, but you must first research your destination thoroughly and know where it is you would like to visit before you start planning. If you don’t know or can’t decide go ahead and contact a travel agent. We can provide you with destination information and help you narrow down your choices.
___ Set your dates for travel. Go ahead and schedule your vacation. Take the time off work. Research the right season for your destination. Shoulder seasons are great times to travel. Read about the best time to visit the Hawaiian Islands.
___ Set a budget. Budgets vary widely. Determine your method of transportation as travel to the location of your choosing may be expensive. Consider transportation once you reach your location. Include lodging expenses and accommodations. Keep an incidentals fund. Consider travel insurance. Don’t forget food costs and shopping.
___ Contact a travel agent or travel consultant. After you have decided (or decided that you can’t decide) your destination and picked your travel dates call your travel consultant. Now is the time to get in touch and tell them where you plan to go, what you’d like to do, and how much you want to spend. Your travel consultant can take care of the trip planning for you!
___ Make a day to day itinerary. Make a basic itinerary with where you will be each day. You can fill in all of the details later. This will help you to determine your transportation and accommodation needs once you reach your location. Your travel consultant can create this for you, usually in an interactive computerized format.
___ Make flight reservations if using award miles. You should make these reservations early to get the best flight for your miles. There are a limited number of miles flights available for each airline. The earlier you make these reservations, the better.
___ Make accommodation reservations if using reward points. Again, make these reservations early to get the best rooms. Sometimes rooms on points are not available on short notice.
3-6 Months Ahead
___ Apply for passport (if needed) Do this early! Routine processing time is approximately 6-8 weeks from the time of application, including mailing time. Expedited processing time is approximately 2-3 weeks from the time of application, including mailing time. If your application is rejected or needs revision the processing time will restart. If you are traveling within 2 weeks or need a foreign visa within 4 weeks, you should make an appointment at a passport agency or center. The passport agency or center will specify when you will get your new passport. See Travel.gov: Get a Passport in a Hurry. There are also passport services available to get you an original or replacement passport quickly.
___ Apply for visa (if needed) You or your travel consultant will need to research your destination’s visa and entry requirements. Apply for your visa in advance if necessary. There are passport and visa services available for obtaining difficult or short notice visas.
___ Check exit requirements. Some countries have exit requirements. Check your passport expiration; you may be denied entry into certain European countries if your passport is due to expire within three months of your ticketed date of return. Get it renewed if you’ll be cutting it close. Check your destinations Country Information.
2-4 Months Ahead
___ Make flight reservations if purchasing tickets. Airfare experts from Smarter Travel and Fare Compare who track flight prices and airline trends, agree that domestic flight reservations are best made in the middle of the week, between one and three months before the date of departure. Because airfare sales are usually initiated on Mondays and matched by competitors on Tuesdays, mid-week is the sweet spot for booking and reserving flights.
___ Make rental car reservation. Need transportation at your location? Reserve your rental car in advance for lower prices. Last minute rental cars can be very expensive.
___ Make other transportation arrangements (trains, ferries, etc.) Refer to your itinerary. How will you be getting around? Make these reservations in advance, if possible. If not, get all the information you can. Include this in your itinerary.
___ Do your homework if you want to buy travel insurance. Check whether your existing insurance (health, homeowner’s, or renter’s) covers you and your possessions overseas. Get a free quote.
1-3 Months Ahead
___ Secure flight reservations if you have not already done so. Waiting for the best deal? Less than 21 days in advance is not considered “advance purchase” and if you purchase inside this time period, you might catch the last-minute price hikes that airlines are prone to employ for less price-sensitive business travelers. Keep an eye out for peak travel seasons and holidays. The important thing to remember is to start looking earlier and secure your reservations between one and five months before you travel.
___ Make accommodation reservations if you have not already. Don’t wait until the last minute. Book your hotels as soon as you book your flights.
___Create a day by day travel itinerary including all activities. Get your travel consultant on board now if you have not already. We take care of the trip planning and can create a detailed custom trip itinerary for you. In advance, plan out your days, lock down your locations for transportation purposes, and plan your tours and activities.
Research your destination on Trip Advisor. You can also read guide books–there are so many good ones to choose from. Fodor’s, Lonley Planet, Moon, DK Guides and more! Choose what appeals to you and read. Be sure to dog-ear corners or highlight what is interesting to you. Download digital copies of guide books to take with you on your trip.
___ Purchase tickets for activities and tours. Most tours and activities can be booked in advance. See the best tours and activities for your destination.
___ Purchase tickets for events that will sell out. You don’t want to miss that important show, concert, or sporting event. Get your tickets in advance.
1 Month Ahead
___ Cell phone service plan or order phone (if needed) Sometimes, vacation is all about cutting yourself off from the world and enjoying a break from media. But you still need to communicate, and preferably not rack up huge international phone charges. You can purchase an inexpensive cell phone with prepaid time or rent a cell phone. You can also purchase a foreign SIM cards for your phone. The cheapest? Renting a phone.
___ Apply for international driver license (if needed) If you’ll be driving in another country, be sure to get an International Driving Permit about one month ahead. I get mine at the local AAA office, and they cost about $15.00. You can’t get one more than 6 months from the effective date. It is only valid if accompanied by your valid U.S. driver’s license.
___ Make important dinner reservations. Celebrating a special occasion? Then you should definitely make your dinner reservations in advance. Your travel consultant can make recommendations on the best restaurants.
___ Start a packing list. 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. Read Packing for Hawaii.
1-2 Weeks Before:
___ Confirm all reservations! Set aside an hour, grab a cup of coffee, and your phone. Call and confirm all reservations.
___ Give copy of itinerary to someone not traveling with you. Someone should always know your location. Include all details and a copy of your passport, visa, and drivers license.
___ Notify bank and credit cards of overseas travel. If you are not a frequent traveler your bank may reject foreign charges to your credit cards. Call your bank in advance and let them know that you are traveling, your dates, and locations. They can pre-approve foreign charges so you will not be left stranded without funds. Get your bank’s emergency phone number in the US (but not its 800 number) to call collect if you have a problem. If you don’t know your credit card’s PIN code, ask your bank to mail it to you.
___ Order cash for your trip (AAA or Bank). Call your bank or local AAA office to order cash in advance for your trip in the currency of your destination.
___ Place a vacation hold on mail and newspaper. 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.
___ Arrange for pet, home, and garden care. Our pets are important. Make sure they are well taken care of while you are away. I use Care.com for all of these services. Other resources are Thumbtack and Angie’s List.
___ Finalize your packing list. Plan for your level of activity and climate in your destination. See our vacation packing list.
___ Start packing luggage. I like to lay my suitcase out and I will begin packing the things and laundered items I won’t need until the trip.
___ Start assembling your carry-on luggage. This is uber important if you are traveling with only carry-on luggage. Pack all of your travel documents, some cash, identification, itinerary, jewelry, and any medications in your carry-on. Pack a change of clothes and your swim suit in the case that your room is not ready when you arrive. If your luggage gets lost or delayed, at least you will have all the essentials from your carry-on until you can replace your items.
___ Go shopping for last minute items. 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.)
___ Grooming appointments, haircut, manicure, etc. Most vacations are often accompanied by a lot of picture taking. Book your appointments in advance and do them now so you’re not struggling to fit them in at the last minute.
1 Day Before
___Check in. If you’re flying and have the option to check in online, do so now. It’s a time-saver at the airport.
___ Pick up cash for your trip (AAA or Bank) Pick up the cash you ordered last week. Store your cash in different bags (carry-on, wallet, personal item, luggage) so if one bag gets lost or stolen you don’t lose everything.
___ 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.
___ Make a full copy of your itinerary, passports, and drivers licenses for each traveler. Even the kids, especially the kids. Each traveler should have a full copy in their carry-on luggage.
___ Finish packing luggage. Pack everything except the outfit you plan to wear the day of travel and the toiletries you plan to use.
___ Set out clothes and luggage for departure day. This will save you time when you are preparing to leave. Remember to layer for temperature variations on the plane or at your destination. Wear your heavy shoes, jacket, and hat (if you are bringing them) to keep your luggage light.
___ Get gas or confirm airport transportation. Gas up the day before you depart or call and confirm your airport transfer.
Day of Departure
___Turn off water heater and unplug unneeded appliances. Chances are you didn’t leave the stove on, but check it anyway. Ditto the hair iron. Turn the heat or a/c down to save money while you are away.
___ Last minute items such as phone chargers, makeup, toothbrush. 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.
___Review your checklist one last time. Grab those last, last minute items!
Need help with your trip planning? Contact a Travel Consultant.