The ultimate pre-departure international travel checklist
International travel checklist
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International travel checklist - the day before you leave

Congratulations! You’re prepared. You’ve done everything you’re supposed to do before an international flight. Now it’s down to the nitty-gritty because you leave tomorrow. Here’s a truly helpful pre-departure international travel checklist to make sure you’ve got all your ducks in a row.

This pre-departure international checklist does not include things like getting your passport, getting prescriptions, etc because it’s the day before your trip and you’ve supposedly taken care of those things already.

Your House

international travel checklist - protect your home from burglars

Clean out your refrigerator

If you have leftovers or perishables in the refrigerator, eat it or clean it out completely. If not, you’ll come home to wrinkled fruits and vegetables and smelly leftovers. 

Clear perishables from your panty

If you store onions and potatoes in your pantry, cook it or clear it – rotting potatoes smell really bad, and you don’t want to come home to that smell.

Set up your burglar deterrent(s)

You can set up a timer to have your lights go on and off. You can also set up a “fake tv”, which is a plug-in device that mimics the flicker of a tv.

Notify your alarm company

If you are using a security system, let them know you’ll be away from home. Give them the dates you will be gone and the name and telephone number of your house sitter. 

Notify your bank of your travel plans

Chances are excellent that you will be using credit and/or debit cards on your trip. Let your bank know where you’ll be going and the dates. 

This may seem like a tedious step but it is important – you don’t want to have any of your transactions declined because the bank mistakenly flags it as suspicious activity. 

Wash dirty laundry

The smell of dirty laundry is not pleasant. Run dirty laundry through the washer, dry and fold them before you leave.

Water plants

Make sure everything is thoroughly watered. If you have a housesitter or neighbor taking care of them, make sure you are leaving clear instructions for them.

Prep for your pets

If pets are being left behind, make sure you’ve made preparations for them. For example, clean cages and/or litter boxes. put out fresh water and food. Also, be sure to leave clear instructions for the pet sitter. 

Stop your mail

This is something you may already have done but in case you forgot, be sure to stop your mail while you are gone. You don’t want mail piling up while you are gone—it’s a clear sign that you’re not home. 

Before you leave

  • Unplug your computer, tv, toaster, coffee maker, and other appliances. This will protect them from power surges and save power.
  • Reprogram your thermostat. You don’t want to keep the house warm or cool if there is no one there to benefit from it.
  • Close your curtains and blinds. This helps to regulate the temperature in your house, but it also helps to secure it. 
  • Straighten out your home before you leave. The last thing you want is to return to a messy, untidy home. 

Your luggage

travel essentials international trip

Inspect your carry-on

If you are using carry-on luggage that you’ve used before, make sure it is clear of prohibited items like lighters, pocket knives (even keychain-sized pocket knives), corkscrews, etc.

Measure your carry-on luggage

Check what your airline’s requirements are for carry-on luggage. Next, make sure you comply with their requirements. 

Weigh your luggage

This should be on every international travel checklist because it’s important but oh-so-easy to forget!

There are weight limitations. Be sure to check what your limit is, and make sure your luggage is below the maximum weight. Otherwise, you’ll be charged extra.

The best thing to do is to have a portable luggage scale. That way, you can weigh your luggage on your way back home too!

make your luggage identifiable - international travel checklist

Make your luggage identifiable

Does your luggage look like everyone else’s? Try to make your luggage easier to identify with a ribbon, stickers, or anything you can easily add.

Double-check your luggage tags

Luggage tags are important, but make sure they are accurate. Also, make sure they have a flap that covers your private details. 

Photograph your luggage contents

Perish the thought of lost baggage but it’s always better to be prepared, just in case. Take a few photos of your luggage – this will make filing a baggage loss/delay claim easier. 

Your trip essentials

Charge all your electronics & pack your chargers
You will want to make sure that everything you will be using is fully charged. This includes your phone, laptop, iPad, or any other electronics you rely on. Also, be sure to pack all the chargers.

Print your travel documents
Do not rely on your memory for your itinerary. If you are traveling internationally, you’re dealing with different time zones and currencies, lack of sleep, etc. Make things as easy as possible for yourself and print your itinerary and all your essential travel documents.

Do not rely on your phone for this information either. Batteries die.

Be sure to make copies of your passport, visas, credit cards. Save this information in the cloud or email it to yourself so that you can access it if needed. Also, print two copies of each. Save one copy in your carry-on luggage, and the other in your checked luggage. That way, if (heaven forbid) your passport or credit cards are stolen, you have easy access to all that information.

Pack your essential documents
Obvious? Yes! This tip is on every international travel checklist because it is vital, so do not dismiss this. When you’re planning for an international trip, there is so much to think about and you may forget some of the most obvious and/or important things. (On a trip to South Africa once, I forgot to pack my Capital One credit card – which was essential because it was the only card I had that didn’t charge international transaction fees.) Therefore, think about the things you really would need and make sure they are packed. These include passports, credit cards, itineraries, etc.

Check to see if you have enough cash
Sure, you may be traveling to a foreign country, but you may still need cash from the country you are in to pay for taxis, busses, tipping, etc. Also, make sure you will have cash for when you return home. (Once we came home from an international trip and the airline lost part of our luggage. We were helped, and this person really went out of his way to get us what we needed. I couldn’t tip him because I had no US currency. Years later, I still feel terrible about it.)

Download useful travel apps
Does your airline have an app? Check to see what apps will make your life easier. For example, if you are traveling to a country where they don’t speak your native language, download Google Translate or something similar to help you communicate with people. Also consider communication apps like WhatsApp, etc. Sit down and think about what would make your life easier while abroad, then see if there is an app for it.

Pack essentials
Other than your clothes, snacks and travel documents, here are a few things you’ll want to be sure to pack:

  • Your prescriptions (if applicable)
  • Contact lenses or glasses (if you need them)
  • Insurance and ID cards
  • A portable charger
  • Long flight essentials like an eye mask, noise-canceling headphones or earplugs, etc.
  • Electrical adapters and/or converters for your destination.
  • Chargers and batteries.


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About The Author

Hi! We’re the Cheltens’. We visit South Africa 1-2 times per year. We want to share our experiences with you so that you may make educated decisions when you plan your next trip to the rainbow nation.

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