A Passion for Travel, Part 3: Travel Planning Checklist

North Coast of New South Wales, Australia, 2005

North Coast of New South Wales, Australia, 2005


Our travel planning checklist, similar to the master trip calendar I wrote about in my prior post, is a simple spreadsheet.

I like working with spreadsheets because they’re so easy to sort and update.  With today’s rapid pace of change, we always seem to be adding new items to our travel lists.

Since our three-month trip last year, we’ve added online check-in to the master calendar, on the day before every flight.  We’ve also added the new requirement for Clive to get U.S.A. travel approval  (mandatory since 12 January 2009) to our planning checklist.

Our 24-Item Travel Planning Checklist

As each item on this checklist is completed, we print e-tickets and other confirmations.  They go into the folder I wrote about in ‘Travel and Books, Part 2:  Clive’s Magnificent Trip Folder’.

Here’s our planning checklist from the spreadsheet, followed by a longer version with comments and links to earlier posts:

1.    Air tickets
2.    Train tickets
3.    Accommodation
4.    Rental cars
5.    Foreign currency
6.    Gifts & cards
7.    Travel insurance
8.    Airport shuttles
9.    Appointments and get-togethers, here and overseas
10.  Read & research/copy guidebook pages
11.  Travel/museum passes
12.  e-mail itinerary to family
13.  Wrap gifts
14.  Luggage tags
15.  Clear purse & wallet
16.  Travel wallet
17.  Inventory toiletries
18.  Trip reading (my favourite item)
19.  Run down fridge
20.  Update GPS maps
21.  Print maps and directions
22.  Print currency converter
23.  Neighbours re mail
24.  U.S.A. travel approvals
25.  Vote (if election scheduled while we’re away)

Travel Planning Checklist with Comments

1.      Book air tickets.  This is the longest process for us, since there are always many permutations and combinations to consider when trying to find the cheapest fares.  Sometimes around-the-world tickets cost less.  Other times, it’s cheaper to do Sydney/Paris or Sydney/New York return (round trip) with separate tickets to go back and forth ‘across the Pond’.

2.      Book train tickets – Eurostar & other.

3.      Book accommodation.  For this trip, we’re staying in hotels in the U.S., two B&B self-catering cottages in Suffolk, England, and a self-catering cottage in Wales.

4.      Book rental cars.

5.      Inventory foreign currency & get commission-free foreign travellers checks.  This is a simple way to avoid fees, which I wrote about in Why Should They Have It?  How to Avoid Currency Fees’.

6.      Purchase gifts and cards (if any).  We’ve tried to minimise the expectation we’ll always arrive bearing gifts, but there are still usually one or two people to whom we want to bring something from Sydney.

7.      Book travel insurance.  Australia has a reciprocal medical agreement with the UK, but not with France or the U.S.  Travel insurance also covers lost luggage, mishaps with rental cars, etc.

8.      Book airport shuttles, if any.

9.      Schedule appointments and get-togethers here before we leave and overseas with family and friends.  As my fellow expats know, it often takes multiple e-mails back and forth with each individual to arrange meeting dates and times.

10. Research specific areas and activities.  For this trip, walking in Wales is a new focus.  Of course, deciding where to go in the first place is part of the fun of travel, and we talk year-round about the possibilities.  I also keep an ongoing ‘things to do in Paris’ list.  We copy some guidebook pages if we don’t want to take an entire book with us.

11. Purchase travel and museum passes.  These are often cheaper if bought ahead of time in Australia.

12. e-mail itinerary to family members.

13. Wrap gifts to take.

14. Organise/update luggage tags.  They seem to get cracked or damaged regularly and we try to keep a supply of unused ones on hand.

15. Clear purse & regular wallet.  We remove local items such as library cards and Sydney bus and ferry passes.  Clive clears his wallet when he’s packing, but I like to do mine earlier.

16. Organise travel wallet.  I have a separate leather case for passports, U.S. credit cards and driver’s license, and multiple foreign currencies.

17. Inventory & organise toiletries for checked and carry-on luggage.    

18. Inventory & organise trip reading material.  This is unquestionably my favourite planning activity, as I wrote about in Travel and Books, Part 1:  Will There Be Room for Clothes?

19.  Make informal menu plan for last 1-2 weeks to run down food, especially in the fridge.

20. Update (download) latest foreign maps on GPS.  I’ll cover travel technology in more detail later in this series.

21. Print maps & directions (we’re doing less of this, the more we use our GPS).

22. Print currency converter.  Clive has a handy wallet-size format (again on a spreadsheet) so we can quickly see what things cost in Australian dollars, whether we’re locally dealing with pounds, euros, or U.S. dollars.

23. Neighbours re mail.  We’re blessed with good neighbours / friends and we collect each other’s mail when anyone’s away.

24. Get U.S.A. online travel approvals (Clive).

25. Vote.  I wrote about this in Travel Planning:  Vote Early.  Voting is mandatory in Australia, and even if it weren’t, we both feel it’s important.  If an election will be held while we’re away, we get the paperwork in place to vote early.

What Have We Forgotten?
Many of you reading this are also experienced travellers, and I’d love to hear about what you do ahead of time when planning your trips.

My next post will be about packing.

At least several of you enjoy packing, so I’ll be keen to hear your secrets about that, too.

Cheers and more to come.

Related posts:
A Passion for Travel, Part 1:  Introducing the Series
A Passion for Travel, Part 2:  The Master Trip Calendar
  A Passion for Travel, Part 4: Packing without Panic
  A Passion for Travel, Part 5: Travel Technology
  A Passion for Travel, Part 6: Departure Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 7: Airport Survival Strategies
  A Passion for Travel, Part 8: Top Ten In-Flight Insights
  A Passion for Travel, Part 8a: Eleventh In-Flight Insight
  A Passion for Travel, Part 9:  Jet Lag Jambalaya

6 Responses

  1. This is amazing. SO thorough, down to considering how to “draw down” the fridge.

    We had to do ESTA for Marco’s (aborted) trip to the States in January — would you believe we were literally departing *on* Jan 12th, exactly. As I recall though, once you’ve done it, it’s good for some time. So it would just be a matter of reprinting the electronic confirmation.

    I’m looking forward to going back and reading the Travel and Books posts too.

    I love your blog! You’re so thoughtful and write on such an interesting range of things. Thanks for taking all the time that you do.

    As far as “what you’ve forgotten,” I can’t imagine that there’s a single thing!

  2. Wow that is one list!!!! I suppose you really have to do that, for such a trip!

    Look forward to reading all about it 🙂

    Hope you have a great time..take care Anne

  3. I read that you have your own apartment in Paris, how great is that!! 🙂

  4. Oh my Caroline, you are so organised which I realise you have to be given all the travel you do. I cannot wait to hear all about your trip either. Given you are so organised there is nothing more to do then pack and enjoy. I love that feeling of finally boarding the plane and you realise its all too late if you have forgotten anything! Love your pic too!

  5. I am a big list maker but have to tell you that all that is on your list overwhelms me; it is a lot of work to travel;-). That said, I know it is indeed a master list and I am printing it and will happily benefit from it. Thank you!!!!

  6. Kim, thanks and good to know you’ve already done an ESTA approval. Anne, yes it is quite a list! Lilly, exactly re pack and enjoy 🙂 Belette, there are definitely lots of to do’s before departure which is why having a list makes it easier – hope it’s helpful!

    Cheers all.

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