You’ve put all the effort into planning your trip, and the final step has come: getting packed and ready to leave. This can be a stressful time, especially if you are trying to do it when you’re tired and stressed about getting to sleep.
Most experienced travelers have their handy packing list on hand, and in this email, we’re taking it one step farther by sharing the ultimate pre-flight checklist.
Before we get started, however, I’m going to share my number one pre-flight tip: Do not pack your bags the night before you fly. Instead, pack them TWO nights before, and don’t zip anything up. I promise during the day before your flight, as you review your itinerary and download entertainment, those last-minute items you almost forgot will come to you.
Now, let’s get to the checklist.
Whether your itinerary was self-designed or created by someone else, go through everything one final time. Make sure you haven’t missed booking a night or accidentally booked an unnecessary night thanks to an overnight layover.
Download or save the files and information to your phone, so it can be accessed offline. Things you’ll want to have handy are:
Pro tip: brush up on the current security hacks for every traveler.
Check in for your flights, select your seats, and print your boarding pass. Yes, I do recommend printing your boarding pass in case you can’t access it on your phone. It’s just better to have it and not need it than vice versa.
Pro tip: Keep your boarding pass folded in half and tucked into a backpack or jacket pocket to avoid identity theft.
You don’t need all the items in your wallet when you travel, and each item is just one more thing that has to be replaced if your wallet is stolen.
Unless you’ll need it when you arrive, you can usually remove things like library cards, store access cards (like Costco and Sam’s), and ‘extra’ credit or debit cards.
If you’re traveling internationally, make sure you have your passport, but tuck your passport card into your suitcase. You’ll only need that if your passport is stolen.
It’s so easy to take pictures and save files to smartphones that we sometimes forget what we’d lose if it was lost or stolen.
Back up your phone and any other devices with photos and files the day before you leave.
That way, anything critical or special will be preserved if you’re careless, forgetful, or unlucky while you’re away.
Take out all of the electronics you will be taking and charge them fully.
You can’t assume that the electrical outlet at your seat (if you have one) is going to be in working condition. Many times they are damaged from overuse or simply don’t work.
Pro tip: Charge up your handy portable power bank too. It’s the number one gadget pilots and flight attendants travel with because phones are lifelines, and a dead one is as useless as a brick.
If you’re going to someplace unfamiliar, download the map to your place of lodging. If you plan to get a local SIM card when you arrive, your phone will take a little time to reset to the new service. If your data isn’t working for any reason, you’ll still be able to get to your hotel.
To cover all the bases, consider printing the map to the first location with the address, just in case.
Pro tip: It’s especially handy if you’re ride-share or taxi driver is having trouble finding it or seems lost.
Assuming the worse can happen: your flight is delayed, the airport coffee shop isn’t open, there’s no food on board, you’ll want to make sure you have those items that can make the waiting time go by easier.
Snacks are the answer (to a lot of problems).
Airlines have been cutting costs for years, and doing away with food and beverages is a done deal. Even if you’re lucky to have a flight with free food, there are not always enough meals for passengers, and you don’t get a lot of choices. The food available for purchase is often better than the free meal, but expensive.
Always have snacks that you like tucked into your backpack or other carry-on. If you’re traveling with kids, pack the snacks they like in their backpacks too.
And don’t forget your refillable water bottle!
No matter what size my suitcase is, I always have a backpack-style carry-on with comfort items and plenty of entertainment options too.
I never fly without:
I assume that the in-flight entertainment will be either unavailable or uninteresting. I know travelers who never leave without knit or crochet projects to keep their fingers busy; and others who never leave without a deck of cards, so they can play solitaire or engage others in a poker game.
Other things that are always in my backpack:
Before you’re finished, roll all the charging cords and put them into a convenient bag.
Now that you’ve gotten everything organized and reviewed your itinerary, all the last-minute items are much more top-of-mind. Finish your packing, lay out your clothes for the morning, and set your bags in a convenient place.
If you’ve got a fur baby, leaving them is hard, and they know it. The night before a trip, make a special fuss over them. Make sure the pet sitter knows where the treats and extra toys are stored. Write down the basic instructions, their vet contact info, and their daily routine.
Pro tip: don’t make a big deal about packing with them around. Instead, distract them with a new toy and talk with them as you pack. Make it fun. Otherwise, they learn to associate suitcases with you leaving.
I know this sounds like overkill but I can’t tell you how many times having a second alarm has made sure I got to the airport on time.
You’ll sleep more soundly if you trust that you’ll wake up on time.
Now get some sleep!
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.