The Top Things You Shouldn't Leave Without When Traveling

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Traveling can be a stressful experience, but it doesn't have to be that way. Preparing in advance for your trip can make life a lot simpler for you down the line. Putting together a checklist can help too. 

  • 01 of 06

    3-6 Months Ahead

    Travel planning checklist
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    Contact a travel agent. If you're working with a travel agent, 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. 

    Book travel and accommodations. Flights, buses, rail, hotel/motel, camping site. In most cases the further ahead you book, the better.

    Plan to look your best. Most vacations are often accompanied by a lot of picture taking. Go ahead and book appointments with your hairstylist or anything else you normally would do so you’re not struggling to fit them in the week of travel.

    Locate your 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. Also, a lot of boarders have vaccine requirements that will necessitate a visit to the vet in advance of your departure. Don’t leave your pets out in the cold. Go ahead and contact the kennel or pet sitter and find out what their requirements are. Kennels may even ask that you bring your pet in ahead of time for an "interview" – this is a good thing! It means the kennel really wants to make sure they are a good fit for your pet. 

  • 02 of 06

    1 Month Ahead

    Plane tickets to London
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    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.

    Organize 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

  • 03 of 06

    2 Weeks Ahead

    A woman working on a checklist.
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    Put your 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. 

  • 04 of 06

    1 Week Ahead

    A man doing his laundry. Photo © Andrew Olney/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Do the laundry. Spend a morning laundering anything you'll need for the trip.

    Go shopping. 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.)

    Start packing. 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. 

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    The Day Before

    Woman packing a suitcase
    Here's how to pack light and have plenty of outfits for a winter trip. JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

    Pack your bags. Pack everything except the outfit you plan to wear the day of travel and the toiletries you plan to use.

    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.

    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.

  • 06 of 06

    The Day Of

    Happy woman driving car
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    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!