International Vacation Planning Checklist: Your To Do List

Are you like me?

Do you get SUPER anxious the day or two (or week!) before you leave for vacation?


It’s crazy the amount of anxiety I get before leaving on a trip. It doesn’t matter if it’s an adult only vacation or if the kids are traveling with us, I just can’t help getting worked up wondering if I’ve crossed all my t’s and dotted all my i’s. 






I have improved with each vacation we have taken. And one of the things that I have found to be the most help is to make that ridiculously long to-do list of things that must be done before we can even think about leaving for vacation -- like boarding the dog, or making sure our passports are current -- and schedule those in the two to three months before we leave. I used to wait until the week before we were going somewhere to write out our to-do list, and it was a huge stress for me. 


There are many things that we can do well ahead of time that can alleviate some of the stress. So I am sharing the to-do list we used in preparing for our first European vacation with our children.  I decided during planning for that vacation that I would write out our vacation planning checklist.  Our goal is to travel more and more with our children so it only made sense that I would finally write it down to refer to each time!  Now I am sharing it with you to help make your vacation planning easier.


Obviously not all of this will apply to you, but use it as a guide to making your own list.

International Vacation planning

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First - Create Your List

You can use our list below as a guide. You can copy and paste it into a new document and change what you need. If your partner is great at planning, ask for help. If you have a friend that is great at planning, send your list to them and have them review it and make suggestions.

Just create your to-do list. You don't have to start checking things off. You don't even have to put them on your calendar -- yet. 

Second - Schedule Your Tasks

Whatever calendar system you work with, be sure to put every single to-do tasks on your calendar. This doesn't mean you have to do everything yourself.

If you have a partner that will be traveling with you, be sure to give them tasks as well. My husband uses a paper calendar and I use Google Calendar. After I have made the  to-do list, we sit down together and we decide who will do what tasks. We are also sure to put each task we are assigned on our own calendar.

Be sure your children participate!  We have this handy printable packing list for kids to help you help them!  Which, in turn, will help you!

Third - Follow Through

Keep in mind that all this work you're doing on the front end by creating your to-do list well ahead of  your scheduled departure date will help alleviate any unnecessary anxiety the week you leave.


Whatever you do, do not put off the tasks as they pop up on your calendar. Just get them over with and complete them as you've assigned them!


Below is a sample of our to-do list before traveling overseas.  Obviously if you are not traveling internationally you can still use this list...the timeline may just be a tad condensed.  Many of our vacations are booked well in advance and so therefore we can spread out our vacation expenses. You can start saving for your vacation by doing these three simple things!

International Vacation Checklist

6 - 12 Months Before

  • Travel Budget - always start with budget!
  • Make lodging reservations 
  • Book airfare
  • Research Transportation (rental car, train, etc.)
  • Begin researching possible tours and activities (some need to be booked well in advance and if you don’t research early you may miss an opportunity)

3 Months Before

  • Double and triple check your passport expiration date and any other documentation you may need
  • Order extra contacts
  • Make a list of any clothing you’ll need to purchase or borrow
  • Make dog/cat boarding reservations or hire pet sitter
  • Hire house sitter
  • Start detailed itinerary (for yourself as well as to send to any family/friends)
  • Book any tour or activity that needs reservations

2 Months Before

  • Confirm all lodging reservations
  • Buy toiletries 
  • Create your “pharmacy bag” 
  • Buy extra pet food
  • Make house key copies for anyone who needs one

1 Month Before

  • Buy children’s shoes.Don’t buy them too early and risk them outgrowing 
  • Have everyone begin wearing their new shoes to break them in
  • Make passport copies. Make at least one set to leave with a trusted friend/family member back home and one set of copies to carry with you.
  • Notify banks if you’ll be out of the country
  • Notify your cell provider if you’ll be out of the country
  • Order foreign currency if needed

2 Weeks Before

  • Print all reservation information (leave a copy at home and take with you)
  • Obtain an international driver’s permit if needed
  • Email itinerary to any family/friends who need it
  • Make sure to fill any prescriptions
  • Set up transportation to the airport
  • Clear phone to free up memory -- either add additional cloud storage; or remove unneeded apps, photos, etc.
  • Download and login to any needed travel apps (airlines, rental cars, lodging, etc.)
  • Start putting travel clothes aside
  • Confirm pet boarding

1 Week Before

  • Give house keys to neighbors, family, etc.
  • Hide house key for emergency
  • Continue putting travel clothes aside
  • Stop mail, newspaper, or confirm that a neighbor will collect it 

2 Days Before

  • Final packing 
  • Pay/schedule bills that you can so you don’t have to worry for the first couple of travel days


1 Day Before

  • Empty fridge (freeze what you can or give to neighbors)
  • Wash, dry, and put away any last minute laundry (you'll be glad this is taken care of)

The Day of Departure

  • Take trash out
  • Turn on lights you are leaving on or set timers if you have smart bulbs
  • Double check your hidden key is in place
  • Strip beds and sprinkle baking soda to air out mattress while you are gone

Go Enjoy Planning Your Vacation!

The above list is just an example of things you may need to take care of before you will leave for your trip. Taking the time to sit down and think out what will need to be on your list well ahead of time will make for a less stressful departure for your vacation!


We learned on our first international vacation with the kids that we want to make sure EVERYTHING is taken care of by the day before we depart.  We had a sick child and ended up having to be at the pediatrician's office first thing the morning we were leaving!  Talk about stressful!  Thank goodness we had everything completed on our list.  

What are we forgetting our this list?  I know it will be different for everyone but I'd love to continue to update it as life happens and we learn more.  So with your suggestions in the comments we can help each other out!


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