I've travelled to 25 countries, and here's my checklist for exactly what to do weeks, days, and hours before an international trip

Marco Secchi/Getty ImagesBefore you can enjoy your vacation abroad, you’ll need to follow these steps.
  • Summer travel may be relaxing, but the two weeks before an international trip can often be a stressful ordeal.
  • We’ve laid out the most important things to do in the weeks, days, and hours before your big trip.
  • They include confirming your reservations, buying an international adaptor, and setting up an out-of-office email.

You’ve booked your flight, acquired your visa, and made your reservations.

Congrats! Your international vacation is right around the corner.

Your hard work is likely just beginning, however. The two weeks before a big trip can often be a stressful ordeal, between packing, researching your destination, and scrambling for last-minute items.

I’ve travelled to more than two dozen countries and know just how agonizing those final two weeks before a trip can be. That’s why I’ve developed a checklist that reminds me of all the little things I need to accomplish, like confirming my reservations ahead of time, setting up an out-of-office email, and alerting my bank of my travels.

Here’s what you need to do to prepare for your big vacation abroad, from two weeks out to the final hour.

Two weeks before your trip

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Focus on confirming your bookings and taking inventory of your supplies.

Confirm your reservations

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Two weeks before I leave for an international vacation, I like to confirm my reservations for my flights, hotels, transportation, and any activities I have planned at my destination. It will give you peace of mind to know the logistics of your trip are set and all you need to do is get there.

Decide what you’ll do with your phone

isla_yelo/Flickr (CC)If you don’t want to deal with international SIM cards, you may want to buy a phone like this.

It’s likely that wherever you travel abroad, you won’t be able to use your US phone without running up a hefty tab. If you’re fine with going your entire vacation without making a phone call or using data, go ahead and set your phone to aeroplane mode and forget about it. But if you anticipate needing to be in touch with people, consider buying a local SIM card for your phone, or purchasing a cheap prepaid phone once you get there.

Shop for any international essentials

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Two weeks ahead of a trip is when I take inventory of the things I only use when I go abroad. Make sure you have the proper adapters or converters for your electronics – you won’t want to realise you can’t charge anything after you arrive. If you need a new backpack for day trips, now’s a good time to buy one. The same goes for passport cases, phone wallets, luggage locks, travel-size toiletries, and anything else most people don’t think of outside the context of a vacation.

One week before your trip

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Focus on household matters and logistics.

Get your household affairs in order

One week ahead of a trip is when you should be making sure your home won’t fall apart in your absence. Ask a friend or neighbour if they can feed your pets, water your plants, or collect your mail while you’re away. Pre-pay any looming bills that will be due during your vacation. Take note of any expiring food in your fridge and plan to use it before you go.

Make copies of important documents

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You’ll want photocopies of your passport, any visas you’ll need, insurance information, and your itinerary. Take care of those ahead of time so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Learn some phrases in the local language


Travelling is often more rewarding, and a lot less stressful, when you can communicate in the local language. It’s great if you’re already fluent, but if you’re not, it will at least help to learn some essential basic phrases in your target language, like greetings, how to ask for directions, and how to call for help.

One day before your trip

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Pack, focus on your finances, and remind people you’ll be away.


With one day to go before your international trip, it’s finally time to pack your suitcase. Some people prefer to pack days or even weeks ahead of their trip, so do what makes you feel most comfortable. If you do wait until the final day to pack, do it in the daytime, so you’ll still have time to run out to the store for last-minute supplies.

Charge your devices


Leave your phone, laptop, Kindle, and any other devices you plan to bring with you charging overnight.

Alert your bank of your travels

Thomas Cooper/Getty Images

One thing travellers often forget to do is alert their bank that they’re travelling. If you don’t, you risk having your card blocked when you try to use it abroad. Nowadays, most banks allow you to notify them online by filling out a simple form.

Take out cash

Getty/Kevork Djansezian

On that note, it’s not a bad idea to withdraw some cash for your trip. Even if you can’t use US dollars where you’re travelling, it’s worth having if you need to exchange money in an emergency.

Remind your coworkers you’re going on vacation

No one wants to get bugged with work problems while they’re on vacation. Remind your coworkers the day before your trip and establish the boundaries of when and how you can be reached, if you want to be reached. Remember to set up an out-of-office email.

One hour before your trip

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Make sure your carry-on is good to go and do a final sweep of your home.

Streamline your carry-on

Jennifer Arnow

In the hour before you leave for the airport, make sure your carry-on has all the essentials you’ll need for your flight, including your passport, medication, a book, electronics, and a pen. It’s also smart to bring a change of clothes, since you never know if your checked luggage will actually arrive on time.

Do a final sweep of your home

Have you unplugged everything that needs unplugging? Have you stored your valuables in a safe place? Have you set up a timed light system? If those things are important to you, now’s the time to do them.

Download apps to help you travel

Flip Currency

This one you can do from the airport gate. Before a big trip, I often like to download apps that will help me navigate the country I’m visiting. For example, if you plan on using public transportation, try to find an app with your destination’s train and bus routes. You may also benefit from a currency conversion app and a bilingual dictionary if you need to look up words on the fly.

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