So you’ve decided to take the leap into international travel and your trip is just around the corner… but now what? The plan is in motion and anticipation sets in. Whether you’re planning to study, volunteer, work, intern, and just embark on a grand adventure abroad, any form of international travel is best planned ahead of time. After all, there are more things to do before traveling than just booking a flight and packing a suitcase. Whether you’re an organization freak or just want to prepare yourself in the best way possible, you need a clear plan with clear steps. A before travel checklist is the way to go.
No idea where to start? Lucky for you, GoAbroad has you covered! Here you’ll find the ultimate international travel checklist, complete with a planning timeline and packing list to make things easy for you. From the essential to-do’s, like picking your program and applying for visas, to finalizing itineraries and saying goodbye to family and friends, our pre-travel checklist will walk you through the six months leading up to your big trip abroad.
It’s baby steps from here on out! Get moving on your to-do list early to eliminate the stress that comes with preparing for overseas travel. If you pace yourself now, you’ll be able to enjoy your trip abroad to the absolute fullest when the time comes!
A timeline of things to do before traveling
From the moment you decide to embark on travel abroad, it’s time to start planning. In fact, it’s never too early—the sooner you start to tick off items on your before travel checklist, the sooner you can relax and have fun!
3-6 months before departure
First things first: You need to pick a program (if you haven’t already). This first step is the most important, as it will determine how you go about planning in the coming months. There are endless opportunities for meaningful travel abroad, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the options, you aren’t alone. But selecting your program is the fun part (think online shopping!), and GoAbroad’s Online Advisor can help. Simply make a profile with your personal details and wildest travel dreams, and we’ll match you up with the best programs to help you reach your goals.
Submit your application several months in advance—the earlier the better—and once accepted, you can start working on the travel logistics. Do you have a valid passport? If you’re an international travel virgin, you’ll need to apply for one right away. Make sure it’s valid for the dates of your trip. Have you booked flights? Are there visa requirements? Give yourself plenty of time for the paperwork. Does your program have additional requirements? Do you need a TEFL certification? What about CPR? Get crackin’ early so you aren’t pressed for time.
You’ll need to sort out your funding at this stage, too. Start budgeting to save for your trip, or look into scholarships and fundraising to cover what you can’t afford. Travel abroad can put a big dent in your bank account, but as long as you have a game plan, the price will be totally worth it.
1-3 months before departure
If you’re planning for an extended time abroad, your international travel checklist should include all of the necessary appointments to make sure you’re in optimum health for travel abroad. Schedule checkups with your dentist, doctor, and any specialists, sort out prescription medication for the length of your trip, and maybe even visit your hair stylist to make sure you’re feeling and looking good before you go!
Your trip preparation checklist isn’t all tedious paperwork in the first several months. Now is the time to spread the word! Tell your family and friends so they can share the excitement with you, let your school or employer know about your plans so they can prepare for your departure, and connect with in-country staff to get more information about your program. Get inspired: do some research on your destination. Read guide books or novels by local authors. Reading ain’t your thing? Check out a documentary or listen to some music to get in touch with the country’s roots. The more you learn, the more real your trip abroad becomes!
One month before departure
Time is flying by! A month may sound like a long time, but you’ll be on that plane in no time. With your departure date quickly approaching, now is the time to hunker down and think about what still needs to be accomplished on your before travel checklist. No more procrastination!
Before you start on your one-month before travel checklist, make sure you’ve checked off any outstanding paperwork for visas and passports. Are your flights booking, programs confirmed, and budget in place? Once this is out of the way, your international travel checklist will help to finalize the fine details. Confirm your travel itinerary and accommodations with your program and lay the groundwork for any personal travel. If you plan to veer away from the group, think about transportation and hostel arrangements.
Next on the trip preparation checklist: start to tie up the loose ends. Buy the essentials from your packing list and say goodbye to friends, family, and your favorite restaurants. You don’t realize it now, but a Chipotle craving is bound to happen while you’re abroad, so eat that burrito and don’t feel bad about splurging on the extra guac!
Need to brush up on those language skills? Buy a pocket dictionary or download Duolingo for your free time to brush up on key phrases and slang of your destination. You’ll want to pat yourself on the back when you can find your way around or have a short conversation with locals without a translator.
Speaking of communication, make a plan with family and friends on how to keep in touch while you’re abroad. You won’t want to be tied to your phone or social media, but it’s a good idea to find an outlet to share your travels with those at home. Ever considered blogging?
Start getting EXCITED! This is the time to celebrate and have fun before your big adventure. Don’t forget to throw yourself a going away party, so all your besties can wish you bon voyage!
One week before
The time has nearly come! At this point, there aren’t too many things to do before traveling. In a perfect world, your before travel checklist should be all checked off. Your passport and visa are ready, itineraries are finalized, necessities have been purchased. If you’ve been on top of your international travel checklist thus far, your last week will be a breeze.
There are just a few things left on your pre-travel checklist during your last week before departure. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to purchase travel insurance. Some programs include this in the program fee, so best to check with them first. If not, get this sorted right away—and no cutting corners with this one! You never know what can happen, and you’ll want the best coverage possible in case of emergency while abroad.
Don’t forget to contact your bank and let them know you’ll be traveling. You don’t want to run into difficulties with credit or debit cards while you’re overseas. Enquire about travel cards, or think about exchanging currencies so you have cash for your first week or two after arrival.
And last, but not least, pack those bags! Make sure you keep two copies of all travel documents and IDs in your carry-on, along with some clean underwear and a toothbrush. As for the rest, your program should provide you with some must-haves before you set off on your trip abroad.
Download our travel checklist PDF!
Are you ready to take the plunge into international travel? If you’re committed to meaningful travel abroad, it’s time to get the ball rolling on the prep work. Download GoAbroad’s ultimate pre-travel checklist PDF to get organized for your trip abroad. Straightforward and simple, our international travel checklist will make your life a million times easier while preparing for travel!
Not only do you get the essential international travel checklist, but GoAbroad has thrown in a bonus packing list. Whether you’re going for a week or a year, you’ll have the essentials covered. In addition to comfy clothes, don’t forget a few key items:
- Your passport!
- Cash and debit card on hand
- Travel-sized toiletries
- Any medications or vitamins you need
- Sunscreen and bug spray
- Headphones, chargers, and adaptors
- Earplugs and eye mask
- A good book and journal
- Walking shoes and flip flops
- Emergency contacts for your program staff
- Extra underwear—remember, you can never have too many undies!
Your daypack should carry all the essentials: ALL paperwork, toothbrush and deodorant for those journeys that turn into days on end without a shower, something cozy to snuggle on the plane, snacks, and anything else to make your trip more enjoyable.
Remember to pack light! It can be easy to over-pack, especially when preparing for an extended overseas trip. Less is more when packing for your trip abroad. Whether you’re packing for a short-term volunteer stint or a year working overseas, the strategy is the same. Stick with clothing that can be layered or hand washed, and leave heavy books, high heels, hair dryers, and random accessories at home. You’ll be able to buy any clothes you need and most toiletries upon arrival, and that extra suitcase room will come in handy later for souvenirs.
You’re ready to get those travel plans rolling
That wasn’t too bad now, was it? Now for the fun part: stop daydreaming and put those travel plans into motion. With the right preparation, you’ll be ready for every excitement and challenge that comes with travel abroad. Throw your stresses behind you and dive headfirst into the trip of a lifetime. Adventure awaits!