Packed suitcases, trip planning checklist, vacation countdown

ULTIMATE Vacation Countdown Checklist for the Forgetful!

Looking for a simple but thorough checklist for vacation? This ULTIMATE vacation countdown checklist will get you out the door and on your way, confident you remembered it all!

We all fear THAT moment. Your heart freezes, panic-stricken because you forgot your wallet at home. Or to water your beloved plants. All that hard work planning the best trip ever … and now the plants will die.

Here’s help! This trip countdown checklist includes things to do 3 months before you leave, 1 month before, 1 week before, 1 day before, and the morning before you walk out the door. It also includes things to prepare for long trips.

Here we pull in all the loose threads and tie them up in a tidy little bow.

Travel planning process infographic
You’re gonna want to save me.

Your ULTIMATE Vacation Countdown Checklist

So, what are all those things you need to do before you leave on your trip? The ultimate vacation countdown checklist is broken down into the following timelines:

Vacation Checklist for 3 MONTHS Before You Leave

This ultimate vacation countdown checklist starts 3 months before you leave on your trip. If you’re closer than that, just hop right in and keep going!

When is the best time to start preparing for your trip? I argue about 3 months. This gives you time to sort out things like travel visas, pet and child care, and finding the perfect replacement swimsuit.

There are plenty of things to do closer to your trip, especially if you’re working full-time or have little ones. So, get what you can out of the way. The result is a less-stressed, more excited you.

Now, at this point, you already started planning your vacation by defining the experience you want. And, you built your travel itinerary and booked the key pieces.

This checklist for vacation puts the final pieces in your trip planning puzzle.

Trip planning template samplesGet your free checklist for vacation printable! This 6-page fillable PDF walks you through the entire trip planning process.

Identification and destination requirements:

  • Check expiration dates for your passport, driver’s license and credit/debit cards.  Renew anything that expires before you return from your trip.
  • Apply for a travel visa, if necessary. Start your investigation at your government’s website. Search “traveling abroad” and you should find information on whether you need a travel visa for your destination and how to get one. You may need to (securely) mail in your passport, so get on this soon. Generally, getting a travel visa can take from two weeks to two months.
  • Check for vaccinations required at your destination. Some vaccinations must be given in a specific timing sequence to be effective, and sometimes before being exposed. And some countries require proof of vaccination before they’ll let you in. Give yourself time to sort this out.
  • Book a car rental at your destination if you’ll need one.
  • Get an international driver’s license, if necessary.

Thinking about driving on the opposite side of the road? Check out these tips for driving left side.

Kids and pets:

  • Arrange for babysitters and/or pet boarding, either back at home or at your destination. For example: If you’re going on a Disney Cruise to the Eastern Caribbean, you can reserve spots in the nursery and kids club about three months before your sail date.
  • Find an emergency contact who can pick up your child or pet, if necessary.

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Vacation Checklist for 1 MONTH Before You Leave

Closet of clothes, vacation countdown checklist
Do a quick inventory of travel essentials. Photo credit: Burgess Milner from Unsplash.

The last month before your vacation will be busy. If you can check off some of these things sooner, do!

One month before you leave, your vacation countdown checklist should cover three main things:

  • Booking any final activities and hotels you’ve been meaning to book since building your travel itinerary.
  • Doing a quick inventory of everything you need for your trip. This gives you a few weeks to replace whatever you need to, before you start packing.
  • Getting your travel documents together.


Final bookings for your trip:

  • Book any remaining hotels and activities you’ve been meaning to book.
  • Book car parking at the airport, if this is how you’ll get to the airport.
  • Book the airport shuttle at your destination hotel, if you plan to use it.

Electronics inventory check:

  • Check outlet plugs at your destination and buy any adaptors you need.
  • Check your camera cords, memory cards, batteries and chargers. Clear memory cards, charge batteries, and replace anything you need.
  • If this is a road trip, get a GPS (either buy one or include it with your car rental) and a current map of your destination. I recommend a GPS over your phone if you’re worried about data being eaten up, battery draining quickly, or losing data connection (i.e. in rural, remote areas). Check Amazon for the best reviews and prices.
  • Start building your trip soundtrack and download any podcasts, shows and movies you might want.

Pre-packing inventory check:

  • Check your luggage to make sure it’s still in good shape.
  • Scan your wardrobe for anything you may need to replace, and especially things you haven’t used in a while. Like a sunhat, swimsuit, rain jacket, flip-flops, water shoes, hiking shoes.
  • Check toiletries for any liquids and gels you need in travel size. Also check for anything you need to replace, like sunscreen, bug spray, first aid supplies, lip balm, contact lenses and solution.

Safety and security arrangements before your trip:

  • Arrange for someone to check on your house and pick up your mail while you’re away. (Look into your property insurance to make sure you follow their requirements. You may not need physical checks if you turn off your water.)
  • If you’re going on a road trip, check any car maintenance that should be done before you go. This includes replacing windshield wipers and broken lights, getting winter tires on, oil changes, interior cleaning, etc.

Travel documents to prepare for your trip:

  • Scan or take a picture of your identification (passport, driver’s license, travel credit cards).
  • Create an online folder you can access from all your devices to store electronic copies of your vacation documents. Include documents like your identification, all booking confirmations, and travel insurance. Your travel itinerary, including your map and calendar with details of flights, hotels and activities. Child care and pet boarding details, and emergency contact information. I use for this, which is an encrypted storage website. Share the folder link with your emergency contacts.
  • Print two paper copies of your critical vacation documents. Save one copy for your carry-on and give the second to your emergency contact.

Vacation Checklist for 1 WEEK Before You Leave

Travel destination currency on your checklist for vacation
Pick up your destination’s currency. Photo credit: Markus Spiske from Unsplash.

The week before your vacation is about notifications and gearing up for being away. Your checklist for vacation covers things like security, mail and bills. This is also a good time to buy the local currency of your destination.

Pre-trip notifications and drop-offs:

  • Drop off your key with whoever is checking your house while you’re away.
  • Put a hold on mail, packages and newspapers. (It’s still a good idea to have someone check on your place, just in case the hold gets messed up.)
  • Notify your credit card company and bank about your travel destination and dates.
  • Notify your alarm company when you’ll be away.
  • If you have a landlord, tell them when you’ll be away.
  • If you have school-aged kids, notify their teachers of their upcoming absence.

Pre-trip finances:

  • Pre-pay bills that’ll be due while you’re away or soon after you’re back.
  • Buy destination’s local currency. The amount depends on your destination, itinerary and spending plans; I usually do about $500 per week, assuming I use my credit card where possible and can top-up with my debit card at a bank machine.

Household prep:

  • Prioritize eating things that will spoil while you’re away.

Packing prep:

  • Start packing your suitcase with things you won’t need that week, like your swimsuit. Get your kids to help with this kids vacation packing list.
  • Check medications you may need to top up before you go.
  • Check amenities at your hotel, so you know what not to pack (like hairdryer and beach towels).
  • Download movies, music and games to your device.

Checklist of Things To Do the DAY BEFORE Vacation

Packing a suitcase, vacation countdown checklist
Start packing! Photo credit: Brandless from Unsplash.

It’s almost go-time! The day before your vacation, your vacation countdown checklist will include three things:

  • Prepping for your flight or road trip
  • Laundry and packing
  • Getting your house in shape

If your kids or pets are staying behind, you might want to drop them off the day before you leave on vacation. This is especially helpful if you’re leaving early the next day or expect some teary eyes.

Pre-trip prep:

  • Check into your flight.
  • Book your taxi or other transportation to the airport (if not parking there).
  • Check your car’s tire pressure, fuel and other fluid levels.
  • Empty your wallet and purse of anything you won’t need on your trip.
  • Fully charge your electronics.

Packing for your trip:

  • Wash any remaining laundry you want for your trip.
  • Check the weather at your destination. Set out your travel outfit that’ll work for both your departure weather and destination weather.
  • Pack those bags! Everyone has a preferred packing method; mine is rolling to save space and sorting like-items together so it’s easy to live out of my suitcase. tested 5 methods and concluded that the best method is a combination. So there you go! Generally it’s good to pack a variety of tops and bottoms you can change up for a bunch of outfits. Plus, have a few warmer options for early mornings and evenings.
  • Travel documents: put these in a safe, easily accessible pocket in your carry-on. Include your identification and confirmations for airport parking, flights, first hotel, destination shuttle and car rental.
  • Your carry-on: pack your important travel documents, any valuables, an extra change of clothes, medications, sealed snacks, power cords for devices and camera, flight entertainment, and liquids/gels (under 100ml). I keep my liquids/gels together in a ziploc bag, so it’s easy to pull out at Security.
  • Things you might forget to pack: nail clipper; luggage lock; lint roller; extra contact lenses; earplugs; hand sanitizer; ibuprofen; tums; eye mask; travel belt.

Kids and pets:

  • Drop off your pet where they’re boarding. Remember things like collar/leash, bed, food, medicines, treats, toys and instructions.
  • Drop off your kids at their babysitter’s. Remember things like special blankets, pillows, and nighttime toys. Books, sound machines, extra soothers, and treat money.

Household prep:

  • Water those houseplants!
  • Toss anything in your fridge that’ll go bad while you’re away.
  • Clean and tidy your house. Don’t stress yourself by going overboard, but make it welcoming and easy to sit and relax when you get back.

Checklist of Things To Do the DAY OF Your Vacation

Carry on bag, vacation countdown checklist
Photo credit: Andrew Neel from Unsplash

Ooh … SO exciting!! The morning you leave can be the most exciting, but also the most stressful. This vacation checklist for the morning is all about last-minute to-dos.

Last-minute trip prep and packing:

  • Check for any travel warnings or flight delays. Plan to arrive at least 3 hours before international flights and 2 hours before national flights. (I missed a national flight when I arrived 1.5 hours before. If lines look long and you’re unsure if you’ll make it, ask one of the agents floating in the check-in area.)
  • Grab last-minute toiletries. Sort into liquids/gels going in your carry-on and then everything else.
  • Grab your kids’ favorite things, like their favorite bedtime blankie, stuffie, or book.
  • If it’s a road trip, pack your pillows and a few lap blankets.
  • Triple-check you have your phone, wallet, passport, sunglasses and medicines.

Last-minute household prep:

  • Run your dishwasher, at least on rinse. Handwash anything you use last-minute.
  • Tidy up as you finish in rooms.
  • Take out the garbage.

Right before you walk out the door:

  • Turn off your water. (Usually a metal knob on your hot water tank.)
  • Turn down your thermostat and turn off your air conditioner.
  • Turn on light timers and motion detectors. Turn off all other lights.
  • Unplug electronics. I unplug pretty much everything that isn’t a major appliance.
  • Lock windows, close blinds and curtains, and close doors.
  • Lock the doors.

Aaaand … you’re out!

Checklist of Things To Do for LONGER TRIPS

If you’re leaving for longer than a typical two-weekish trip, then consider adding these adjustments to your vacation countdown checklist. These include:

  • Investigate getting a travel-friendly credit card and debit card that don’t have international transaction fees.
  • Automate all of your bills.
  • Definitely arrange for someone to look in on your house often, but at irregular days and times. I also suggest contacting your property insurance company to make sure you know their requirements for long-term absences.
  • If you have school-aged kids, plan how you’ll keep them caught up on schoolwork.

Did I forget something on your checklist for vacation? Please share below!

Trip planning template samplesGet your free checklist for vacation printable! This 6-page fillable PDF walks you through the entire trip planning process.

Summary and Resources

A helpful vacation countdown checklist is both simple and thorough. One way that makes it simpler is to break tasks down by timing. I hope this works for you, too!

Now, if you’re still pulling together your travel plans, you might find these posts helpful:

My favorite resources for your vacation countdown checklist:

  • Booking final pieces: I generally prefer to book hotels with and activities with But, don’t forget to check out and You might just snag some pretty great finds.
  • Replacing electronics, luggage and wardrobe needs: There are few places that can beat the inventory and home delivery convenience of But obviously go where you’re happy!
  • Online storage of travel documents: My favorite spot is an encrypted site like You can share the folder link with your emergency contact. Just don’t lose that password! Since it’s encrypted, there’s no way to retrieve documents without that password. I use Gmail and Google Docs as a backup for everything except my identification.
  • How to pack your suitcase: My favorite organizer is Marie Kondo from Apartment Therapy – she shows how to pack a suitcase in this video. Plus, here’s her super-short video on adapting this when packing for a family.

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