Preparing for a big trip is a long process that starts with dreaming and ends the minute you get on the plane — after all, there’s not much more you can do once those doors shut. Choosing destinations, marking out a route, buying various tickets all play a part, but it’s in the last couple of weeks that everything starts to get crazy. There’s so much to do, to get, to get rid of and to organise. So how do you prepare to travel?

To listen, hit play below or find episode 205 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

Things to do

Hopefully by this point, a couple of weeks out, you’ve already been to the travel doctor and got the vaccinations you need. If not, now’s the time. It’s also a good idea to do the rounds of various doctors — dentist, optometrist, GP — to check that everything’s okay and to get prescriptions to take with you. Do a last-minute check of your visa situation to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

  • Doctor
  • Optometrist, specialists
  • Passport validity
  • Visas

Things to get

Once you’ve visited the doctor’s, head to the pharmacy to pick up the drugs you need — prescription medicine as well as top-ups for your first-aid kit. Plus you might need to get new contact lenses or travel-sized bottles of toiletries like shampoo, contact lens solution and sunscreen. Also, don’t forget insurance if you haven’t got it already.

  • Pharmacy
  • Toiletries
  • Travel insurance
Small toiletries in a plastic bag for flights.
Remember to pack toiletries into a plastic bag if flying.

Things to get rid of

It’s generally better to get rid of as much stuff as possible before heading off on a long trip. We have a cupboard at my mum’s house, and the rule is that we don’t keep any more than what can fit inside (and to tell you the truth, there’s still a fair bit of crap in it).

This means selling the car and a couple of other bits and pieces, returning books to the library and to friends I’ve borrowed them off, a trip to the charity shop … and, of course, a rather full rubbish bin. It’s worth doing one run-through of your stuff a week or two before the trip as well as the final purge before you leave — otherwise the bin might not be able to handle it.

  • Sell things
  • Donate things
  • Bin things
  • Pack lighter and do it all again
Clothes on bed
It might be helpful to lay out everything you plan to pack before starting to put them in your bag.

Things to organise

And finally, there’s all the things to organise. You have to spend a bit of time on banking — getting travel money and ATM cards, as well as cancelling automatic payments and rearranging funds. You have to make sure you have accommodation sorted in your first destination, and you have to sort out a goodbye party and spend some last quality time with friends and family. And finally you have to work out how to get all the things you’ve decided to take into your bag!

  • Call bank
  • Exchange currency or check options on arrival
  • Cancel APs
  • Book the first hostel
  • Party! Friends won’t be seeing you for a while
Buelow residenz hotel, Dresden
It’s worth booking your first night’s accommodation.

The last couple of weeks before a long trip can be crazy — full of last-minute tasks and purchases. But it’s all worth it, as you’ll realise when those plane doors open somewhere new and your adventure begins. Check out our day-before-you-travel checklist and our what clothes to pack podcast!

What else do you do when you’re getting ready to leave? Add it in the comments below, and we’ll add it into this checklist.

To listen, hit play above or check in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

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