in: Featured, Leisure, Living

• Last updated: September 25, 2021

39 Things to Do Before Leaving on Vacation: A Handy Dandy Checklist

Vintage 1950s travel family.

As I’m writing this, the McKay family is about to head off for our annual family vacation.

There’s a surprising number of to-dos that need to be crossed off before heading out for any trip, and prior to every vacation, I generate the same mental checklist of things that need to be taken care of. But every single time, I procrastinate, try to cram too many tasks into the morning of our trip, and end up forgetting things to do and items to pack.

So taking a lesson from the post I wrote on the power of checklists, I finally decided to create a pre-travel checklist to get all my ducks in a row.

I figured others might find it helpful to either copy or remix it for their own travel use. I hope you find it useful and please add your own suggestions in the comments!

Leaving for Vacation Checklist

A Week to 48 Hours Before:

  • Put a hold on the delivery of your mail, or ask someone to collect it for you (same goes for any packages that might be coming your way)
  • Put a hold on the delivery of your newspapers
  • Arrange pet sitter or kennel stay
  • Pay bills
  • Check toiletry/gear/clothes supply — buy new items as needed
  • Load up on reading material — buy magazines and books, check out books from library, download books on Kindle/iPad
  • Order and pick-up a refill on your medication if it’ll run out while you’re on your trip
  • Let friends and family know about travel itinerary
  • Arrange for a ride to the airport, or reserve a parking spot (if your airport is big enough for that to be needed — not the case here in Tulsa!)

The Day Before:

  • Throw away perishable food items from fridge, as well as any fruit/veggies that might go bad while you’re away
  • Notify alarm company that you’ll be away
  • Get all laundry done (including bed sheets — nothing better than coming home to fresh sheets!)
  • Check-in for flight online and print off boarding passes
  • Print off driving directions (yeah, you can look these up on your phone, but there are plenty of times when your digital map of choice doesn’t work properly)
  • Write down/print off destination addresses
  • Check weather of destination
  • Confirm hotel reservations
  • Confirm rental car reservations
  • Program phone numbers you’ll need into phone
  • Download apps, music, and movies/shows for yourself and the kids
  • Set up email away message
  • Fully charge phone/tablet/laptop
  • Withdraw cash and change it for single dollar bills in case you need to tip shuttle drivers, skycaps, hotel valets, etc.
  • Call bank to let them know you’re traveling
  • Run the dishwasher
  • Pack everything (minus what you’ll be using on travel day) in your suitcase and carry-on bag

Morning of Departure:

Note: If you have a very early flight, some of these things should be done the night before. Just grab a protein bar and head out the door.

  • Pack dopp kit after getting ready for the day
  • Make sure all doors and windows are shut and locked
  • Make sure the garbage disposable is clear of food scraps
  • Take out last bag of trash to garbage can
  • Wash any dishes you used for breakfast by hand and put away (really, protein bars are the way to go)
  • Turn off lights and turn on timer for lights
  • Unplug electronics
  • Water house plants
  • Set thermostat for away temperature (upper 70s in summer, upper 50s in winter — the rule of thumb is 4 degrees off of what your normal temperature is)
  • Close blinds and curtains
  • Double-check bags/clothing for loose ammunition
  • Be sure your EDC is TSA compliant; pack into suitcase the forbidden items that you normally carry on your person (pocket knife, gun, etc.)
  • Double check that you have IDs and itinerary packed in carry-on bag

Check for items you often use right up until leaving, and end up forgetting:

  • Medicine
  • Sunglasses
  • Wallet
  • Phone

Suggested Packing Checklists

Dopp Kit:

  • Travel bottle of shampoo
  • Bar of your favorite soap
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
  • Shaving supplies: razor, brush, and cream
  • Nail clippers
  • Lip balm
  • Band aids
  • Safety pins
  • Aspirin or Tylenol
  • Lint roller
  • $20 bill
  • Extra pair of contact lenses
  • Cologne
  • Medications


  • Itinerary
  • Smartphone power cords and adapter
  • Paperback book/magazines
  • Tablet/laptop and power cords
  • Paper copy of driving directions
  • A change of clean underwear
  • Pens/pencils
  • Notebooks
  • Headphones
  • Snacks

Baby/Toddler Bag:

  • Diapers
  • Diaper disposal bags
  • Wipes
  • Snacks
  • Books (way, way more than you might think you’ll need — they’ll go through ‘em quick)
  • Small toys
  • Bottle/cup with built-in straw (sucking will help pop their ears)
  • Benadryl and/or Tylenol (see here for proper dosing)
  • Toddler headphones
  • Tablet with downloaded movies/shows

For more tips on traveling with babies and toddlers, check out this post.

Click here to download a PDF of these checklists.

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