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Essential Pre-Travel Checklist

Traveling is one of the many true pleasures of life for those that enjoy it. As the world gets smaller, the need to see it becomes more remarkable, which is lovely in more ways than we can count. The more traveling people do, the more we understand each other, and the better off we are as a species. But we’re beginning to get off track.

You can do your part when traveling by being prepared for any situations that lay ahead. We put together a list of essential things you need to check off your pre-travel list. You can go through them once to get an idea of what you’ll need and bookmark it so you can mark off our checklist as you get ready to go.


Depending on where you head out in the world, you should have all the proper documentation ready and on hand. Between your driver’s license, state ID, and other means required by the government to prove your identity, there are quite a few records you need when traveling to some areas of the world. We cover them all below.

Passport, Visa

passports and visas in a wooden table

Besides your driver’s license, real ID, or state-issued ID, you may have heard of these two pieces of documentation when it comes to travel. A passport is a way for the airline and customs to know which country you are a citizen of, and a visa is written permission to enter, work, live, or leave a country for a specified amount of time.

Some countries list both as a requirement.

Tickets for Airline, Boat, Train, or Bus

Orange and Green Label Airplane Ticket

Without your ticket, you aren’t going anywhere. It’s essential that you not only have your tickets with you when you are heading to the airport, train, or bus terminal, you should have it within your grasp at all times. Even if your tickets are digital, if you can have a paper copy with you, the better off you are. Or have a duplicate digital copy sent to a travel companion.

Copies of Passport, Tickets, Etc.

Xerox photocopy machine in the office.

Like we just said, it’s essential to have copies of these important documents with you. If you don’t want to waste the trees, we suggest taking photos of them with your phone. If you have digital tickets, send the access link to a person traveling with you. Having copies of our ID or passport will come in handy if you lose the actual document while traveling.

Boarding Pass

Airplane made of cinnamon in cappuccino, passports and boarding passes on white background

Due to security measures and airports, you won’t receive the boarding pass for your flight until you get there, which is a good thing because that gives you less time to misplace it. Keep it in your possession at all times, and if you have to put it away, stick it in your wallet or a pocket; it can’t fall out of or be picked.

Driver’s License


As a traveler, you need this if you plan to drive anywhere, and it’s the primary form of identification when moving within the states. When traveling internationally, you will need a Passport, and soon the Real ID will take precedence over the driver’s license.

Health Insurance Card

Medicare Health Insurance Card

While this piece of documentation isn’t required to get from one place to another, it’s vital when you travel in case you become ill or injured. It will be easier to use if your travels are within your own country, but international trips shouldn’t be exempted from this rule.

List of Medications, Letter, Prescriber

Doctor writing prescription

If you must take medications daily, it’s a good idea to create a list and keep it with your important travel documents. You never know what can happen when you are away from home,   and remembering the complicated names of medications should be the least of your worries.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance form with glasses and ballpoint pen.

We’re going to stick with the common knowledge that “stuff happens’ ‘ and say it’s a good idea to get travel insurance. With the pandemic changing travel rules for the unseen future, it’s a good idea to ensure your trip in case something cancels. Carry those papers with you too, in case you need to visit travel clinics.

Student Card

Student ID card.

You would be surprised how many discounts you get when you’re a student. But you need your card to get the deals. Traveling isn’t just getting on the plane and getting there. You’ll be seeing sights, eating at restaurants, visiting museums, and doing things that warrant student discounts.

Travel Aids

Traveling requires some additional supplies that you wouldn’t usually use when staying home. Some of the items on our list are obvious, while others are not. And it’s important to remember that while some people fly places for their vacations, others take the RV and camp out for the weekend. Different types of travel require unique accessories.

Suitcases, Backpack

Weekender and Backpack Set

Available on Etsy


Some travel will require a backpack, other travel will require a suitcase, and for some trips, you’ll need both. When you’re looking for one to meet your needs, consider how much you’ll have to carry this bag around while traveling.


pins marking travel itinerary points on map and passport

People in Australia go on “walkabout,” which is the length of time they spend traveling worldwide. Many times their walkabout lasts a year or longer. When taking a long trip and having many travel plans, create an itinerary and keep it with you.

Maps and Directions

watch and geographical map as element choice directions journey

Once upon a time, there were no GPS systems, and people had to rely on paper maps to get from one place to another. Their system is easy to follow, and they’re an excellent fallback if you ever find your smartphone out of service.

Language Guide

Books with covers in colors of flags of Europe countries, laptop and globe on a table in a modern interior

If you’re traveling somewhere where your native language is foreign to them, it’s a good idea to brush up on common phrases and terms before heading over. Making an effort to learn their language is a sign of respect, and you can download a translator on your phone.

Travel Guide

50 States, 5,000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do

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There are tons of books, guides, websites, and magazines dedicated to the art of traveling. You can find guides before you go and save the ones you like or create your own. Either way, try to find some stuff before you go, so you aren’t wandering around wondering to see.

Travel Pillow, Sleeping Mask, Earplugs

Inflatable Travel Neck Pillow Ear Plug & Sleep Mask Set

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When traveling in a public way, like an airplane, bus, or train, you have to consider that there will be people around you. The earplugs will tune out any surrounding noise if you’re traveling alone, and the pillow and mask will aid you if you need to get some sleep.

Travel Locks

munkees 3617 TSA Approved Travel Zipper Padlock with 2 keys

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You never know when a thief is going to strike. When you can’t be near your bags or have them somewhere safe, like a hotel room or the trunk of your car, then it’s a good idea to keep them locked. A thief will choose an unlocked bag over a locked one any day.

Luggage Tags

Memphis Luggage Tag - Textual Art

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Sometimes your luggage goes missing because the airline lost it in transit. That’s why it’s a great idea to keep tags on your luggage. That way, when it’s recovered, you’ll be more likely to get your bags back than if they were left without identification.

Pens and Paper

Slim Metal Pen Minimalistic pen

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You might need to take notes. You may get bored while waiting for takeoff and decide to draw a picture or write a story. There are more reasons why having a pen and paper on hand is helpful when traveling; we don’t have enough room to list them here.

Snacks, Drinks

Snackeez Travel Snack & Drink Cup with Straw, Pink

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Once you make it through TSA, you can get some water and food at a shop before you board the plane. If you’re traveling any other way, you can pack them with you. Either way, it’s always less expensive to bring snacks instead of buying them there.

Small Pocket Knife (Not in Carry-On!)

Spyderco Grasshopper SS Folding Pocket Knife

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Pocket knives come in handy when you’re camping, which is a form of travel, and why this object made it on our list. As we said in the title, you can take one on other vacations, but you don’t want to put it in your carry-on bag. Pack it or buy one there.

Rope, Expandable Clothesline

100 ft American Made Cotton Rope, Diamond Braid

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These items are a fantastic addition to your checklist if you plan to do some laundry and want to hang your clothes to dry. People who are camping will be more likely to need this than those flying and staying for short periods.


Even if you are the most frugal traveler globally, you need to bring financials with you. That could be a myriad of objects, which we cover below. It’s important to mention that not all monetary systems are alike, so get to know the one used in your destination.

Foreign Currency

foreign currency

In the Philippines, the Philippine peso is the currency. In Italy and Greece, they use the Euro. In the UK, they use the pound sterling. Before you go somewhere, get some of their currency or find out where to make the exchange. Your currency isn’t accepted everywhere.

Emergency Money

Closed red cash tin marked Crisis Fund - Emergency Only

Whether you hide it in your purse, in a separate bank account, or give some to a friend at home that you can quickly contact if you need it wired, make sure you have something aside if things are more expensive than you expect.

Credit Card, Debit Card

Credit cards on world map background

You don’t want to carry all the cash with you when you travel. Money is hard to replace if it’s lost or stolen. Find credit card companies that give miles for your charges, so you can start earning points for your next trip while spending on this one.

Extra Wallet

Personalized Men's Wallet

Available on Etsy


Things get stolen, which is why you need an emergency stash of money and credit card, but you should also carry an extra wallet in case your’s goes missing. Try to spread things out, so if one is lost, you don’t lose everything.

Money Belt

Travel Money Belt with RFID Block

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Get a money belt, which keeps your papers and valuable items closer to you and challenging to pick. They are relatively inexpensive and are perfect when you plan on being in crowded touristy areas.


Comfort and convenience are a way of life now, and that shouldn’t have to change just because you’re traveling light or sleeping in a tent. Certain appliances are easy to bring along, and some don’t take up much space.

Cellphone, Charger

Cellphone Getting Charged from Power Bank

This may seem like a waste of space and words because it seems like everyone is permanently attached to their phone these days. Forgetting the charger could prove to be a nightmare, if not a headache at the very least.

Photo Camera, Memory Card, Charger

Flat lay photographer work desk

For those photo traditionalists out there who still carry a camera besides the one that comes with their smartphone, be sure to remember that camera, the memory cards you plan to bring, and the charger for in-between shoot charges.

Laptop, iPad, or Tablet

Black and Silver Laptop Computer

Whether you like to work while traveling, move around the country for your job, or just want to have your devices with you wherever you go, these are items that you’ll find on most checklists. Don’t forget to pack your gadgets and their chargers!

Travel Iron

Rowenta XCel Compact 1100 Garment Steamer

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If wrinkles in your clothing are unacceptable and you aren’t staying somewhere that supplies an iron, a travel version is a great alternative. If you find that a travel iron is too big, some sprays help you pull out wrinkles from some fabrics.


Groomsman Gift, Personalized Ultraviolet (UV) LED Flashlight

Available on Etsy


There’s a flashlight on most phones, but we need something more durable and rugged in some travel situations. If you’re going hiking or on a spiritual journey out in the wilderness, be sure to pack a good flashlight with your other emergency equipment.


Headphones isolated on white

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Here we have an accessory that is a must whether you’re traveling alone or with a group. Sometimes you need privacy, and the best way to do that in a crowd is by putting your headphones in and ignoring everything else around you.


When we travel, we have to take our medicine cabinets with us. That doesn’t mean you need a whole suitcase for every remedy in the book. Still, if you are a regular user of antacids or you need a painkiller after a long day of hiking and yoga, add the following items to your checklist of pre-travel necessities.

Medications, Pain Relievers

Seattle, WA USA - circa May 2021: Angled view of a pain reliever display in the pharmacy area of a QFC grocery store.

As we’ve already mentioned, it’s nice to have a pain reliever once in a while when it comes to strenuous activities. Or maybe you have a chronic disease that is fine to travel with as long as you bring your daily medications. Make sure your pharmacy comes with you.

First Aid Kit

Military First Aid Kit

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When going hiking or other risky adventures, you want to have a first aid kit on hand. Even if you’re just hanging out in an RV by the river for the weekend, you need the basics like bandages and antibacterial ointment.

Insect Repellent

Repel 94109 HG-94109 Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect

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This item is explicitly reserved for those who are camping or staying in the woods somewhere. While campfires keep bugs away, we can’t keep those burning forever, which is why repellents are helpful in these situations.

Hand Sanitizer, Disinfectant

Mini Hand Sanitizer Label

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In this pandemic world, you must remember the importance of keeping your hands and surfaces clean of germs. You can do this with hand sanitizer and surface disinfectants. There are organic options for these products if you prefer.

General Items

While we think we covered everything, there are always those items that fall somewhere in between, which is why we put all of them together under this general category. When traveling, there are items you don’t realize you need until you’re already there. We are hoping to help you avoid leaving something behind.


Open traveler's bag with clothing, accessories on wooden floor.

You may think this goes without saying, but we aren’t saying you’d forget to pack your favorite outfits. We’re suggesting you research the type of clothes you’ll need on this trip. Is it going to be hot? Cold? Somewhere in between? Whatever the weather, you want to be prepared.


Hotel Size Toiletries Travel Accessories

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Toiletries have different meanings depending on the type of trip you’re taking. A vacation in Paris would require shampoo and hair styling products, while a camping trip would also require toilet paper and hand soap. Know what you need and pack accordingly.

Books, eBooks, Magazines

e-book reader on a stack of books on rustic wooden table concept

When traveling, there is always time to read. Whether it’s at the airport or when you’re sitting in a hammock next to a picturesque lake, reading means relaxation to many of us, which is why you can’t forget to pack your favorite material for a mental escape.


Traveling is fun and can be even more enjoyable when we’re prepared for the unexpected. We hope this checklist helps you prepare for your next great adventure so you can have more amazing experiences than ever.

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