Tips for Preparing and Packing for Your Next Trip

Having a good packing list is important. So is preparing your home, your tech, and your documents for your departure. Download and customize our checklists to help you do both.

It can be challenging to plan for an extended overseas trip.  You need to ensure that you've prepared your home for your departure and that you pack what you need (but not too much).

Here's our take on the process. You can download a more detailed version to customize, with a timeline for completing each task, as a MS Word Document, or as a PDF.  

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Planning for Your Time Away

Before packing your bags, take a mental inventory of what needs to be done while you're away. The earlier you can do this, the better, because you may need other people to help you, like pet sitters, lawn care services and others.

Preparing Your Home

  • Mail stop or forwarding: The mail forwarding option you select will be based upon the duration of your trip. USPS allows a one-month vacation stop. For longer trips, you can forward your mail to another location for up to six months. That can be family or friends, or a commercial mailbox service that can send you scans of your mail. We like this company for longer-term and repeat travels, but many others are available.
  • House and Lawn Maintenance: Determine what needs to be addressed while you're away, inside and outside. Examples: lawn and other landscaping, watering plants, feeding fish or other small pets.
  • Video Surveillance Cameras or Alarms:  One lower cost solution is this company, with HD surveillance cameras and app-based monitoring.  
  • Vehicles: Identify where your vehicle(s) can be kept securely. Decide if there's anyone you'd like to have start the car from time to time. Determine if you need to leave the keys with anyone in case vehicle(s) need to be moved.
  • Timers for lights:  Many digital options are available to give your home a lived in look.
  • Thermostat: Set your thermostat for efficiency and to keep your home from freezing or getting too hot.  
  • Pets: Identify who will take care of your pets.
  • Phone forwarding: Don't assume that your phone will work in another country. If you have a home phone, determine whether you need to forward it to your cell phone or another number. Consider getting Google Voice, forwarding your number to it, and installing the app on your phone. We use Google FI as our cell phone provider since it can provide service overseas for short periods of time. (See more on Cell Phone, below).

Preparing for Travel

  • Passport and Visa: Ensure your passport expiration date is valid for at least six months after your return date. DO THIS EARLY IN YOUR PLANNING. It often takes months to get a new passport. Obtain any necessary visas for your destination(s) and make copies of these documents.
  • Travel Insurance and Medical Contingency Planning: Consider travel insurance or group memberships that cover medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost belongings. We get great peace of mind by purchasing a subscription to MedJet.
  • Itinerary and Reservations: Confirm flights, hotel, and transportation reservations.  
  • Vaccinations and Health Preparations: Check if any vaccinations or health precautions are required or recommended for your destination. Make sure you have an adequate supply of prescription medications and copies of prescriptions.
  • Money and Finances: Notify your bank or credit card of your travel plans to prevent any issues with your credit/debit cards. Determine what credit cards you will use. Obtaining a credit card with benefits specific for travelers may be a good idea. Be sure you know the PIN for all cards so you can obtain cash at an ATM when needed. Obtain sufficient local currency and U.S. dollars or euros for emergencies. 
  • Electronics and Communication: Charge all of your devices and pack chargers, power banks, and travel adapters. Load devices with content, such as books, movies or games.
  • Cell Phone: Set up an international data plan for your US phone or purchase a SIM card for your phone that will work in your destinations. Check if your cell phone is unlocked and allows you to use a new SIM. Make sure the SIM will work in your travel destinations.
  • Travel Documents: Make photocopies or use your cell phone to capture photos of important documents (passport, visa, travel insurance, itinerary).
  • Global Entry: Getting Global Entry can speed your trip through security when leaving, and through immigration when returning. It can take a while to get approved—a recent estimate is up to 11 months.
  • Auto Rental Preparation: Make photos or copies of your auto insurance card, bring your International Driver’s license (if required at your destination), and credit card benefits booklet that details your car rental coverages.


Packing List


  • Lightweight clothing suitable for the climate
  • Comfortable walking shoes and sandals
  • Swimwear, if applicable
  • A jacket or sweater for cooler evenings
  • A formal or dressy outfit for special occasions
  • Undergarments and socks
  • Pajamas or sleepwear
  • Hats for blocking sun or for colder climates
  • Laundry bag and detergent packets for washing clothes
  • Use packing cubes for organizing clothing

Tips: Pack clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits. Neutral colors and simple styles often work best for this purpose. Choose lightweight, breathable fabrics that can be layered to adapt to different weather conditions. This reduces the need for bulky clothing items. Rolling your clothes instead of folding them can save space and reduce wrinkles.

Shoes are heavy and take up a lot of space. Try to limit yourself to a maximum of three pairs or less: one for walking, one for more formal occasions, and one for activities like hiking or sports.

Packing cubes help keep your belongings organized and compact. They also make it easier to find what you need without unpacking everything.

If your trip is long, plan for laundry days at your destination, and bring soap pods. Many accommodations have laundry facilities or have laundry services nearby. Washing once a week means that you only need about a weeks’ worth of clothing.

If you're bringing bulky items like a heavy jacket or boots, wear them during your travel days to save space in your luggage.

Toiletries and Personal Care

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss
  • Shampoo, conditioner, and soap
  • Razor and shaving cream
  • Deodorant
  • Hairbrush/comb and hair ties
  • Glasses/contact lenses and solutions
  • Sunglasses
  • Over the counter medicines
  • Prescriptions
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent

Tips: Use travel-sized toiletries or transfer your favorite products into smaller containers. If you forget anything, you can often get it at your accommodation or purchase it at your destination.

 Traveler Supplies

  • Luggage and carry on travel backpack
  • Smaller daypack for carrying essentials at your destination
  • Noise canceling headphones or bluetooth speaker
  • First-aid items or small first aid kit
  • Laundry detergent pods
  • Small travel umbrella or rain poncho
  • Earplugs and a sleep mask for better rest
  • Snacks for flight
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Small travel sewing kit


Electronics and Entertainment

  • Smartphone and charger/cable
  • Tablet or laptop, and chargers and cables. Don’t’ forget to download entertainment to view on
    your flights, such as movies or games
  • Camera and accessories, including cables and charger
  • Binoculars
  • E-book reader or physical books
  • Headphones or earpods
  • Foreign plug adapters and power strip with USB ports
  • Apple Air tags for your luggage may be a good idea



  • Items for activities specific to your trip, such as hiking gear or specialized equipment.


  • Travel wallet or pouch for documents and money
  • Maps, guidebooks, and language translation apps
  • Travel lock for your luggage and/or Airtags
  • Travel-sized reusable shopping bag
  • Travel guidebooks
  • Travel-sized umbrella
  • Utility knife (Leatherman style) (only for checked bags-this will be confiscated if in a carry-on)
  • Notebook or pad and pens
  • Small backpack or daypack for excursions
  • Ziploc gallon resealable bags for organizing items (like electronics)
  • Wine bags (plastic) to safely store wine/liquor bottles in your luggage
  • Walking sticks for longer walks/hikes


Tips: If you plan to buy souvenirs, leave some space in your luggage or consider mailing them back home. Before your trip, go through your packed items and remove anything you're unsure you'll need. Be ruthless about leaving unnecessary items behind. Also, be sure to include any unique items for activities specific to your trip, such as hiking gear, scuba gear, etc.

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Helping you thrive in your 50s and beyond. Advice, tools, and inspiration for navigating midlife and post-work life (with just a tiny bit of travel thrown in).