Pre-Departure Planning to Make Travel Easy and FUN

Pre-Departure Check Lists

You may or not be a “list” person. I am not…I keep everything in my head, which then gets jumbled. I don’t forget things but it certainly keeps me up at night wondering if I did.

Sharkman, however, is a list guy and it saves us every time!!! A pre-departure checklist is the BEST way to ensure no one forgot to take the dogs to the neighbors and the kids to the kennel….oh wait..strike that…reverse it! You never forget to turn down the heat or turn up the AC or pick up your prescription before you go.

But BEST of all it ensures that the stress level is kept at the bottom of the meter and that you are not pulling an all-nighter before you leave.

When I took my Open Water Diving Certification (back before electricity) we learned about dive trip planning. We made a list of what to do 6 months, 3 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days before a trip. I love this method of planning because it keeps you excited about the upcoming adventure and keeps you organized. For example, this weekend I am traveling to Seattle to do some dry suit training. Why? Because I plan to dive in Antarctica in two years so I need to get certified AND get a bunch of dives under my belt. SO..even though I’m not going for two years, I’m already EXCITED about it!!!

If, for instance, you take medication, put it on the list to do TWO WEEKS before departure. Then it’s right there and ready to go. What if you waited till the last day? And then found out you were out of refills…and it’s your doctor’s day for golf?…STRESS!!!

As a worldwide tour director for over 15 years, I can’t even count the number of people who showed up in some developing country and said, “Oh, by the way, can you help me fill this prescription…for my heart medication? Didn’t have time before I left home.” You’ve got to be kidding !!

Ok, back to pre-departure lists. Keep a running list on your computer in a word processing document. This way you can print it out as many times as you want, you never lose it and when you think of something to add, you just open the file and add. Now that it’s done, it is there year after year, trip after trip. Some things may not apply to every trip but it’s all there in black and white, so you won’t forget anything!

Here are some examples of things on my list….

6 Months out:

*Complete any training needed (dive certifications etc…)

*Have flights purchased and Hotels booked

*Check expiration date on Passport and add pages if needed (a common occurrence!)

*Have any necessary travel visas or inoculations complete

*Research a particular activity you will do like a shark dive or zip lining. Allow yourself some time to get excited about it, learn something new about it and connect with others who have done it. Go to the library and check out books on the destination, even novels based there. It’s fun!

1 Month Out:

Purchase any Diving or Climbing gear needed

*Make arrangements for overnights

*Make arrangements for storing vehicle

*Have a “destination night” If you are going to Mexico, go out for Mexican food, see a film made in Mexico and drink a margarita. Talk about the upcoming trip

4 Days Out:

*Complete all purchases such as Sunscreen and flip flops (if it’s winter in Montana you’ll need to be sure you have this stuff back in the summer!)

*Pull out all dive gear and pack dive bag

*Complete laundry so it’s ready to go on packing day.

*Arrange to have mail service held

Reward yourself for being organized- go for a ski!

Treat yourself to some pampering. Have a pre-trip massage to put yourself in the mood. Take some time for a fun activity to reward yourself for being organized!

2 Days Out:

And here is THE most important tip:

Complete ALL packing and arrangements MINIMUM 24 hours in advance of departure. The stress of last minute packing/washing/searching for the right pair of shoes or overnighting your passport will make you NEVER want to travel again.


Tip* Divide the “to dos” among the family, keep the list on the refrigerator and cross them off when done. This way everyone shares in the fun of a successful holiday.

Making it Fun

Wow, this sounds like work and a pain in the butt. No, actually it’s the easiest way to be organized, prepared and relaxed for travel. So how do you make this fun? Add fun things in to each part of the pre-departure list related to your destination or activities. You can see them listed here in red. A hard and fast rule in our house is that the night before we leave on a trip, no packing is done. It is a night to relax whether it’s a movie out or grilling up some steaks and a bottle of wine. You will sleep better, be more rested and relaxed and start your vacation off right!

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