Trip planning is an art form. You get better the more you practice.
The trick is to do all that you need to do, get all the supplies and gear that you need to get, and make all the arrangements that you need to make, and no more.
You want a clean house when you come home, but don’t paint the walls. You want to brush your teeth every day as normal, but don’t bring a large tube of toothpaste. You want sure transportation and accommodations, but remain flexible.
Do just enough trip planning before you leave, and then walk off like you are never coming back. Embrace the traveling lifestyle fully.
Pre Trip Planning Checklist
- Gather your travel documents.
The first active step in travel planning is to round up all your travel documents. That can be a headache if you don’t know where to get them. Ha! You’re in luck:
Passport, visas, passport photos – Carry passport and visa in your security pouch, worn under the clothes, at all times. Keep 2 passport sized photos in your carry on bag in case you lose your passport. These pictures will help you replace your passport more quickly.
Vaccination certificates – Many countries do not require vaccination certificates. You should check with the Centers for Disease Control about what the requirements for you vacation destination.
International driving permit – Inexpensive and easy to get, you should have an international driving permit if you plan to drive a car in another country.
Employer’s insurance card – Your employers insurance may cover some accidents overseas. If it does, carry the card with you in your security pouch.
Travel insurance card – Most travelers going overseas for their hiking vacations will want travel insurance. Backcountry medical evacuations can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. Some countries will not give medical aid without payment. Learn about travel insurance so you can make an informed and wise decision about your needs.
Plane, train, bus tickets, accommodation reservations, etc. – Keep these in your security pouch with copies in your carry on.
Charge, Debit, & ATM cards, cash, traveler’s cheques – Carry all your money in your security pouch and memorize you pin numbers. Learn about overseas currency exchange.
Copies of important documents – Make copies of all your documents and keep in your carry on bag – separate from the originals in your security pouch, on your body. Also keep copies of this information with a friend back home including a rough itinerary of your trip. You can also access this information online. Simply scan it into your computer and email it, as an attachment, to your online email address like Yahoo or Hotmail. Then you can access it from any computer in the world with an internet connection.
Pen and small notebook – When the feet are engaged, the memory goes into neutral. Have you ever walked from one room to the next and forgotten what you were supposed to do? Have a pen and paper on your trip to deal with practical business matters like your itinerary or recording telephone numbers, addresses, and appointments.
Important telephone numbers, addresses – At the beginning of your trip take the time to put together a list of important telephone numbers and addresses for your trip: your doctor, travel agent, accommodations, restaurants, park information centers, etc. If you will be sending postcards back home, include the addresses of friends and family. A few large Tyvek, self-addressed envelopes will allow you to mail home souvenirs to yourself or family members.
Maps, guides, phrasebook – Paper is heavy; only take what you need. Photocopy the necessary portions of your map or guidebook; then cut away margins, or unneeded portions of the paper. Phrasebooks are usually small, but if you can get away with just a few pages tear them out and leave the rest at home. You may find a Kwikpoint card useful when communicating a lot in other languages.
International phone calling card – Get and use one for big savings.
Reading material – There is a season for all things. Sometimes it’s nice to just sit, without a thought in your head. Other times you might give up your dinner for a good book. Don’t be caught on a 16 hour flight with a scruffy magazine if the reading bug has bitten you.
- Write out a detailed itinerary.
Write a detailed itinerary for yourself on this handy form. Record important dates, times, addresses, and telephone numbers. A 5 week calendar helps you remember what’s happening at home before and after your trip.
- Review lightweight travel gear and techniques.
- Print out a travel packing checklist.
- Read up about your destination. Buy a couple good a guide books and read them in the months before your trip.
- Find someone to watch your house while you are away – a neighbor or family member. Get them a set of keys to your house and cars and write down for them all your vacation contact information and security code for the house.
- Pick up your yard. Put away things that someone can put in the back of their pickup and drive off with.
- Pay the lawn boy in advance.
- Balance your bank account and pay your taxes if you’re going for a long time.
- Pay your bills.
- Go to the post office and have your mail held or forwarded. Forward email to an online account like Yahoo if you’ll be checking it during your trip. Have your newspaper subscription held.
- Put batteries and film on your shopping list a couple weeks before you leave. That way you won’t be running errands during your vacation. Get a bigger memory card for your digital camera.
- Memorize the pin numbers to your ATM, debit, and credit cards.
- Select a good novel for the plane, train, bus, and car.
- Organize kitchen, clean the dishes and put them away, take out the trash, and empty out the fridge.
- Empty wastebaskets in bathrooms and bedrooms.
- Make arrangements for your pets and plants. Give a key to the neighbor or take them to a friend’s house.
- Wash, dry, and put away clothes.
- Clean as much of the house as you can. It’s nice to come home to a clean house.
Annotated Travel Packing List for a 20 Pound Carry On Bag
This annotated travel packing list is meant to help you arrange a group of gear that can fit inside a carry on (L + W + H <= 45 inches) travel pack, with a total weight of less than 20 pounds. This list, along with travel light techniques, will enable you to live out of one carry on sized bag for 2 weeks, a month, or as long as your journey takes.
It seems impossible at first glance, but thousands of travelers every year achieve this goal very happily. As you browse the list for the first time, it may seem merely intriguing, not a sincerely comfortable way to travel. When you try packing light for yourself, you will realize that it is makes traveling very easy. Eventually you will get new ideas of your own.
The benefits of packing light will inspire you to change the way you travel.
With a mere 15 or 20 pounds on your back, your itinerary is completely flexible. You won’t have to find a place to keep or lock up your bags because you walk comfortably with them as long as you need to. You can take trains, buses, motorcycles, or even bikes rather than taxis. Forget about airport baggage claims, just head for the front door and you’re gone.
Travel pack or shoulder bag – Travel pack or shoulder bag – Each airline has its own specific measurement restrictions for a carry on. You can’t know them all, so use this rule-of-thumb formula: L + W + H <= 45 inches. For example many maximum sized bags are 22” x 14” x 9”.
Daypack, fanny pack, or purse – Something less than 500 cu. inches without padded shoulder straps that can roll up and fit inside your carry on.
Lightweight duffel/laundry bag – It’s always good to have an extra bag. A lightweight, nylon duffel bag will keep your dirty laundry separated from the rest of your clothes. A couple plastic garbage bags will work just as well for the shorter trip.
Luggage lock – Keep dishonest people from getting into your bag. The bad guys have knives. Nylon cable ties or key rings help keep your bag closed while in busy places like a subway or sporting event, where pickpockets are looking for a quick grab. If you will be using a ultralight backpack without locking zippers as your carry on bag, a security net is a good solution for locking up your bag when you can’t be with it.
Security pouch – People steal. That stinks. As a tourist, you will be targeted. With your passport, credit card, and money in a small bag, securely worn under your clothes, the pickpockets won’t be able to pay their bills. But you won’t feel their pain. Security pouches are worn under the clothes so that you will obviously feel someone attempting to remove it from your body. Always carry your passport, visa, credit cards, money, and any other vital documents in your security pouch.
2 pair pants/dresses – Jeans are heavy, bulky, and take a long time to dry. Better pants for traveling are made with nylon or polyester, are light, tough, and quick drying. Pants with zip-off legs are ideal for traveling and backpacking.
2-4 shirts – Include a variety of short sleeve, long sleeve, light weight, and heavy weight so that you can layer as the weather changes.
Swimsuit – Why does everyone love to swim on vacations?
Sweater or fleece jacket – This is the warmth layer of your wardrobe. A nice sweater can also double as casual evening wear for a night out on the town.
Rain jacket, umbrella – In sunny locales you can get away with just a small umbrella and no rain jacket. Garbage bags form an impromptu rain suit or cover for your luggage.
3 + pairs socks – Cotton is only a good choice if you will have access to a washer and dryer. If you will be hand washing, choose a synthetic material (like Smartwool) that can air dry overnight. Synthetic materials also wick water away from the skin to help keep you dry and comfortable.
3 + pairs undergarments – As with socks, look for quick drying material that wicks water away from the skin when worn.
Long underwear – Made from synthetic material with wicking ability and quick drying. Chose one of the 3 weights, light, mid, or heavy, depending upon the climate of your hiking vacation destination.
Tie, scarf, hair band, bandannas – Think of small ways to accessorize your wardrobe to fit in at a classy restaurant or a night of theater.
Sun hat, knitted cap – A sun hat made of pliant material that can roll and pack well. Knitted caps are essential for cold weather and keep off the chill of a poorly heated room.
Walking / running shoes – Boots are good for the coldest and wettest climates. For everything else walking or running shoes are ideal. They are light, quick drying, and always comfortable.
Sandals – Good sandals like Tevas or Chacos can do almost anything a running shoe can do. They walk, climb, and run. You can stay warm in sandals with the right pair of socks.
Belt– Leather can take a long time to dry out and may get yucky in warm climates. Try canvas or nylon.
Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss – Dental floss functions secondarily, commonly among travelers, as sewing thread. It can hold on a button or mend a daypack.
Razor, blades, shaving cream – Shaving oil and liquid hand soap are two alternatives.
Shampoo – Doubles as hand soap. Watch out for leaks; store in Ziploc bags.
Bar soap & container – Only take a small bar. Re-supply along the way.
Nail clippers – preferably stainless steal.
Mirror – Plexiglas or acrylic.
Viscose towel – A small, lightweight, super-absorbent, quick drying towel. They are available under the Pack-towel name in outdoor supply stores. A larger version is sold for drying cars, and in Europe, they sell them as a kitchen towel for drying dishes. Viscose is made from rayon fibers and is noted for its ability to wring almost completely dry in just a few twists. Because it dries so quickly, it keeps from developing a bad odor, even on long trips.
Earplugs, eye mask – Helps you sleep on planes and in hostels or thin walled hotels. Simple foam earplugs have the highest rating available, 30 decibels, and withstand repeated washing.
Universal (flat) sink stopper – Many bathroom sinks overseas have no drain stopper. Duct tape is another good solution.
Detergent, spot remover – A little detergent in a Ziploc bag will go a long way. You can usually re-supply along the way.
Travel clothesline – REI has innovative, reasonably priced clotheslines that are well worth getting if you will be hand washing your clothes every day.
Safety pins, rubber bands, thin nylon rope, paper clips – Safety pins lance blisters, rubber bands keep cloths rolled up in your bag, nylon rope makes an impromptu belt, and paper clips temporarily fasten the shoulder strap back on your day pack (think heavy gauge twist tie). These and a thousand other tasks are performed by these multifunctional items.
Sewing kit – A simple needle and thread will do. You may throw in a couple buttons. Stainless steal needles kept in a water proof match container will last longer. Dental floss makes a sturdy thread; the cutter on top of the container cuts thread as well.
Ziploc plastic bags, garbage bags – Plastic bags are useful in a variety of situations, so take a few, but not too many because they are easily picked up along the way.
Duct tape – Don’t take the whole roll. Wrap some around a small, cylindrical object that you will already be taking, like a pencil.
Alarm clock or watch, batteries – Sleeping in is a part of a good vacation, but sometimes an unnaturally early start is a necessary part of the itinerary.
Flashlight, extra batteries & bulbs – Petzl makes a dinky little headlamp, about the size of a golf ball, called the Zipka. It runs on 3 AAA batteries, with an 80 – 150 hour burn time.
Candles, matches – A small candle is sometimes easier to work with in the dark than a flashlight when you need both hands free. Even a headlamp only points in one direction. A candle also keeps you from being totally dependant on the batteries and bulb in your flashlight. Keep matches in a small, waterproof vial or Ziploc bag.
Screwdriver for glasses
Scissors – Small plastic or blunt-tipped metal scissors are allowed in carry on bags. Sharp tipped scissors are only allowed in your checked luggage, which is transported in the cargo hold.
Knives & multitools – Since September 11th, 2001, knives and multitools have been banned from carry-on luggage. Knives are easily purchased anywhere overseas. Multitools are less common, though you can find them in most hiking supply stores.
Spork – REI.com has a titanium spork weighing a mere ½ ounce. You will pass this thing down to your grandkids.
Compass & whistle – Use your compass to help you orient your surroundings to your map. A compass is also a big help in the city. Your whistle will bring help a lot quicker than yelling. Plus, it will never lose its voice from calling for too long. In the city, a whistle helps deter muggers.
First Aid Kit
Toilet paper, antibacterial wipes – The standard bathroom common in western society is not available in many parts of the world. Be prepared for outhouse type facilities.
Water Filters, Purifiers, and Chemical Treatment – You can treat a wild water sample by bringing it to a rolling boil. Boiling kills all protozoa, bacteria, and viruses (all micro-parasites). But boiling water takes time and uses gas, so it’s an inefficient option. It takes a lot of discipline to boil enough water for your needs as a sole means of treatment. A water filter treats protozoa and bacteria but not viruses. Look for a filter specifically designed to remove “pathogenic cysts” with an “absolute pore size” of 1 micron or smaller. Viruses can be treated by boiling, iodine, or chlorine. An absolute 1 micron filter that also treats with iodine or chlorine is called a purifier. Purifiers effectively quash all the junk – protozoa, bacteria, and viruses.
Aspirin, ibuprofen, or similar pain killer – Leave in original bottle to suspicion among bag inspectors.
Diarrhea treatment – Diarrhea is common among travelers. There are some over the counter drugs that help slow down your system, but the preferred approach is to let your body deal with it naturally. Drink plenty of good, clean water to prevent dehydration.
Malaria treatment – Necessary in many parts of the world. Visit your health care provider 4-6 weeks before your trip to get prescription antimalarial drugs. The Centers for Disease Control has current information about health risks at your destination.
Insect repellent, mosquito net – Essential for some parts of the world and not for others. Look at mosquito head nets, shirts, pants, socks, sleep screen, and insect repellent with DEET at REI.com. These things are more difficult to get overseas, so get enough bug spray to last.
Sunscreen, lip balm – Apply before you put on bug spray and get plenty to last for your whole trip.
Moleskin or 2nd Skin – Most people aren’t used to long walks every day and are surprised by blisters while on vacation. A nasty blister can cut your touring day short, but a carefully placed piece of moleskin will let you carry on with little trouble.
Anti-fungal for athlete’s foot – If you have athlete’s foot, you know what you need to do.
White adhesive tape – Also called athletic tape. Good for bandaging cuts on your hands and feet or other unlucky portions of your anatomy.
Band aids, gauze – Take 6 assorted band aids, more if you are traveling with a family or group.
Your prescription medications – Bring along a copy of your prescription to replace lost medication as well as verify to authorities that you have the right to use a prescription drug.
Camera and film – A good digital camera with a high capacity (256 MB) card can capture over 200 pictures – enough for a 2 week vacation. With a digital camera, you won’t have to worry about your film being damaged by x-ray machines at airport security checkpoints.
Cell phone and charger – A cell phone invisibly tethers you to your daily life back home, so they should be off limits for vacations. But if you need one, consider getting a new one just for the trip. That way you can call whoever you need to, but business associates can’t call you. Be sure that the phone and calling plan will work for your destination.
Small toys and gifts – A small gift warms up the locals. Give a child a balloon or McDonald’s toy, and you will win over the whole family. Gifting is a first class way to get invited into the native culture. Then when your Santa Sack is empty, fill it up again for the kids at home.
Sunglasses, glasses, contacts – Take your prescription in case you need to replace your glasses or contacts.
Inflatable travel pillow – Takes up a negligible amount of room and adds a little comfort to long plane, train, or bus rides.
Hostel sleeping bag liner – It’s a light weight sleeping sheet, in the form of a sack, required by some youth hostels. Ever speculate about what’s crawling on your hotel sheets? Carry your own sleeping bag liner and forget about it. Silk is more expensive than cotton but dries more quickly.
Electrical converter, adapter – It’s best to carry battery powered devices, but if you need to have a certain electrical appliance, your might purchase it at your destination. Otherwise you can get an electrical converter and adapter.
Plastic water bottle – Plastic water bottles like the ones made by Camelbak or Platypus are fold up into near nothingness to fit in your carry on travel pack. When you are dayhiking you can fill it up, put it inside your daypack and suck on the very convenient, attached straw. This simple convenience goes along way to keeping you hydrated throughout your journeys, and hydration = happiness.