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Tango of Travel Tasks

Are you the kind of traveler who starts  packing the night before or a week ahead?

You could answer, “It depends.” It’s true…. It does depend… on things like, when you booked the trip, the accessibility of certain documents, items, funds and/or your home and work schedule.

This article is designed to soften up all those “dependent factors” and enable you to transform from a random packer into a structured packer ready for airports and cruise ports.

How? First, you must recognize that most savvy jetsetters start the tango of travel tasks one month prior to departure date. Here is a comprehensive “month prior” to “day before” outline to guide you down the right path.

One Month Before Take-off:

Passport– Your passport should be valid through the dates of your trip. If not, look into signing up for emergency processing. It might cost you a pretty penny, but it’s better than getting stuck somewhere

Visas- Some countries require a visa before you leave your home base, but others can grant you a tourist visa upon landing. Check your home government’s website.

Traveler’s Insurance- We recommend purchasing travel accident insurance prior to leaving. You can do this on your Rovia site.

Medications/Vaccinations- Refill all necessary prescriptions and check a country’s required vaccinations. Here is a link to the Center for Disease Control for more information.

One Week Before Takeoff:

A Fresh Start- Pull out those suitcases and give them some time to air out. A way to decrease build up of mildew can be to spray Lysol, or something comparable, into your empty suitcase and give it a quick wipe down after each trip. Another handy tip from Travel and Leisure magazine, “…When you unpack from a trip, leave a lavender sachet inside for freshness until the next trip(3).”

Invest in Extra Baggies- You never know when you may need to stick a wet swimsuit into your suitcase, dirty clothes start to pile up or your shampoo bottle could explode. The quart and gallon-size Ziploc bags work wonders, but there are also high-tech plastic bags that you may want to use, which are a little more expensive.

Stand-ins- You may need to have your pet(s) fed, plants watered, mail collected or bills paid.   Setting up a stand-in (neighbor, friend, family member) a month prior to departure is recommended so that they have time to accommodate your schedule with theirs.

Research Your Destination- Get a guidebook or use the information highway (aka the Internet) to help assemble a sightseeing list, schedule transportation, get the right advice on certain places or culture, and/or find out the currency needed. Credit cards are convenient, but, according to Travellerspoint.com, “…traveler’s checks are a good, safe alternative(4).”

“No I Haven’t Dropped Off the Face of the Earth”- Make sure you notify family, friends or roommates where you will be traveling and provide them with the travel dates. Scan and/or copy all precious documents like the ones listed in the “One Month Before Takeoff” section.   Leave copies of important documents with a trusted individual in your home country or load them up into an Internet email account. This way you will have access to them if they are lost or stolen. “It’s [also] useful to have copies [of these] in different formats (PDF, JPEG, Word, etc.) to cover a variety of eventualities”(2). Write postcards or blogs during your travels to keep those you know in the know.

The Packing List- According to OneBag.com website, “[A] packing list serves two principle purposes. First (and foremost), it’s a sort of contract you make with yourself, an agreement (and ongoing reminder) that if it’s not on your list, it shouldn’t be in your bag. The secondary function of a packing list is to help ensure that nothing important will be forgotten” (2).   You can download a comprehensive list from websites like travellerspoint.com/packing-list or you can buy a nifty checklist tearaway pad, like those at The Container Store. The items on your list should have relevance to your future environment; for example, you don’t want a cute cocktail dress or a snazzy dress shirt if you’re going to be mostly out in the Swiss Alps. Get all the “what ifs” out of your mind and stay focused on your outfit choices.

Three Days Before Takeoff:

Charge and Erase- Free up some of your camera’s memory space by transferring old photos onto a CD or your computer. This way you don’t have to buy another card. For your electronic equipment, determine what chargers, power cords, plugs (international adapters) and/or batteries will be necessary for your “precious moment” capturing tools.

The Joy of Packing-
A Blueprint- Place your heavier items on the bottom of your suitcase, such as shoes, rolled jeans and/or blazers. Lighter pieces (cotton shirts, khakis, shorts, shirts) go at the top, along with your cosmetics. Use an extra baggie for your undergarments so that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents don’t create a Victoria’s Secret display on the floor. Bulky items should be folded and placed in compression sacks; these bags take out unnecessary air that could take up valuable space. You can find these bags at The Container Store. Roll smaller items (yoga pants, socks) and use them to fill in air holes. Delicate pieces can be protected from wrinkles by using tissue paper and dry cleaner bags.

The Usual Suspects- Choose solid colors that can transition easily from day to night and will coordinate with other items in your wardrobe.

  • Pack two pairs of denim jeans, since these can be dressed up or down. Men should always have one pair of khakis or dark slacks for more formal occasions. Black pants are a travel staple for women, since they go with almost everything and they don’t get as dirty as other colors.
  • Women should take along two stylish tops for fancy parties or dinners. Men need to have two collared shirts; have your cleaner package them folded in bags. Stock up on simple long and short-sleeved T’s, as they are great for layering. Men need to carry one dark-colored sport coat as a dressy casual that can be worn every night.
  • Women should accessorize to change the look or event for which they are dressing. Since accessories take up less space they can make every outfit seem new. Also, don’t underestimate the value of a belt. Just as jewelry will spice up an outfit, a belt can also create a new look.
  • Be sure to bring along a pair of athletic or khaki shorts.
  • Limit yourself to three pairs of shoes for women/men: first, a pair of flats for her and a casual dress shoe for him, also add a sensible heel for her and a business shoe for him, and lastly, athletic shoes for both him and her.

One Day Before Take-off:

Relax and Check- You have efficiently walked down the path of a savvy jetsetter. In the final hours before your trip, double-check your tasks and items, and make sure you have all the transportation arrangement details settled before leaving. Good luck, and have fun!


1. Packing List. (2010, July 10). Tools, toiletries, laundry, health, paperwork, documents, specialty items. from OneBag’s website

2. Pre-Packing Checklist. (October, 2008). How you can prepare for your next trip? Here, T+L offers our checklist of eight simple-yet easily forgotten-steps to take before departure, from Travel + Leisure magazine’s website.

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