DON'T FORGET THESE 15 ESSENTIAL TO-DOS BEFORE YOU TRAVEL | Published November 1st, 2020 | Last Updated July 28th, 2021

Woman checking off a list of travel to-dos

From passports and bill payments to insurance and house sitters, check out this list of 15 essential to-dos before you head out for your next great adventure! Don't forget to print the free travel templates below to help guide you through your planning.


These documents should be the first items on your travel list.

  • PASSPORTS - Most, if not all, countries require a passport to be valid for three to six months beyond the date you will be travelling to a destination. When you start your travel planning, check your passport’s expiry date to see if it needs to be updated.

  • VISAS - Not all countries require a visa to enter, so it’s best to check the government website of the country you're visiting to learn about the entry requirements. You can also use your own government's website; In Canada, I rely on, to find general information about future destinations.

  • COVID - Travel during COVID means there are restrictions that can change quickly; in some cases from one day to the next so it's best to check the day before departing for your trip.

Woman on a bed holding passport and boarding pass

Passports, Visas and COVID tests are the Most Important Items You'll Bring with you


Did you know that many countries require drivers to have an International licence and will not let you take a car without one? That means arriving in your destination with the intention of picking up the vehicle, only to find you're out of luck because you're missing that crucial document. Fortunately, an International Driver's Licence is easy to obtain either online or, in Canada, from your local CAA office. CAA will take the required photos if you don’t have current passport photos and will make the licence itself while you wait. You can find all the information from the CAA website here.

Person driving a car in a snowy, barren but beautiful landscape

Not Having an International Driver's Licence Can Spoil Plans if Your Destination Country Requires One


It just makes sense to be covered for any unfortunate accidents while in a foreign country.

  • Travel insurance - is an absolute necessity for any trip you take. The potential financial complications that can result from not being protected just isn't worth the risk. In addition, during COVID, there are some countries that will not allow you entrance without proof of COVID-related travel insurance.

  • Car Insurance - If you're renting a car in a foreign country, make sure to read the fine print to determine what's covered in the policy. I use since it's all-inclusive insurance for a reasonable price and I don't feel pressured into buying additional insurance on the spot at the rental office. As with any policy you purchase, make sure that it's appropriate for your needs and read the fine print.

4 - VACCINES It's best to check the website of the country you're travelling to, the CDC website, or your own country's government site to determine if vaccines are needed for your travel destination.

Everyone has their own opinions about vaccines, and while in some countries it's mandatory, in others it's up to you to decide if you want to travel without them. It should also be noted that with the current COVID-19 situation, vaccination may soon be a requirement as common as a Passport to enter many countries.

Woman in a tee-shirt getting a vaccination for travel

Talk to Your Doctor to Determine if a Vaccine Before Travel is Right for you


If you have pets or want your house to look otherwise occupied while you’re travelling, don’t forget to have someone take over for you while you're gone. Give them a heads up to make sure they're available, and getting a small gift is always a nice gesture to thank them for their time.

A dog in purple pajamas, sitting beside a cat, both looking out the window

Have a Reliable Person Care for Your Furry Friends When You Travel


Depending on how long you'll be away, make sure you've taken care of future bills. With so much of our world now being online, most people have payments set up through automatic withdrawal or are able to pay on the go. However, not everyone makes use of these options, so ensure that you get finances settled before departure or make arrangements to pay when you return.

Calculator and Pen sitting on a budget sheet

Along With Prearranged Bill Payments, Be Sure Your Vacation Will Fit Your Budget


Don’t forget to tell your business contacts that you'll be away. While many of us are guilty of working on vacation, it's nice to unplug and get away from it all. If possible, ensure that someone will take over your responsibilities so you can reset, recharge, and enjoy your travel to the fullest.


This point is crucial, so solo travellers, listen up! When you're in a foreign country alone, it's always best to have ties to home. If your friends and family have no idea where you are or what you’re up to, they would never know where to begin if, something unfortunate were to happen. I make it a habit to ensure my family knows what city I'll be in each day and the contact information of the hotels I'll be at each night. Plans do change, and if they do, I shoot them a quick text to update them.

Travel planner on a desk with a pen, iPhone and clock

Keep Your Loved Ones in the Loop by Leaving them with a Travel Itinerary


Use this template so you know what details to include on the information sheet placed inside your luggage. Fill in the details for your flight and destination on a piece of paper and place it right at the top of your checked baggage. If your luggage is lost or someone picks up the wrong bag, it can be returned to you as quickly as possible when they open the suitcase and see the information inside.

NOTE: Do not put your home address on the sheet as you don't want to announce to anyone that your home is vacant; only include your hotel information. If I'm flying to multiple countries, I print one up for each new destination that I'll be travelling to. It's also beneficial to have a tag on the outer handle of your luggage with your name and a contact phone number for someone that may not open the bag if it's locked.

Silver luggage tag identification holder with a silver loop

Make sure your Luggage Has Identifiers to Ensure it Gets Returned if Lost


It's good practice to have photocopies of all important papers while you travel. If you lose your passport for example, or it's stolen, at least you have some evidence of your identity. If my hotel room has a safe, I keep these copies tucked away while I'm out of the room. If a safe isn't available, I put them in my luggage, which I lock when I leave the hotel for the day.


There are a few options, and these will vary in price and usability.

  • APPS - The cheapest route is to use apps such as Skype or WhatsApp. In order for the calls to be free, both callers need to have the app and use Wifi otherwise there are charges and it will affect your data allowance. Be sure to double-check that this is accurate for your country and provider before you go.

  • USE YOUR SERVICE PROVIDER - Purchase a calling or texting package from your provider before you depart; this is often quite costly. For example, in Ontario, Canada, Rogers has a roaming package that has recently increased to $14 per day to a maximum of $210 per 15-day trip. This is an incredibly costly fee for people travelling internationally on a regular basis so looking into the other options would be beneficial to your budget.

  • SIM CARDS - Buy a SIM card in the country you're heading to. You'll get local calling rates when doing so, which vary by country. Please look into the specifics of your phone and carrier to see if this is appropriate for your needs.

Woman laying on hotel bed with iPhone in her hand

Keep in Touch With Loved Ones, Especially When Travelling Solo


This applies to both flights and hotels. It’s best to do an online check-in for your flight to ensure that it's on time before departing for the airport. There’s no sense arriving at the airport many hours ahead of time if your flight has been delayed, unless you have access to a great lounge of course :)

It’s also a good idea to verify your accommodations after booking. When you receive the confirmation email be sure to check the arrival and departure dates, the address, and the price so you're not in for any surprises when your reach your destination.


If you plan to take a taxi, bus or metro to your hotel when you arrive, it's best to have local currency on hand. Not all taxis or public transportation are set up with the ability to accept credit or debit cards. It's also a good idea to have money for tipping and other small items you may need.

Find a currency exchange that offers a good rate before you leave to purchase foreign cash. In Ontario, I use Knightsbridge which most often gives a better rate than banks. TIP: Exchanging money at the airport should be avoided at all costs. Not only will you be charged a fee for doing so, but the exchange rate can vary between 5% to 15% from a standard bank rate at home.

Euro banknotes fanned out on a desk

Get Currency Before You Leave Your Own Country and Avoid the High Cost of Airport Exchanges


If you'll be away for an extended period of time, it’s best to turn off energy-draining appliances. Some of the biggest culprits are air conditioning, lighting, and water heaters. Other appliances that are less draining but still use electricity when plugged in are devices with a digital display or clock. Did you know that chargers used for your phone and tablets still use electricity when plugged into the wall without a device attached to them? It’s a small amount, but no sense paying for it when you don’t need to.


Make a list of items you'll need for your upcoming trip, then buy them as you go. Buying ahead of time reduces the stress of rushing around at the last minute and ensures you won't forget anything.

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