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A Genius 12 Month Trip Countdown Checklist

Updated: 2 days ago

6-12 Months Prior to Your Trip

When planning for a trip, I use a trip countdown checklist. I actually start buying clothes 6-12 months prior to my trip. My husband is not a big fan of this idea, but like most women, when I start trying on clothes, I notice I can lose a few pounds, so I start working out and eating better. He likes that part. 🙂 Well seriously, I live in the mountains of Colorado and work from home. I don’t want to look like a country bumpkin when I go to Italy – I want to look chic. (See the bottom of this blog for the checklist.)

When I was planning my trip to Italy, I bought a breezy, white button-down shirt, a floppy sun hat (from TJ Maxx), a purse and nice leather walking shoes (on sale at Dillard’s). I started wearing the shoes before my trip to Italy was cancelled, so I had to keep them!

But if you live in a warm climate and are traveling to someplace cooler, and you don’t own appropriate clothes or shoes, then you would want to start thinking about what you might need to buy 6 – 12 months before your trip.

This is because end of season sales are good for getting the lowest price, but you want to be able to “wear-in” your new shoes and clothes so that you can make sure they fit and aren’t uncomfortable. So if you live someplace where it gets really hot in the summer and wait until March to buy clothes and shoes for your trip in September, you might not get a chance to break them in. Well, I guess you could put on your puffer-coat and winter boots and go tramping around an (overly) air conditioned mall – but you might get some strange looks. 🙂

This is also the time I start looking for a new suitcase. I know, you’re thinking, “OMG! She is out of control!” But I travel A LOT! And one time, after I had used my favorite Chaps purple suitcase for several years, I was on a trip when the wheels started wobbling. Fortunately, I made it home and the wheels didn’t go rolling down the cobblestone street without me.

Edinburgh Cobblestone Street

Edinburgh Cobblestone Street

But that taught me to check my suitcase when I started making plans for my next trip. Then I spend a considerable amount of time researching all of the new-fangled options (charging ports, hidden pockets, special locks,…), but then I just usually default back to the good ol’ Samsonite Spinners. I watch for them to go on sale at Kohls when I have a 30% discount. I actually save so much money buying all of this new stuff! hahaaa

A couple of other things you might want to start planning in the 6- 12 month range would be to start arranging for :

  1. child care,

  2. pet sitting,

  3. fish feeding,

  4. house sitting,

  5. yard & pool maintenance

If you want your adult kids to go to your house and take care of it while you’re gone, then you will probably need to schedule these activities with them around their vacations and kid’s activities.

3-6 Months Prior to Your Trip

My serious countdown for getting ready for my trip starts about 3 – 6 months prior when I need to start scheduling my hair and nail appointments. Since I usually travel for 2 -6 weeks, I want to get spruced up the week before my trip. So about 6 months prior to my trip, I pick the specific day before my trip that I want to get my hair done. (This isn’t as much of an issue if you’re just getting a trim – but shhh… don’t tell anyone – I color my hair.) So I need to start adjusting my colorings so they are spaced out evenly, working out the dates by going backwards from that last coloring before my trip.

If you’re wanting to budget your purchases, then you could start about 6 months out buying things like packing cubes, ear buds, ear plugs, and other travel items.

See my related blog about Using Packing Cubes to pack my Backpack for a 6 week trip to Europe in 2019. I love these pink packing cubes but they come in all kinds of colors.

pink packing cubes in a suitcase

Travel Items That I Personally Use

I personally use all of the items below when I’m traveling. I’ve been using these packing cubes since June 2016 (I know the exact date thanks to my order list on Amazon). I don’t normally use the biggest one unless I’ve got something special that I don’t want shoved in with everything else.

These come in multiple colors so everyone can have their own set and you can just take them out of your suitcase and put them in the drawers in a hotel if you’re staying for a couple of days.

The Quies Wax Ear Plugs are fabulous for sleeping in hotel rooms that aren’t as modern as the big chain hotels in the US. The places I like to stay in Europe are the smaller inns or B&Bs where the walls might be thinner than we’re used to and you can hear noises from upstairs, downstairs, out in the hall, out in the street… We actually found these ear plugs in Dublin when we were staying at a place on the corner of two busy streets that was supposed to be a B&B but was more like a hostel and had little or no seal around the windows so you could hear the beep-beep-beep of the crossing signal constantly. These wax ear plugs allowed us to sleep right through it all.

Eyemask with Flowers

And since I take a sleep mask with me for use on the plane and in hotel rooms, it doesn’t bother me if the person next to the window on the plane keeps the shade up (like my husband), or if the curtains aren’t good in a hotel room. I like these Exclusive Fashion Original Design Eye Cover Smooth Comfortable Sleeping Mask (BLACK FLOWER) that are concave so they don’t sit on your eyes and let you have good REM sleep. And I like fun prints! Sometime they look like a swimsuit top but if you’re prone to leaving things on an airplane like me, then these brightly printed ones are hard to miss. And here are some other travel items that I bought for my upcoming trip. (I was supposed to go to Italy in March 2020.)

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  The cost is the same for you, but Amazon rewards me for sending people to their site.

For years, I used plain old water to spray my clothes the night before and hang up them up to un-wrinkle overnight. Then when I went to DC for a travel conference, my roommate introduced me to Downy Wrinkle Release spray. Lydia (you know who you are) decided that we needed to match to go out one evening, so I had to switch shirts at the last minute. She tossed me her bottle of Downy and within minutes we were ready to go out.

Here are a couple of items my husband likes to take on a trip. He discovered Poo-Pourrie and now it is in all of our bathrooms and he packs it for a trip. I travel by myself a lot, so I don’t worry about it, but he usually travels with me and doesn’t want to hear me making a fuss – so he does it for me!

The other thing that my husband likes to take on a trip is Sleep Well. I use dramamine or benadryl, but those make him wiped out. You may have heard to use Melatonin prior to a trip. He found these and they really work well for him. They even help him go back to sleep if he wakes up in the middle of the night. They don’t work at all for me. So if you’re very sensitive and don’t tolerate dramamine or benadryl very well, then these could be helpful for you.

Here are the ear buds I just bought and they’re working out really well. I use them mainly for phone calls and not music.

2 Months Prior to Your Trip

About 2 months prior to my trip is when I really start getting excited! One of the things I always have to do is to make room for more pictures on my phone. When get home from a trip, I still love looking at my pictures, but by the time I’m planning for the next trip, I know I will need to remove some to make room for the new ones. Who hasn’t been on a trip when their phone said it was full?? Grrr!!

girl holding cell phone

While I’m thinking about my phone, I also check with my phone company to see if their international service has changed or if they have new offerings. If you’ve never been overseas before, you’ll want to call your cell phone provider and find out what you need to do to make calls when you’re out of the country. They may have a special plan that you need to opt-into or maybe a plan that you could turn on for a month.

The other thing I do about 2 months before a trip is to confirm arrangements for child care, pet sitting and house/yard maintenance. You should have already started working on these arrangements in the 6-12 month timeframe, so this is just a confirmation that everything is still hunkey-dorey.

1 Month Prior to Your Trip

It’s best not to leave too much to do the last month because it goes really fast. But some things can’t be done too far ahead of time. Reviewing your flight details and your trip plans with your travel agent should be done about a month before your trip.

At this time you can also arrange for mail to be held and get local currency and/or pre-paid credit cards.

You’ll also have a good idea of what remaining travel items you want to purchase. One year I was doing a Eurail pass, so I decided I wanted a neck-strap wallet to keep my train ticket and passport in.

This is a good time also to get your prescriptions refilled and I also make sure I have a copy of my eye glass prescription. It is not something I usually carry around with me, but I don’t want to get to my long awaited destination and not be able to see!

2 Weeks Prior to Your Trip

Credit Card companies are much better about looking out for you and making sure that your card isn’t compromised, but that means when you head overseas that you should let them know so they don’t refuse a charge. Now-a-days, you can usually log-in online and enter where you’re going and for what days. If you can’t find it on-line, you can always call the number on the back of your card.

You should also let someone know where you’re going. This is a good time to make a copy of your trip plans to leave with a friend or relative. You could also give this friend or relative your travel agent’s information. 🙂

And it is a good idea to put my business card in your wallet. One of my clients left her wallet on the airplane and they found my business card in it and called me. We were able to reunite the lady with her wallet.👍

We recommend making 2 copies of your driver’s license, passport and the couple of credit cards you’re taking with you. Then you pack one of these copies in your carry-on luggage and give the other to your same friend or relative who has your travel plans. This is just a precaution for the unlikely event that your credit card (or wallet or purse) is stolen and you need to get hold of your credit card company to let them know not to accept any charges.

1 Week Prior to Your Trip

Are you ready to go? Are you nervous? Afraid you’ve forgotten something? This is a good time to call your travel agent and discuss any concerns you might have. Your trip countdown checklist will help you keep things organized, but a human person is always nice to talk to when you’re about to leave for your big trip.

Around this time, I also make sure I have downloaded any travel apps that I might need as well as removing any apps that I don’t need on the trip that will take up a lot of battery or bandwidth.

Apps I might need: What’s App (for messaging and phone calls using wifi), Airline or airport apps, language or translation apps, public toilets app, map app …

Apps I don’t need: Games, weather, golf apps that constantly update… (if you don’t want to delete the apps, you still might want to turn off the constant updating)

This is also a good time to print your packing list and practice pack. If you’re going someplace new, it’s a good idea to pick out what you’re planning on taking, and cull out the unnecessary. Some people even recommend pulling or carrying your suitcase around to make sure you will be comfortable when you get to your destination. Here is my blog on packing with packing cubes.

3 Days Prior to Your Trip

Oh my gosh!! IT’S ALMOST TIME!!

This is when I have scheduled to have my nails and hair done. It’s so nice to sit in one of those vibrating chairs and relax for a bit and be pampered. You deserve it!

This is also when I refill all of my travel size bathroom supplies (shampoo, conditioner, q-tips…) and pack my bathroom bag. The bag that I take is pretty small, but I can fit A LOT in there. 🙂

I also set an alarm to remember to check in for my flight.

TIP: If your flight is early in the morning, it might be worth it to stay at a hotel near the airport the night before. Many hotels also let you leave your car there (for less than parking at the airport) and have a shuttle to the airport. You should call and check though on what times the shuttles run and if you can leave your car there.


24 hours ahead of time you will need to check-in for your flight. If you haven’t prepaid for your seats, checking in as soon as possible will help you to have better seats. You should also print your boarding pass. It’s fine to use your phone to check-in but if there’s a problem, it is always good to have a printed copy.

You should have a list of all of the things you’ll want to have on your flight and in your carry-on. (I’ll be creating a blog about that soon.) This would be the time to either pack your carry-on and remaining items and/or make sure that you have everything on your list. I also gather snacks for the flight. If they need to stay in the refrigerator (like cheese sticks or a sandwich) then I put them in a grocery bag and write myself a note not to forget them.


FINALLY!! Now if you’ve spent the last 12 months preparing, then you should have very little left to do this day.

You’ll want to leave for the airport giving yourself enough time to be there 3 hours early for an international flight. Yes, this is usually more time than you’ll need – unless there is a traffic incident or your forgot your passport or your husband closes the trunk on your head. (I know someone that happened to! She had time to get her head looked at and bandaged up – then still made her flight.)

There are a couple of things you must have with you when you get to the airport so you’ll want to do a last minute check before you back out of the driveway.

  1. Passport

  2. Prescriptions

  3. Money and/or credit cards

  4. Change of underwear and a clean shirt (in case your luggage doesn’t get to your destination at the same time you do)

  5. Supplies for the flight (there are 2 things that I have to have with me or I get twitchy – dramamine and a water bottle).

Whatever you have to have with you – write it down and put the list next to your purse or wallet or car keys. Being comfortable on a long flight is one of the most important ways to start your trip off right.

I look forward to helping you plan your next vacation. To start the discussion, you can schedule a chat with me.

And if you’re interested in another tour and getting all of this helpful information, here are details on our 2024 Outlander Tours of Scotland.


Mall Photo by Boudhayan Bardhan on Unsplash

Edinburgh Cobblestone Street Photo by Jinwei ding on Unsplash

Cell phone Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

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