We’re flying off in just a few weeks! AAAAHHHH! To celebrate, I’m sharing loads of travel tips, activities, and resources, including this travel with kids checklist – a free printable to do list for before you travel. If you haven’t yet, download my super popular easy paper airplane templates or plane travel puppets first. Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.
Travel with kids can be soooo overwhelming – we all know it!
That’s why, I’d say about a quarter of questions in mom groups I’m in are travel related, even though we spend remarkably less than 2% of our time with kids traveling. Well, most of us (I’m looking at you, travel bloggers!)
So, yeah, it can be a bit much.
If you know me by now, you’d know that I’m an obsessive researcher and list-maker. I had some mercy on your souls and did the groundwork for you by creating this travel with kids checklist.
The download includes two parts – in a ZIP folder:
- A hand-lettered checklist with dot grids for you to fill in according to when you need to do it yourself.
- A Word document for you to edit as needed, print, and use to fill out your dot grid list.
At first, I made a blank version and a filled-in one and I was debating which to offer. I decided to go i the middle. Writing something down helps commit it to memory. That among other reasons make a list YOU wrote the best list.
But I know you want a starting point – that’s the whole point – isn’t it?!
I focused the list on international long-haul travel with young kids because that’s what we’re doing. That’s why you need to go through, pick what’s relevant for you and ditch the rest.
I also added more explanatory details in my list – which you can abridge in yours once you have the calculation.
About the creation of this pre-travel checklist:This travel with kids checklist is part of a 7-part mini travel planner that I created.I’m offering the pre-travel to do lists free in one easy download right here.
The full bundle includes this as well and is available for a few bucks here. Some of the stuff in the bundle work hand-in-hand with this and will really help you break down itinerary planning, shopping lists, and more!
All of the components were hand-lettered, scanned, and then assembled in a cross between classic printable planners and dot grid journals – so you have faint guides to help you stay neat without intruding.
Tip: if you don’t want to keep your month before and your daily to-do on the same list, you can cut this apart! Just keep each individual section as an “index card” once you’ve used the convenient single-eyeful spread to put it together!
For your convenience, I’m also including a rundown of the checklist below – for those of you who don’t want to bother with writing it down and just want to scan to make sure you didn’t miss something!
Travel with kids checklist and to do by time:
3-6 months before (or as soon as you know you’re traveling):
- Passports – Make sure they are up to date and get new ones if not
- Visas – find out what you need and then get your visas
- Purchase flights
- Book accommodations
- Get travel insurance
- Book car rental – we made the mistake of waiting too long for this! Book early.
- Get an international driving permit if necessary
- Research, make appointments for any necessary vaccines. Tip: if you are flying to a place with a measles outbreak with a child who is too young to have received it, or a second dose, find out if you can get it early! We got Y’s second dose at 3 instead of four for this reason.)
- Research trip logistics: baggage allowances, weather at destination, voltage requirements etc.
- Research local car seat laws at destination
- Create a trip budget
- Create a rough shopping list so you can deal hunt for basics and higher ticket items like suitcases, photography equipment, etc.
- Reserve seats online as soon as possible
1 month before:
- Get any necessary vaccines
- Book tours if relevant
- Purchase what you need in the month before – try not to wait for the last minute on most things. Think: clothing, device accessories, sun protection, etc.
- Find out about phone plans at destination (if foreign)
- Arrange pet sitters
- Register your visit with STEP (state department) and find out where your local government agencies are.
- Start a countdown with the kids! Printable coming soon….but meanwhile you can use this 50 day color-in countdown (just color any extra days before you start.)
1-2 weeks before:
- Talk to children about local behaviors and etiquette, as well as rough plans for trip. You can start hyping up the trip depending on your child’s age, maturity and understanding of time. Don’t start too early if they don’t have a good reference for when things happen.
- Make a rough “good to do” list for your itinerary (printables included in the planner package!)
- Find out about local events you may want to attend (also in the planner package)
- Research restaurants and any allergies, dietary needs (again you have a printable for this in the planner package)
- Call banks to inform of travel plans.
- Have a contact at home know of your plans – to take care of mail, have access to your home if needed and to know where you are in case of emergency, etc
- Get in touch with/inform friends and family at destination and find out their schedules for meetups.
- Make a thorough packing list (yep, also in the package!)
- Double check you have everything you need – shop again!!
- Wrap up anything work-related. Don’t take on new projects – get ahead, and prepare things for the few days after your return as well.
2-3 days before:
- Photocopy your passports
- Create folder with all tickets, itineraries, confirmations, embassy/consulate info etc – as well as passport photocopies.
- Shop for food for the journey
- Get cash for the trip – local to the destination if possible, and your home
- Research (and reserve if possible) airport transportation at home and at destination
- Download local maps for your destination so that you have them even without internet service.
- Purchase or arrange phone service for destination (if foreign)
- Gather perishables from your fridge and start eating!
- Do lots and lots of laundry. Don’t wait for the day before you go!
- Open the suitcases. Start putting things in a few days early, checking them off the list as you bump into them. Since you’re doing laundry now, fold things you’ll be bringing right into the suitcases.
- Clear memory/backup any devices you plan to use for photos. If possible, format memory cards.
- Prepay any bills that will be due soon.
- Download entertainment (ebooks, movies, music, etc)
- Charge all devices, as well as backup batteries
- Set email auto-responders
- If you can, check in online
- Look up weather forecast to finalize what you plan to pack, tweak plans as needed.
- Fully pack. Take out what’s already in the suitcase if you need to, spread everything out, and reorganize them into suitcases. Complete your packing list.
- Prepare travel clothing, and lay out anything that can be prepared for the next day
- Make a list of things that need to be grabbed at the last minute (devices, medications, food) Put it on top of the suitcase so you don’t forget to check the list…
- Remind your home contact that you’re leaving and finalize a time.
- Clean home, wash dishes, etc
- Self-care: shower, brows, nails, etc
- Mow lawn and any other home maintenance that gets done regularly
Hours before- leaving time:
- Prepare last-minute carry-on luggage and snacks
- Water plants
- Take out trash (make a dedicated garbage bag left open near the front door. Grab it on the way out)
- Shut heat/A/C – if you’re leaving a cold climate, talk to a plumber a few days before to see what you need to do to stop pipes from freezing, etc.
- Unplug electronics that don’t need to run while you’re away, including any chargers that aren’t in use.
- Grab your perishables and give away or take along what you can eat on the way
I’ll be sharing much much more travel resources, starting with activities I design and pre-trip planning, and then after we travel, I’ll share more tips, leading into the holiday travel season. If you travel, especially international long haul flights, you’ll want to follow along (downloading this planner will sign you up for updates!)
Got anything to add to this travel with kids checklist? Comment below!