UPDATED: Travel Planning Checklist – 5 Steps Toward Less Stress

No matter how often you travel, good preparation is still key. We’ve updated our checklist and added two brand-new suggestions at the top.  No need to scroll through searching for fresh content.  So let’s get to it: even seasoned travelers (you) can benefit from reminders to help make your trip angst-free and a rich cultural experience. Isn’t that what travel is about? 

1. NEW: Bone up on the music of your destinationMusic is surely the universal language. It’s a cultural signpost of a region; it’s heart and soul.   Headed to South America? Tango in Argentina, Samba in Brazil, Salsa in Peru –  load onto your iPhone or another device for some cultural immersion en route.  Headed to Asia? Musical genres reflect the many cultures from Istanbul to Tokyo – here’s a quick guide to understanding the variations. Becoming familiar with the music of your destination country/countries provides insight into local history, society, and culture. World music is much more than La Vie En Rose.

2. NEW:  Read literature set in/about your destination, or written by a local author. A few years ago, before my first trip to Iceland, Independent People by Icelandic author Halldór Laxness was recommended. (He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955.) His word-picture of Iceland and the folklore informed by a wild and forlorn terrain gave me a much deeper understanding of a country known for its “hip” vibe and as home to the Blue Lagoon.

Recently, a trip to Tuscany and the beautiful La Foce estate and garden led me to the literary work of its founder, Iris Origo. Both her autobiography, Images and Shadows, and her account of life at the villa during World War II War in Val d’Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943-44 , made the trip all the more meaningful and added a depth of understanding I couldn’t have grasped otherwise.  If Tuscany and Renaissance are in your travel plans, Origo’s  Merchant of Prato, is a tour-de-force capturing life in the fourteenth century.

Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Nobel Prize for Literature, 1982) is considered one of Latin America’s most esteemed writers, along with Chilean Pablo Neruda’s poetry (Nobel Prize for Literature, 1971).

3. Consider the Global Entry Program. Hey, U.S. travelers: notice your fellow arriving passengers at the Customs kiosks – while you’re in a 300-person line with many cranky children and their frazzled parents?


THOSE folks are in the Global Entry Program. If you haven’t enrolled, you should do so now. It’s not difficult but it does require an in-person interview and the scheduling, especially in big cities, can take several weeks (even months). Start the process here.  (Global Entry is available to citizens of several other countries, too.)

A few facts:

  • Global Entry has eliminated the need to fill out the blue landing form upon arrival in the U.S.  Your fingerprints  at the kiosk do the work. The Customs folks will just toss the forms, deferring to your receipt from the kiosk.
  • There’s a $100 non-refundable fee for enrollment. You may be able to recoup the expense as a high-status credit card holder; check your card’s travel benefits.
  • You must renew Global Entry enrollment when you get a new passport, so keep that in mind if your passport is about to expire.
  • Children are not covered under their parents’ Global Entry enrollment, but they do not need separate enrollment for TSA PreCheck on domestic fights.

When you receive your 9-digit “Trusted Traveler” number use it every time  you book a  flight (or add it to your frequent flyer accounts). Your ticket will  show the TSA PreCheck status and expedite the security screening process at most airports and most airlines.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 11.52.21 PMMissed planes are a more common occurrence these days due to longer security lines so acquiring the TSA benefit is a plus to Global Entry.

2. Get local currency BEFORE you leave. While ubiquitous ATMS make currency as easy to grab in Prague as in Pittsburgh, that convenience can come at a price. images So it makes sense to take some local currency with you for incidentals, tips upon arrival,  and especially if you are transiting on to remote areas. New York’s large banks will sell currency to their customers without a fee. That isn’t true everywhere.

If your bank does charge a currency exchange fee, check out AAA (American Automobile Association).  AAA members’ currency exchange is free for amounts over $200; for amounts less than $200 there is a 10% fee, which AAA must pay to their bank. Non-AAA members are able to buy currency but charged 5% of the transaction. Just remember to allow a few days, especially for less common currencies.

3. Remember travel-size products. As a veteran traveler and carry-on expert this will strike you as a no-brainer, but I include it as a reminder not to overlook the obvious.Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 11.52.10 AM Realizing you have only the 9 oz. size of Crest on hand the night before departure is annoying to say the least.

Forget carry on; large size products will eat up valuable space. So, a checklist item: note the must-have toiletries before departure and either fill containers with your own favorite products, or update your supply. In my experience, a hand-wash  laundry combo is very helpful and helps with packing choices.

And, I’ve become a fan of packing cubes….especially those with mesh tops so that contents are readily visible. I’ve come home too often with never-used items that were buried; the cubes ensure that precious space is used with maximum efficiency.

4. Update your apps.  A friendly reminder to do this BEFORE you leave when wi-fi is plentiful and fast. Mac App store logoMake sure all the electronic stuff (including city maps, which you can use off-line) is up-to-date, and that huge book you’ve been waiting to read is tee’d up to go.  See 3 Score & More’s posts on essential podcasts and great travel apps for inspiration.

5. Include a paperback book. This may seem an oxymoron given the previous reminder on electronic tools, but consider: a slim paperback is light, it takes up next-to-no room, is less cumbersome than a magazine and won’t fall apart (as quickly).This is a great way to incorporate destination-relevant literature – nothing like a great book set in the locale you’re visiting – both book and travel will be all the more enjoyable.

If battery life is a concern or opportunity to re-charge a worry, a good old-fashioned book will prove a worthy companion. You’ll be grateful for going “old-school” if caught in an unexpected delay.  Looking for ideas?  Here you go.

Please share your “must do” checklist in the comments section below.  There is no definitive list – all suggestions will make everyone’s travel a better experience.

Happy trails,


Updated July, 2016

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© 3 Score and More 2016

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