LIFE IS SHORT AND THE WORLD IS WIDE - THE SOONER YOU START EXPLORING IT, THE BETTER
Please note that some links might provide me with a small commission if purchased, but all of my recommendations are purely based on what I have used and works for me.
Planning Your Trip
Six Month Rule for Passport Expiration - most international destinations require that your passport is valid for at least six months AFTER the date of your arrival into the country, with some countries having even longer requirements. These are firm rules and the airlines will not let you on the plane if a passport expires within six months.
Passport Validity - if your passport is set to expire less than six months AFTER your trip, start the renewal process early. It can take up to four months to get a passport renewed in the U.S.
Visa Requirements - many countries have pre-arrival visa or other notice requirements. Always check to see what the entry requirements are (travel advisors will do this for you and tell you what you need). Many countries you wouldn't think require visas for U.S. residents, like Australia, DO require visas and you don't want to be scrambling at the last minute to get one: https://cibtvisas.com/visa-quick-check
A Few Weeks Before Departure
Destination Country Cash - get at least $100 in your destination country’s currency from your bank to carry with you. You may need it for a cab or food when you land if there is no change booth or ATM or you're not comfortable using one.
Prescriptions and medicine. Check the list of banned medications for your destination country. In most countries, cannabis and even CBD are illegal. In many, Sudafed and other stimulants are also banned. Make sure you have your prescription information or a letter from your doctor as you may need to declare it. Just don’t take anything that is questionable.
Med Kit - make one! Make sure you have pain relievers, band aids, cortisone cream, antibiotic ointment, alcohol swabs, pepcid/pepto bismol and benadryl. Also bring butterfly bandages - they’re really hard to find in other countries and very useful to close up cuts. If you’re really going for it, bring a small vial of superglue (can use if necessary to close up bigger cuts) and blood-clotting powder to stop bleeding (I’ve actually used it).
Closer to Departure
Download Airline App, Print Confirmation/Flight Booking Number. Download the airline app so you can get real-time updates on your flight. In any event, check your flight, sometimes they change times or have other issues. Screenshot or print airline confirmation/booking number. Phone glitches or lack of reception at the airport can cause anxiety and delay.
Pop an AirTag or other tracker into your checked luggage. Make sure it is paired to your phone or other device going with you so you can track your bags even if the airline can’t.
Digital ID. Take a picture of your passport, capturing the photo/information page and signature page and also your driver’s license, front and back. Put them in an album on your phone so they're ready if you need it. Many places will allow you to use a photo of your passport for VAT returns and the like.
Backup copies of documents. Print and pdf to a reliable device all your travel confirmations, bookings, tickets, vaccination records and your passport. Some countries require paper copies of visas so make sure you have several copies in your accessible luggage.
Insect repellant. Take insect control VERY seriously in tropical climates. Wear loose-fitting, light colored clothing (dark clothing attracts tsetse flies) that covers as much as you can. Bring insect repellant from the US but be sure that it is ok in the country to which you are traveling. Some may be banned. Wipes are good to avoid getting your bug spray seized at customs.
Memory Card for Camera. Bring an extra SD card if you have a digital camera other than your phone. Other countries don’t have as ready a selection or quality as the US and in some cases, like French Polynesia, they are extremely hard to find.
Consider a card with significant memory so you don’t run out or slow down a DSLR camera: Amazon.com: Ritz Gear 256GB High-Speed SDXC UHS-II SD Card, C10, U3, V60, Full-HD & 8K Memory Card for DSLR, Cinema-Quality Video Cameras
Photo upload connector. Bring an upload connector for your photos that allows you to use just the SD card to upload photos to your phone, computer or tablet. Then save them to the cloud while you are on WiFi.
For iPhone or iPad: Amazon.com: Apple Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader
For laptop/USB-C connection: Amazon.com: Anker USB-C SD 4.0 Card Reader, PowerExpand+ 2-in-1 Memory Card Reader, for SDXC, SDHC, SD, MMC, RS-MMC, Micro SDXC, Micro SD, Micro SDHC Card, UHS-II, and UHS-I Cards
Day of Travel
Airport Traffic. Check traffic before you leave for the airport and have a backup plan like train or subway if possible. Better to spend a bit more time in the airport than scramble to rebook your flight.
Carry-on essentials. Carry your essentials like prescription medicines in a carry on that will not be gate checked. Bring a few extra days’ supply just in case you get delayed.
Puffer. Bring a packable puffer. They’re invaluable on a cold flight or as an added layer. And they fit in a tiny bag.
AirPods or Headphones. Bring headphones with a one-prong plug or adaptor. You can also connect via AirPods or other earbuds with this tool: https://www.amazon.com/Twelve-South-Transmitter-Headphones-Airplanes/dp/B07Z13H4TP?th=1
Have a plane/hotel sleep pack in your carry on. Include whatever is essential for you to sleep, for me it is this list:
Gorilla Tape - for pesky lights in hotel rooms. You can rip it, don’t need scissors and it totally blocks light. Amazon.com: Gorilla Black Duct Tape, 1.88" x 12 yd, Black, (Pack of 2)
Cut a smaller section of it and fold on itself to be a small square, put it in a pill pouch
Plastic Pill Pouches - for earplugs, medicine, Gorilla Tape Amazon.com: Pill Bag Pouch, Reusable Plastic Pill Organizer Bags, Size 3" X 2" 3 Mil (Pack of 100)
Melatonin - I take it on the plane when it’s bedtime at my destination and then for two days after arriving -Amazon.com: Natrol Melatonin Fast Dissolve Tablets, Helps You Fall Asleep Faster, Stay Asleep Longer, Easy to Take, Dissolve in Mouth, Strengthen Immune System, Maximum Strength, Strawberry Flavor, 5mg, 200 Count
Earplugs - Put two pairs in the pill pouches to keep them clean and accessible - Amazon.com: Mack's Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs, 50 Pair - 33dB Highest NRR, Comfortable Ear Plugs for Sleeping, Snoring, Travel, Concerts, Studying, Loud Noise, Work
Moisturizing eye drops - Amazon.com: Refresh Tears Lubricant Eye Drops, 2 Count (Pack of 1)
Reach Toothbrush Kit - whether this goes in your sleep pack or otherwise, this is the toothbrush kit that my family always wants when we’re getting ready to go on a trip. Amazon.com : REACH Ultraclean Travel Kit Toothbrush with Toothbrush Cap and Toothpaste, Multi-Angled, Soft Bristles, TSA-Airport Friendly, Resealable, Portable and Reusable Bag