Whether you’re a frequent flyer or it’s your first time abroad, travelling overseas is a thrilling experience and the amount of preparation you do before getting on the plane will make a big difference to your holiday. To help make your trip a breeze, we’ve created the ultimate international travel checklist to help keep you organised, safe, and less stressed.
Planning your trip
Check the expiry date of your passport. Some foreign governments require visitors to carry a passport with at least six months' validity (beyond their planned stay) or they may be refused entry.
Visa and entry requirements
Different destinations have different requirements for entry. Make sure you’re aware of these by contacting the embassy or consulate of the country you'll be visiting and organising your visa, if you need one, well in advance. Vaccine requirements also differ, so it’s important to check the latest travel requirements on Smarttraveller.
Taking out travel insurance is essential to cover risks such as losing your passport and medical emergencies. Some countries require you to have COVID-19 travel insurance to enter the country, so it’s important to check your policy beforehand.
Research your destination
Doing a little research on your destination is a great way to prepare yourself for the unique cultural experiences you'll encounter. If you have the time, Duolingo is a free way to learn a foreign language from the privacy of your own home while Google Translate has your back at any time.
Be sure to familiarise yourself with the local laws and medical systems in countries you plan to visit. Here are some of our expert travel guides on destinations that are popular right now...
- Read Before You Leave – Bali
- Read Before You Leave – London
- Read Before You Leave – Fiji
- Read Before You Leave – London
- Read Before You Leave – Wellington
- Read Before You Leave – New York
Packing for your holiday
Having well-packed luggage means you end up with less wasted space and less hassle. The goal is to pack a suitcase that isn’t filled to the brim, leaving room for souvenirs or other items you’d like to bring home with you. Before you begin packing, check the carry-on and checked luggage limits for your flight to avoid excess-baggage fees.
A backpack is a practical carry-on bag. It should contain your valuable items, essential medication and important documents. Keep all the items you know you'll want for the flight – tablet, headphones, wrap, passport, pen – in a separate pouch within your bag so they’re easy to grab on the plane. For short trips, a carry-on suitcase is the ideal way to keep all your belongings safe. Here’s how to keep your carry-on under the weight limit.
A hardshell suitcase is preferable for your checked luggage as it will protect your items best. Packing cubes are great for keeping your luggage organised: one for tops, another for pants and skirts, one for underwear, one for belts and scarves and a small one for chargers. Rolling your clothes is a popular packing method as it helps to maximise space and minimise wrinkles. When returning to Australia from overseas, pack all the items you need to declare in one bag that sits at the top of your suitcase for ease of access. Here’s our round-up of the best suitcases on the market.
Prepare your home
If you're going on a holiday, especially a multi-week trip, you’ll need to prepare your home to be unoccupied. Don’t broadcast your holiday plans across social media and make sure you lock up securely.
Installing a quality security system with motion-detecting cameras and real-time notifications will allow you to see what’s going on in and around your home in real time. Setting room lamps on a timer will also create the illusion that someone is home.
Ask your local post office to hold onto your mail until you return so it doesn’t pile up. If you’re leaving for an extended period, tell a trusted neighbour your travel dates so they can keep watch over your home. You can also share your contact details with them in case of an emergency.
Organise your paperwork
Having a folder of photocopied essential documents can be a saviour while travelling. This should include a copy of your passport, vaccination certificate, itinerary and anything else that might be handy in case of an emergency. It’s also a good idea to back up these documents to the cloud in case you lose your paper versions.
Travel apps can help you navigate a new city, perform currency conversions, pack a perfect suitcase and even provide on-the-ground local expertise so it’s worth downloading them before your trip to help you make more informed and safe decisions. Pre-downloading Google Maps will mean you can navigate your destination even when offline.
Mobile and internet
While you'll most likely have reliable internet at your hotel and some key tourist attractions and restaurants, having data on your phone can make a major difference throughout your travels and open at least one effective form of communication worldwide. A local SIM is a better alternative than global roaming, which can often be expensive. These are easy to buy from most airports, electronic stores, department stores and directly from phone providers. For security, it's good practice to install and use a VPN application on your phone and computer.
Unexpected fees, the inability to access your money and missing out on activities because you have no local cash currency are all risks to consider when deciding whether or not to travel with bank cards, travel cards or cash. It’s a good idea to have several payment options available in case of emergencies.
A travel money card can be convenient for frequent travellers. Some will allow you to load several foreign currencies onto one card, which can be useful if you’re visiting multiple countries. The Qantas Travel Money card allows you to lock in exchange rates on up to 10 currencies or load Australian dollars (AUD) to use worldwide and rewards you with Qantas Points for spending.
It's not always wise to exchange before you fly, but it can be handy to have some small change when you arrive at your destination.
It’s best to arrive at the airport early to clear customs and security and get to your gate in time for boarding. The earlier you are, the less likely you are to miss your flight and ruin your holiday.
An ideal arrival time for international flights is at least two hours before your scheduled departure. Check-in for Qantas international flights closes 90 minutes before departure. Checking in online – available 24 hours prior to your flight – can save you a lot of stress on the day of flying.
If you have lounge access, make sure to check lounge opening hours, location and bar service times prior to your arrival. You should also review the lounge dress code beforehand.
Passing through security
Before you fly internationally, you need to clear immigration, customs and security procedures. Unless you have TSA PreCheck (valid at certain airports in the US only), you will need to remove various items, such as liquids (containers can be no larger than 100 millilitres even if only partially filled) and electronics from your luggage and place them in separate tubs before going through security. Keeping these items in an easy-to-reach spot will make the process more efficient. You will also have to remove your shoes, large jackets, items from pockets and jewellery before passing through.
Returning to Australia
Some destinations offer tax-free shopping for tourists. Global Blue lists each country where this is possible and the requirements, so reading up ahead of time can result in major savings on your purchases. Note that most refund points can be found in airports, so if you intend to collect your savings, build in some additional airport time before departure.
Packing faux pas
To protect Australia’s health, security and environment, we have strict biosecurity rules that dictate what you can bring back into the country. The Smartraveller website has information about biosecurity and border controls as well as clear guidelines on what you can and cannot return with.