The Ultimate Traveller’s Checklist

Whether you are hopping on a plane to soak in the culture of Melbourne, hiking across the Appalachian trail in the US, or just kicking back on the Great Barrier Reef; travelling requires a little bit (or a lot of) careful planning. A well-considered travel checklist can detail everything you might need to pack before departure: clothing, toiletries, documentation, and more.

So, here’s what we consider to be the bare minimum of what you will need as ‘travel essentials’ – whether you are heading overseas, or staying closer to home.


We have prepared a travel checklist that can be easily printed on an A4 sheet of paper. Please see here for your free download.

Travel checklist for an Australian holiday

Tourism Research Australia stated that a quarter of Aussies fly to domestic destinations: an increase of 11% in the last two decades. That means that a majority of drivers still make their way across the great southern land by car, but the way we travel continues to evolve regardless.

So, whether you are embarking on a traditional Aussie road trip, or taking the last train out of Sydney, here’s how you prepare yourself for the journey.

Choose the right bag

When to check: A week before you leave
Key items: Backpack or suitcase, and a small carry on bag

Visiting friends or family? You might need a proper suitcase to fit presents, beachwear, laptops for kids, and much more. Don’t underestimate how a trip at home can quickly blow out when it comes to your packing.

Otherwise, if you are just having a breezy weekend trip, see if you can get away with just a backpack stocked to the brim with clothing.

Now that you have assembled your main bag, it is time to look at your carry on. It may not require anything extensive since the longest you could spend on a plane is a little more than four hours, but it is an ideal place to store your toiletries, travel documents, and tablet – which is hopefully packed with sitcoms and games!

Gather any documents & tickets

When to check: As soon as they’re booked
Key items: Airline tickets, drivers license, Medicare card, travel cover policy information

“We live in an era of smartphones, virtual reality, and privately funded rockets! Surely I can flash my boarding pass on my phone to the airlines.”

Sure, Australian airlines today offer more convenient ways to make your boarding fast and straightforward. However, what if the hardware that scans smartphones for tickets broke down the day you depart? You will be glad you printed your ticket then.

In addition, make sure you have copies of any bookings that could be potentially foiled by a flat mobile phone battery (e.g. theatre or zoo tickets).

Keep things secure

When to check: A week before you leave
Key items: Bag lock, whistle (optional)

Travelling through Australia means you are going to be pretty familiar with the terrain. That does not mean you should let yourself become a target though! Regular stops on the side of a street to check Google Maps could be all a thief needs to identify you as a tourist.

However, that is less of an issue if your bags are padlocked and your belongings are secured inside. Invest in a reliable travel lock well before you leave home, and you will not have to worry about this.

Set up your home

When to check: At least a week before you leave

Have you organised someone to stay at home? Check in with your housesitters a few times per week, and make sure you leave them plenty of cookies as thanks.

If you are not leaving anyone at home, it is still worth securing while you are away. Consider getting some automated lighting, so it appears you are home while you are actually on a beach somewhere. Also, keep all windows and doors locked, give the place a good clean before you head out, and don’t forget to switch the home security system on if you have one.

If you do not have a system installed, let your trustworthy neighbours know you are going to be away, and to keep an eye on any suspicious parties lurking around your property.

Pack in advance

When to check: One day before you leave
Key items: Anything mentioned in our above list
Now it is time to pack. Stop groaning, it won’t take as long as you think!

Don’t leave this until the last minute – otherwise; you might miss something. Put aside some of your time the day before you leave (at least an hour) to roll up and pack any clothing you might need, earmark your toiletries and personal hygiene products from the bathroom, and don’t forget to pack smartphone & tablet chargers! Finally, collate any tickets and travel documents in one place and keep them together at all times.

Taking out the right travel insurance

When to check: A week before you leave

“Why would I get travel insurance for an Australian holiday?” It is a fair question, especially given that Medicare is available for all permanent residents to access healthcare in an emergency.

However, if you live in a state other than Queensland, the cost of emergency transport is for you to pay. If you are covered by travel insurance though, these transportation costs will be covered by your insurer.

That is just one reason why travel insurance is essential if you are journeying across Australia. Here are three more:

  1. Cancellations/delays, which result in you losing deposits or missing out on parts of your trip.
  2. Hire car claims. If you have to claim on your rental car insurance, this covers your excess.
  3. Stolen or lost belongings. If someone nicks your suitcase at the airport, your travel insurance can pay towards replacing your belongings.

Are you still not sure how travel insurance works? Not a problem! Read our travel cover frequently asked questions.

International travel checklist

Aussies departed for 10,756,890 international trips in 2016-17, according to smartraveller.com.au. Are you next? Well, it is time to get packing, then!

Choose your bag

When to check: A week before you leave
Key items: Duffel bag or suitcase, and a carry on bag

Are you heading somewhere that requires plenty of walking with your luggage? Perhaps a suitcase with two wheels (or even four that spin 360 degrees) would be ideal. In fact, a tough suitcase with wheels is preferable if you are not travelling light: for example, you plan to bring laptops or tablets, a few personal care appliances, gifts for others, etc.

On the other hand, your garden-variety duffel travel bag can go a surprisingly long way to keep your essentials close at hand. It is difficult to secure, however – so pack this if you are not visiting somewhere with a high risk of theft, or your trip does not involve more than the basic luggage – such as clothes, shoes, and toiletries only. Also, it’s important to make sure any duffel bag you bring is comfortable to haul around long distance, so look for one with back straps.

The last thing you will need is a carry on bag that fits the dimensions and weight specified by your airlines. It should be big enough to store your toiletries, medication, travel documents & tickets, a bottle of water, smartphone, and anything else you’ll need before you arrive at your final destination.

Gather any documents & tickets

When to check: As soon as they are booked
Key items: Airline tickets, passport, travel cover policy information

Don’t wait; get your tickets, boarding passes, passport and any other vital documents rounded up early in one ‘travel wallet’. Better yet, copy these documents into ‘the cloud’ on Dropbox or Google Drive, so you have backups if they are lost (or, leave photocopies/scans with someone at home who can email soft copies).

Related: Want to know how to get more out of your trip overseas? We have put together a fantastic set of international travel tips & tricks.

Keep things secure

When to check: A week before you leave
Key items: Bag lock, money wallet, whistle

In 2016/17, there were 773 reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade by Aussie travellers overseas. Why become one of those statistics if you don’t have to?

Invest in a good lock for each of your bags, consider a money wallet to keep cash & cards hidden on your person, and perhaps even buy a whistle – to attract attention if you get into a bind. None of these items will set you back an arm and a leg, and you can reuse them in future trips.

Set up your home

When to check: At least a week before you leave

If you are heading overseas, it is a good idea to have someone houses it while you are away – after all, you don’t want to return home to find your house ransacked! Choose someone that you can trust, who you won’t have to check in on; as it may be difficult to get in touch, depending on where you are in the world.

Well before you set off, have them over for dinner and show them how to secure the home while they are at work or away from the property. Now’s also a good time to consider automated security lighting, deadlock installations to the main doors, and security bars on the windows – if any are practical.

Pack in advance

When to check: One day before you leave
Key items: Anything mentioned in our above list

We have all done a frantic, last-minute pack for a trip. It is horrible and entirely avoidable. Stay at home the night before, figure out how many pairs of shirts, skirts, undies, pants, socks and shoes you need for (up to) one week away. If you are away for longer than a week, do some web searches for a laundromat in advance.

Have a good look at the climate of your destination, to ensure your attire is suitable, too.

Once your clothing is sorted, get your toiletries in order – and make sure you pack them first thing in the morning before you leave (after you brush your teeth, of course!)

It’s also time to set your phone up with any apps that’ll streamline your trip. Need a language translator? Did you know Google Maps lets you download maps to your phone for offline use? Now’s the time to set these apps up – in case you haven’t organised cell service for your trip. Our list of six must-use travel smartphone apps is essential reading before you start packing in earnest.

Finally, bring together any tickets, receipts, your passport and visa documents, and relevant documents you need for the flight.

Taking out the right travel insurance

When to check: A week before you leave

Smart Traveller strongly recommends you take out travel insurance for all/any:

  1. countries you plan to visit;
  2. activities/events you plan to partake in; and
  3. pre-existing medical conditions.

Travel insurance is vital for most trips, but it becomes infinitely more so when you are travelling internationally. For starters, not every country has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Australia. That means that you cannot walk into a hospital in any foreign country and expect free treatment. With the right travel insurance, those costs are paid for.

A policy will also cover you if your belongings are stolen, flights get delayed, and you miss a crucial part of your trip, and more.

Here’s a rundown of a few different levels of travel cover.

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