How to Get Prepared for Air Travel

by Paul Konrardy

Domestic or overseas – wherever your flight takes you, follow these be-prepared tips!


  • If you’re traveling abroad, you’ll need a passport in order to re-enter the United States by air. (Kids also need passports!)

WHN TIP – Passport Timelines: Allow AT LEAST eight to ten weeks for the passport application process. Consider ten weeks for peace of mind. (The State Department says to allow eight weeks if they’re busy, yet how will you know when they’re busy? Right now, applications are heavy due to the new passport laws going into effect.)


  • If you are traveling abroad (especially to Africa or other tropical countries), consider scheduling and getting vaccinations well ahead of your departure date.
  • Learn about vaccinations that are required or recommended for travel at the CDC’s website or talk with your doctor.

Financial Preparations

  • Call your credit card companies and tell them you’ll be traveling. Include travel dates and the countries you’ll be visiting.
    • Why? Charges from cities or countries out of your spending norm may alert security or fraud systems and credit card companies may cut off your credit card until they hear from you.
  • Make photocopies of the front and back of credit cards you’re taking with you.
    • Keep a copy of this in your checked luggage in case you need to call and cancel your card if it is stolen.
    • On the same paper, write down the phone number to call and cancel your card. NOTE: National and international numbers are often different.
  • Consider travelers’ checks as a back-up for your credit cards.
  • Get a small amount of currency of the country you will be visiting through a local bank or through a currency exchange business at the airport.

Travel Warnings

  • The U.S. Department of State has excellent Consular Information Sheets that provide country overviews as well as travel warnings for locations and issues of concern for Americans traveling abroad.

WHN TIP – Embassy Contact Info: Print out the U.S. embassy contact information for the cities you’ll be in and keep this list with you at all times. Why? In case you lose your passport or there’s an emergency, you may need to find the embassy. Leave a copy of the embassy list with a friend for back up.

WHN TIP – Emergency Services: Not all countries use 9-1-1. If you are traveling outside of North America, make sure that you know your destination country’s emergency services number so that you’ll know exactly what number to dial if you need emergency assistance.

Pre-Plan: Packing

  1. Not sure what to pack in your carry-on? Read our What’s Allowed In Your Carry-On Luggage article.
  2. Do NOT put valuables in bags you are checking (electronics, mobile devices, jewelry, camera, money, credit cards, etc.). Put them in your carry-on if you can.
  3. Bring all medications in your carry-on. They should be in their original labeled container. Bring prescription copies as well as a list of the generic names.
  4. Luggage
    • Lost luggage is often routed to the address on the tag.
    • Do not put a home address on luggage tags (luggage will be returned to an empty house!).
    • Put your business card or write the address in your luggage tag.
    • If you’re staying in one place for a while, put in that address.
    • Mark your suitcases with a bright-colored tape, ribbon or rubber bands so it’s easy to identify.
    • Remove old white airport tags (the ones with the barcodes on them).

WHN TIP – Lost: Pack an extra change of clothing (or whatever you deem essential) in your carry-on in case your luggage is lost.

WHN TIP -Room Please: Leave room in your luggage for souvenirs, clothes, gifts, etc..

Your Pdf Checklist (Fill In, Save, Print!)

Download our Travel-Packing Checklist, open the form in Acrobat Reader and check items off your list as you pack. (Don’t have the latest version of Acrobat Reader? It’s FREE, and you can download it here.)

Save the list to your desktop knowing that you’ve included everything you need for your trip!

Your House

  1. Make arrangements for someone you trust to watch your home.
  2. This could include taking care of pets, watering your plants, getting the mail and newspaper.

Inside Your Home

  1. Empty the refrigerator of anything that might spoil – dairy, meat, and produce – and adjust the temperature to a lower setting.
  2. Unplug your toaster, coffeemaker, and any other kitchen appliances.
  3. Unplug electronic items – TV’s, radios, phones, and your computer to protect them in case there’s a storm while you’re gone.
    • If not unplugging your computer or other electronics, make sure your surge protectors are properly installed.
  4. Turn the water heater down to the lowest setting.
  5. Turn your air conditioner up in summer to protect pets, electronics, and other items.
  6. Turn your heat down or off in spring or fall.
  7. Set automatic light and radio timers.
  8. Leave shades or drapes as you normally do. This will make your house look lived-in.
  9. Put your valuables and jewelry in a safety deposit box or safe.

WHN TIP – Box It: If you don’t have safe or safety deposit box, put your jewelry in a nondescript cardboard box in your closet. Why? Thieves won’t think to look there.

  1. Empty trash cans
  2. Lock all doors and windows including basement and garage.
  3. Go to our Home Theft section for more information.


  1. Bring in any mail, newspapers or trash bins.
  2. Pick up any toys, tools, objects, ladders, etc. that might be in your yard.

Almost Gone

  1. Reconfirm all your reservations and their confirmation numbers
    • Hotel:
      Reconfirmed: Y/N
      Date of Conversation
      Person Spoke With
      Confirmation number(s)
      Email Confirmations Printed: Y/N
    • Airplane:
      Reconfirmed: Y/N
      Date of Conversation
      Person Spoke With
      Confirmation number(s)
      Email Confirmations Printed: Y/N
    • Car Rental:
      Reconfirmed: Y/N
      Date of Conversation
      Person Spoke With
      Confirmation number(s)
      Email Confirmations Printed: Y/N
    • Train:
      Reconfirmed tickets/departure time: Y/N
      Date of Conversation
      Person Spoke With
      Confirmation number(s)
      Email Confirmations Printed: Y/N
    • Other:
      Reconfirmed: Y/N
      Date of Conversation
      Person Spoke With
      Confirmation number(s)
      Email Confirmations Printed: Y/N
  2. Check the weather for your destination(s). Take out or add items to your luggage, if necessary.
  3. Make any necessary changes to your itinerary. Leave a copy of it with a friend or family member and a work colleague, just in case someone needs to get a hold of you.
  4. Make arrangements for a ride to (and from!) the airport.
  5. Double-check you have ON YOUR PERSON all tickets, passports, photo I.D., necessary money, medicine and all bags.
  6. Make sure ALL candles and fireplaces are extinguished.
  7. Double-check that doors and windows are locked.
  8. Have fun!

WHN TIP – Child ID Info: Traveling with kids? Download the free FBI Child ID for iOS or Android to electronically store photos and vital information about your children so that it’s all at hand if you need it. App includes pictures and physical identifiers like height and weight as well as the ability to e-mail the information to authorities with just a few clicks.

Thank You …

A special thank you to the industry professionals, travelers, travel agents, pilots, flight attendants and people who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.

Photo Credit: cytis

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