Overseas travel checklist: All the things to do before you go

woman packing suitcase

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted August 08, 2023

Going on an international trip is a fun and exciting opportunity to see the world. Make sure you’ve got everything sorted with this travel checklist of what to do before going overseas.  

The flights are booked, the accommodation reservations are in, and you’re busy fantasising about your international adventure. It may be twirling spaghetti in Italy, swimming with turtles in Hawaii, riding a real-life Mario Kart in Japan or heading on the luxury cruise of a lifetime through the Galapagos Islands.  

Before going away, it’s important to prepare for your overseas trip, from the day you leave Australia to the time you return for a smooth and pleasant journey.  

From China to Canada, here’s your travel checklist of 17 things to do before going overseas. 

Venice Italy

A gondola ride in Venice seems like the perfect way to spend the day - make sure your camera is charged before you go! Image: Shutterstock. 


The ultimate to-do list before going overseas on holiday


Check your passport

You will require a passport for every member of your party (including newborns) who will be travelling overseas. Many countries require you to have at least six months validity left on your passport before travel, even for countries you will just be passing through.

You should also ensure that your passport is free from any tears or marks that may deem it invalid at certain destinations. 

Your passport is your important identity document required to get in and out of the country, so it is important you know how to protect it in the home and on holiday.

Understand travel requirements

Different countries have their own entry requirements, and it is important you understand and adhere to these so that you can enter. Keep an eye on the Smart Traveller website for up-to-date safety warnings for your destination. 

Additionally, make sure you have a good understanding of the destination’s policies when it comes to visas, passport types, airport taxes and payments, vaccination requirements, and rules around medications, luggage or dress/appearance, and that you have this all organised before you go.

Research your destination

If heading to an overseas destination that you haven’t been to in a while, or perhaps it is your first time, do your research and find out all the fun things to see and do!

Immerse yourself in international travel guides for great travel tips and advice, from the best family activities in Bali on the shores of Indonesia to the best cakes and lollies to try like a local Kiwi in New Zealand.

Getting to the airport

Whether you leave at 8am or 8pm, you should always aim to get to the airport three hours before an international flight to avoid any unforeseen issues.

Make sure to plan the route you will be taking, and give ample time for any bad traffic or road closures that may occur along the way. If heading to Melbourne Tullamarine Airport, you can either choose to drive and park, get a local shuttle, or take the Skybus from Southern Cross Station. 

RACV Members save on airport transfers and parking around Melbourne Tullamarine Airport. 


Universal Studios Japan

Look for discounts or offers on attractions you're heading to, like Universal Studios in Japan. Image: Supplied.


Roaming, sim card or Wi-Fi? 

Heading overseas means deciding how you’ll use your phone and be contacted. Some may want to remain uncontactable, but most will choose varying levels of data coverage. 

Have a think about which option may best suit you, and what is compatible with your phone provider. You may opt for data roaming, getting a new sim card on arrival, or choosing to only use data with W-Fi facilities.

Ultimately, you want to be able to stay safe and enjoy your holiday, so if you'll be relying on your phone, pick an option that will provide you with enough data for your trip needs, such as checking routes and maps, making bookings, doing online banking and looking at reviews.

And remember, if you’re bringing your smartphone with you, make sure to keep it safe.


Consider getting travel insurance

Start investigating travel insurance as soon as you start booking so you may be covered in case an unexpected insured event occurs. Whether this may be lost luggage, injuries abroad, or cancellations outside your control, being prepared can provide that extra bit of care when you might need it most.

Look for a plan that best suits the needs of you and whoever you are travelling with, from policies like RACV Comprehensive Travel Insurance with limited COVID-19 cover**, to add-on options like cruise or Ski and winter spots cover**. 

Luggage requirements 

Before packing, make sure you are away of the luggage weight requirements for your flight, and any other internal modes of transport you will be taking at your destination. 

For instance, international airlines usually let you carry more than shorter internal flights do, so if you will be jetting around within one country, check that your bag will fit, or that you’ve paid for extra luggage fees in advance. 

Also remember to check requirements for what can and cannot come into your carry on, including any valuables, to save frantically changing things over or having to throw items out at the airport. 

Currency exchange

While much of the world allows you to pay with the tap of a card, in many countries, this is not a common occurrence, or there may be large fees associated with using your Australian bank cards overseas.

There are many options you may wish to utilise, from prepaid foreign currency cards to cash, bank accounts, debit or credit cards. It’s wise to bring at least two cards in case you lose one.  

Plan to also have some local currency on you, as cash may be needed for items at the airport, as well as transport, tipping, market stalls, food, and other products and services. Try to avoid getting this cash last minute at the airport – there can be long lines, and you may not get the best rate. 

Have maps and itineraries on hand

Its always a good idea to have an itinerary of your trip so you know exactly where you are going, whether a physical or digital copy. Having this written out can assist with asking for directions or telling bus or taxi drivers where to go if you don't speak the same language. 

If you will be heading somewhere with limited internet access, like a South Island road trip through New Zealand or an American Blues tour of Route 66, you may wish to get a printed map in case you lose phone or GPS connection and need directions to where you’re headed. 


Gardens by the bay Singapore

It's good to research a desintation like Singapore before you go, and make sure you catch the fabulous Gardens by the Bay. Image: Supplied. 


Look into offers and discounts

Ah, the fun part! Many places you are heading  may offer discounts or incentives around different attractions or experiences. Maybe some activities are slightly cheaper because you’re travelling off-peak, or certain places offer deals depending on the day of the week you visit. You can also investigate savings on a range of tours, cruises and hotels around the world.  

RACV Members can save on a range of overseas experiences through our partnership with Klook, from discounts on Disneyland passes to safaris and marine parks in Bali. 

Plan your pack

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Aim to pack your bags a couple of days in advance so you've got time to grab items you'll need if you don’t currently have them. Think of the season(s) you may be travelling in and pack accordingly, whether this is grabbing the beach gear and a new pair of discount sunglasses when packing for a cruise, to comfortable walking shoes for hiking trails or days spent exploring a new city.  

Have a look into your accommodation as to what will and won’t be provided, such as toiletries, non-perishable snacks, hair dryers or washing powder, and plan accordingly. 

Remember to also add items you will need during your flight, such as any travel pillows, medications, paperwork or electronics to your carry-on so these can be accessed with ease. 

Charge ahead

It can be a pain to hop on a 15-hour flight only to realise your forgot to charge your tablet, or misplaced your international adapter for your smartphone.  

Before leaving, research the type of travel adaptor(s) you will need in the country you are visiting, whether you will need portable batteries or chargers, and finally, remember to charge all your devices before your day of travel. 

On the road again

While an international trip from Australia is taken by sea or sky, you may choose to hit the road for parts of your trip abroad. This may be through a tour company, public transport, or you may elect to hire a car for some or all your journey. 

If hiring a vehicle, it is best to plan this in advance, as cars can quickly book out or you may not be able to find one that meets your needs, like automatic transmission, a large boot for all your luggage, or one with a proper car seat. If you’re going to drive overseas, find out if you need an international driver’s permit.

RACV Members save on car hire with SIXT^ in New Zealand – perfect for a budget-friendly Auckland to Wellington road trip. 


Bunji jumping in New Zealand

Check to see if your travel insurance covers extreme sports before taking that bungee jump in New Zealand! Image: Supplied. 


Make sure you pet is looked after

If you are one of the 61 per cent of Australian households that have a pet, you’ll want to make sure they’re in safe hands if they can’t fly first class with you.

Have a checklist ready for the person responsible for caring for your beloved family member, with plenty of food, pet insurance details, any health or medicinal requirements like what they can and cannot eat, and details for your local vet.  

Alternatively, you can leave your cat or dog with the trained experts at Hanrob Pet Hotel, conveniently located close to Melbourne Tullamarine Airport where your precious pet can board and be looked after on their own playful holiday. 

RACV Members save 10 per cent on pet care services at Hanrob Pet Hotel^^.

Have distractions ready

An international flight can be anywhere from two hours to two days (and can sometimes feel like much more!)

As well as planning out how to handle this for yourself – entertainment, meal requirements with your airline, sleep, comfortable clothing for the plane and frequent breaks – flying with kids is another level of preparation. 

Have both distractions and packed goods ready to go, such as nappies and bottles for babies, to colouring in or special toys for toddlers.

If a member of your family is prone to motion or travel sickness, have some remedies and treatments ready to try and make the journey smoother for all involved. 

Understand cultural norms and laws

While most people are familiar with the cultural norms and practises of their own country, many can be surprised or experience culture shock in places that are vastly different to where they come from. 

In the USA, for example, it is considered quite rude not to tip at a restaurant or bar. Chewing gum is illegal in Singapore, while in Vietnam, it is customary to take off your shoes before going into a home or some indoor venues. 

There can also be serious repercussions for breaking rules that are not in Australia, such as taking photos of artefacts, posing in front of some monuments, or wearing certain clothing, so make sure you are well-informed on both the cultural and legal customs in the country you visit.

Organise and inform

Before leaving for your overseas trip, have all your travel documents and itinerary ready. Make sure to share where you will be staying with a trusted contact or family number, and that you have all your travel insurance details with you in case the unexpected happens. 

Once you’re all planned, take the time to relax and unwind on your holiday – you’ve earned it! 

Pack the security of travel insurance for your trip.
Discover RACV Travel Insurance→

RACV Travel Insurance: The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) Ltd AR 001243563 is an authorised representative of the issuer and receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. RACV Travel Insurance issued by Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd ABN 80 000 438 291 AFSL 246 548. Terms & conditions apply, refer to the PDS.

**Limits and sub-limits apply. Refer to the Product Disclosure Statement for full details.

^^ RACV Members save 10% off recommended retail price. Must be a current RACV Member. Subject to availability. Offer applies to pet care services available on our website https://racv.clubconnect.com.au/en/melbourne/pet-services#RACV=1 only. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or discount. Must book online. Non-refundable, non-transferrable and not redeemable as cash. 

^Must quote RACV Membership number at the time of booking and collection and must present Membership card at time of collection. 15% discount applies on daily rental rates at SIXT Australia and New Zealand locations only and cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotion, special offer or coupon. For full auto club terms and conditions please visit https://www.sixt.com.au/auto-clubs/#/. All rentals with SIXT are subject to Rental terms and conditions. https://www.sixt.com.au/terms-conditions/#/ 15% discount applies on the base rate (time and kilometre) only. Difference in UP or PP pricing cannot be redeemed for cash or credit. Available at participating locations in Australia and New Zealand only. Offer is subject to availability. Standard Rental Agreement Conditions apply.