Simple Ways to Curb Pre-Travel Stress

I love to travel, and, honestly, I might love the planning process every bit as much as the trip itself. I mean, just think about it. Oh, the possibilities!

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The anticipation!

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The lists I get to make!

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Okay, maybe that last one isn’t exactly universal. But bear with me, because my planning process — including a few lists — has made such a big difference in my pre-travel stress* that I honestly get pretty pumped about it.

*Yes, even though I love the travel and I love the planning, I’ve been known to become a bit of a nightmare in the 24-48 hours before I walk out the door.

I’m not the only one who gets a little edgy the day or so before a trip, right? Not necessarily about the trip itself, although that’s a factor, of course — I do like to have my vacay ducks in a row before I hit the road. But I’m also trying to make sure things are handled at work, and there are my animals to consider — which generally means I want the house clean and all my pets’ food, meds, and instructions in order for the pet sitter. And if I’m traveling for some sort of a race (which is a pretty darn common occurrence around here), well, that creates a whole new level of packing strategy.

So, what’s my secret to lowering that stress? In a word (well, two words): reusable lists.

(Sexy, I know.)

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Sure, every trip has specific packing and planning requirements (say, bikini vs. gloves), but some things never change. With that in mind, here are the lists I keep — and tips I have for creating your own stress-busting travel prep system.

Packing Lists

I have my generic packing list with toiletries, daily necessities (undies, socks), workout clothes, and other easy-to-forget items like sunglasses and a phone charger. I also have my passport listed, because although I don’t need it for every trip, I certainly don’t want to leave it at home for a trip where it’s required!

I also have a race checklist — both for running and triathlon — which I can’t recommend highly enough. Even if your “travel” is only over to the race site, it’s really handy to have a list at the ready to make sure you’ve grabbed everything you need. Shoes, socks, Body Glide, inhaler, watch … I’ve shown up without several of these things before, and it’s seriously no good.

I keep these lists in Evernote so that it’s easy for me to pull them up on my phone. It’s also easy to duplicate and modify these lists when necessary.

To-Do Lists

I have a generic work to-do list as well as a generic home/pets list (again, in Evernote). The work list has things like making sure my regular duties are covered, weekly meetings canceled, out of office emails set up, etc. For home and pets, it’s all about setting up the animals’ medications, ensuring there’s enough food to last them while I’m gone, and double checking that there’s a pet sitter with a key for the whole time I’m away. I also make sure watches or cameras I’m taking are fully charged and my Kindle has the books I want downloaded, because I don’t go anywhere without books.

One other document I hang onto — instructions for whomever is staying at the house. It has everything they need to know about the dogs, the pool, the AC, as well as emergency numbers (vets, neighbors, family, etc.). It’s a lot of information and it pretty much stays the same, so I keep it as a Word doc and just update it and print out a new copy as needed. If I had to write it all out every time … well, that would require a whole other line on my to-do list.

The last thing I make sure to do is, once this is all in order, I take a few moments to appreciate what I’ve done and what’s to come. It puts a bit of energetic space between the stress of leaving and actually heading out the door — and it puts me in a better frame of mind to have a fantastic time.

I’m not gonna lie — when I have it all laid out like this, it kind of sounds like a lot. But, that’s exactly why keeping these lists handy is so helpful. The more responsibilities one has, the more complicated going away becomes, so it only makes sense to automate that process as much as possible.

Got any tips you’d offer for staying sane before heading out on a big (or small) trip? Literally, as I write this, I’m getting things around for a last-minute press trip to Jamaica (woot!), and having just a few days to prepare makes me more grateful than ever that I’ve got my systems in place! —Kristen

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