Things To Do List

The Final 24 Hours Before A Trip

Derek Everything Else 28 Comments

Things To Do List
The countdown has begun. I now have less than 24 hours before my flight to Europe and as usual, this is proving to be a most hectic period of time. Even though I’ve had to prepare for dozens of flights, trips and adventures over the years, I still find myself a bit overwhelmed upon realizing that I only have one day left to ensure that I’m ready for whatever may lie ahead.

And what does such preparation involve?

Well, the preparation for this Eurail trip has been somewhat different than the norm for me. To begin with, this may very well be the first time that I’ve had to pack a backpack full of warm weather clothes and as a result, I have found myself in disturbingly unfamiliar territory. My backpack has never before failed me in terms of having enough space to fit all of my possessions, however, those possessions have always included t-shirts, shorts and…well, not much else. Now I’m trying to stuff my heavy fleece, an extra jumper, a few long-sleeved shirts, thick socks, a scarf and two pairs of pants into my pack, which is being forced to endure an intense yoga-like session of stretching that it has never before had to deal with.

And in addition to suffering from winter clothes confusion, I’ve also been trying to complete the following list of tasks before I fly out to Zurich this very evening…

  • Switch my mobile phone plan so that I don’t lose my phone number while away
  • Go to the bank to take out some cash
  • Buy some extra contact lens cleaning solution (because this stuff tends to be super expensive overseas)
  • Eat one last chicken salad sandwich on a bagel from my favorite Brooklyn bagel shop
  • Do a load of laundry
  • Publish this post to my blog
  • Visit some family and friends to say goodbye
  • Send my broken external hard drive back to the manufacturer
  • Purchase some vitamins to take with me
  • Clean out my backpack
  • Find a good book to take with me

I’m perfectly aware that not a single item on that list is so vital to the success of my upcoming trip that I should really spend more than a few minutes thinking about or trying to accomplish it, but in reality, every time I look at that list, my muscles tense and I start to wonder how I’ll ever survive if I leave any item unaccomplished. And of course, the more I dwell on this thought, the more overwhelmed I become and the less I’m able to concentrate on doing anything that needs to get done. In fact, the only thing I’ve crossed off my list so far is eating my favorite bagel sandwich.

Most likely, at least half of the items on my list will remain undone by the time I step foot onto my flight later this evening. And while at first that seems troubling to me, after a couple of deep breaths, and perhaps a glass of wine or two, I’m sure I’ll realize that it’s not so terrible after all. Actually, I already know what’s going to happen based upon previous experience. At some point, which very well may be in a few minutes from now, I’ll just throw in the towel and make the decision to forget about my silly list so that I can enjoy my last few hours in NYC.

It’s not as if Switzerland doesn’t have washing machines or ATMs or even stores that sell contact lens cleaning solution at prices that are most likely not as outrageous as I might imagine. I shall soon remember these facts and as a result, I shall survive, just as I have done dozens of times before.

Then, as soon as I’m able to let go of that list and stop worrying about things that just aren’t so important, my mind will instantly quiet down. The result will be a calm, happy me, and when I do board my flight this evening, my mind shall also be clear, fresh and fully prepared for the upcoming journey.

And once that happens, once any traveler stops worrying about whether or not they’ll find toothpaste in Bangkok, if they’re bringing enough socks or what might happen if they don’t buy extra batteries for their flashlight, they’re free to concentrate on much more important things, such as how fortunate they are to be getting on an airplane, about to travel and discover and learn, first-hand, about this world of ours.

So, as I finish this post, I myself have certainly begun to forget about my To-Do List above (apart from the item listed as ‘publish a post to my blog’) and I’m actually quite relaxed. My clothes are dirty, I don’t have any vitamins and I never made it to the bank, but I really do think I’ll be alright in the end.

Off to the airport I go, ready for Europe.

Hopefully I’m not the only one that gets a little overwhelmed before a trip…I’m sure some of you other travelers go through a similar stage before leaving as well, right?

For those who have yet to travel, do you think you’d spend your final day trying to run around accomplishing everything on your final To-Do list?


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Comments 28

  1. Great post Earl, I’m 4 weeks away from leaving to Argentina for 5 months on what will be my second long term adventure, even 4 weeks away I find myself occasionally letting some of the petty concerns get to me. After thinking them out they seem so silly but in the moment it can be worrisome. I like your second to last paragraph about how fortunate you are, that’s how i always come back to earth…the small things will figure themselves out so long as you remain passionate about your goals for your trip and open minded to any “problems” that may come your way.


    1. Hey Greg – I really do think that understanding how fortunate we are is one of the most important aspects of traveling. And in terms of pre-travel preparations, focusing on this certainly does make those lenghty last minute to-do lists seem quite insignificant.

      And spending five months in Argentina (or South America) is quite an adventure indeed. I was just talking about Argentina with another traveler I just met here in Ljubljana and they were telling me how, after 6 months in that country, they still want to go back as often as they can because of all it offers!

  2. What a timely blog! I’ve just started getting ready for an usually timed trip to Mexico. I thought I was the only person on the planet with ridiculous obsessive lists and rituals to be preformed just before travel (lol). We keep a bag packed with our “necessities” (for casita/home stays) and I have a master packing list for clothing/toiletries/sundries. Packing winter clothing would throw me off, too. I don’t usually travel to winter but away from it.

    Hope you are having a great trip! I was hoping me and The Girl could buy you a beer in a week or so. Maybe in February!

    1. Hey Laura – There is no way you’re alone when it comes to obsessive trip planning! And it is a shame that we won’t cross paths in Mexico but I hope you have a wonderful trip over there and I shall look forward to the time when our paths do cross, somewhere in the world…

  3. Yes,I do make a list before I travel and get most of what’s on the list done…I’ve almost missed flights because of this. The last day before a trip is always hectic.Love your trip route,have fun.

    1. Hey Charmine – It’s funny you mentioned almost missing flights as one of my friends had that problem a few weeks ago and checked in about 1 minute before they closed the desk. And it was due to running around trying to get last minute stuff done. So now I’m conscious of that myself and won’t let that happen!

  4. I love that you included post this post to the blog… because that always ends up being one of my things to do. Ahhh the 24hrs before a trip are I think the best… because you are seriously going crazy then you take off and thats it nothing you can do to change what you have prepared for.

    1. Hey Jaime – Haha…I guess that’s a good way to look at it all. It is crazy but it should be enjoyable as well, which is tough when I find myself running around until the very last second sometimes. But like you said, once you walk out the door, the trip begins regardless of how much you’ve accomplished or left undone!

  5. I never used to worry about making sure everything was good for a trip until I once arrived for a week in Vegas without any underwear – which in hindsight seems like a very Vegas-y thing to do. Ever since then however, I’ve been a little more focused when preparing.
    Enjoy Europe!

    1. Hey Steve – Vegas without underwear….definitely seems like a mistake that one could easily get away with. But I can also see how that would make you want to be fully prepared when it came time for your next trip!

  6. Hey Earl!

    Have an awesome trip! Sounds incredible!

    When I went to Nepal I had a million things to do the day before I left. And then when it actually came to leave I could swear I was forgetting something. Same with the way back, hate that feeling. The to do lists are rough, nice once it’s all done though =}
    It might be to late now but you could try some of those space bags for fitting the winter clothes. Heard they help make things a lot more compact.

    Good luck!
    Have an awesome trip!!!

    1. Hey Sarah – Those space bags are probably a good idea, something I always forget about. But I managed to fit everything in the end so apart from my backpack being a little heavier than normal, it all worked out. And that’s a good thing as it’s quite cold here in Switzerland today 🙂

    1. Hey Maria – Thanks for that link, those do look quite useful. I’ll definitely look into buying one the next time I’m back in the US. I surprisingly managed to fit everything into my backpack quite well this time but those folders would come in handy on any trip!

  7. Ah, the “To-Do” list! Couldn’t go anywhere without them. I know that I’m way over the top when it comes to organization and getting ready to go on a trip. I think it comes from years of being an estimator, meeting the deadline bidding then managing multimillion dollar construction projects. I just pulled up the lists we used when my family did a trip to Europe in ’06. The same lists were used again, although modified for the tropics, for an Asian trip in ’08. I’m not talking about one hand written list, I’m talking about six different lists!

    1) The “Family List” of things to take, made and given to my wife and daughter a month in advance of departure just to get everyone thinking ahead of time of what to think about to take so we’re not rushing around at the last minute.

    2) My “Pack List”, “Day Pack List” & Toiletry Bag List”. Here’s where everyone was on their own. My daughter really got into making her own lists; my wife, not so much. Everyone has their own comfort level.

    3) The “Before we go Check List”. This is the list of things to do before we go. As with the Asia trip, it was started several weeks in advance because of the shots required and malaria pills ordered. This list was continually modified and added to up until the last list.

    4) The “Count Down to Blast-Off List” was for the last three days of things that could only be done up until right before we walked out the door. This included things like: Do you have the airline tickets and passports? Did you remember to put your pocket knife in the check-in pack?

    Each of the lists had an average of 30 to 40 items. But, just when you think you’ve thought of everything, there’s always something else. I always plan for “Murphy’s Law”, if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. That’s why I plan for everything to be done the day before leaving, so we’ll have plenty of time to do the things “we” forgot about. If nothing was left undone, (what are the chances?”), then we’ll have a day of rest. I do all this because I enjoy the planning about as much as the actual trip.

    While traveling, I always take along a very small note book (my little black book) to list things we forgot to bring along or do before we left. It’s also a place to quickly jot down thoughts during the trip to jog my memory while writing in my journal.

    So, Earl, I hope you thought of everything, got it done and/or took it along. And if you didn’t, you know you won’t die and sun will always come up tomorrow! Happy Trails!

    1. Hey Steve – You guys definitely take list-making to the next level, but it seems as if you’re quite organized in the end. It’s impressive what you have going over there! So far it seems as if I managed to accomplish everything that was important for this trip so it all worked out in the end (as usual). And I’d probably be a lot more organized if I used your system of different To-Do Lists but I normally plan my trips at the last minute. So I guess I just need a permanent To-Do List to make sure I’m fully prepared to take off at all times.

      I think in the end, the Count Down to Blast Off List is probably the most important as that will contain the most vital tasks. We can always manage if we forget something from the other list but our trip won’t last very long without our airline tickets and passports!

      Thanks so much for sharing your own To-Do List methods 🙂

  8. hi earl! have fun! 🙂 glad you’re relaxing already!! i remember those last minutes of getting ready. butterflies in stomach!! you just do what you can. people understand. and of course you’ll see them again 🙂

    i don’t know how long you’ll be near zurich…if at all possible…go to this breathtaking abbey/church in einsiedeln. by car it was about 2 hours south of zurich. wow. i’m so excited to hear about your trip! i’ve been to europe 3 times…used the eurail sooo much. love it! 🙂

    1. Hey Marina – Thanks for letting me know about Einsiedein! I’m actually staying with a friend out in Luzern but perhaps we’ll be able to make it there in the next couple of days. And yes, the Eurail is quite for these European trips. Just looking at their map can be overwhelming with so many options of place to visit!!

  9. I absolutely do this too, Earl! Often I keep my (usually digital) to-do lists a week or so longer than I actually need them, so that I can look back at them after the apparently urgent deadline that all the things on it were to be done by, and to laugh at myself for having worried so much, or even just to wonder why on Earth I thought it was imperative that I watch a certain YouTube video I had bookmarked before I left home. You’d think I’d learn, but somehow these pointless tasks continue to be added. At least they provide some entertainment!

    1. Hey Sam – That certainly is nice to know that your lists are filled with such pointless things as well! I ended up with a hand-written to-do list, another list on my phone and three separate lists on my laptop and while I didn’t have a youtube video on any of the lists, I did have a link to a website on how to cook a certain indian dish that I wanted to read. And I didn’t read it of course. This might be one of those lessons that we’ll never learn because it seems so obvious, but we just can’t find a way to break the habit.

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