When you’ve been living in Australia for a while, you’re eventually going to want to start planning a big trip back to your country of origin. It can feel quite daunting to prepare for a trip overseas like this and there is definitely a lot to think about – from what to pack for a month-long trip to how to prepare to leave your home for an extended period of time. (All of top of dreaming about eating your favourite treats from home, and seeing all of your friends and family!) hope this easy trip planning post helps you get organised.

We’ve just got back from a six-week holiday back to the UK to visit friends and family. All of this is still fresh in my mind and I really wanted to write it all down so that the next time we are planning an overseas trip, I can use this easy trip planning guide and the checklists to make it much easier! 

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How to plan a trip: Preparing for travel and all of the emotions

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Working through your travel preparation can bring up all kinds of emotions – good and bad. 

Planning a trip back home might conjure up feelings of anxiety…Maybe you’re not looking forward to the long journey. Maybe you aren’t keen on flying. Maybe you’re worried that you’ll fall in love with your home country again and not want to come back to Australia. Maybe you’re worried that once your kids spend time with their family and friends, they won’t want to come back to Australia. Maybe you’re worried about how expensive it is going to be to take this  big trip back, or how you’re going to save up enough annual leave for the experience. Then, on top of all of those thoughts, you might be worried about leaving your Australian home for a long period of time. 

All of those feelings are valid before you go back for a visit. Taking a big overseas trip can feel like a big deal (even though you’ve already done the hardest trip when you actually moved to Australia!) 

There is likely to also be lots of excitement and butterflies. When you travel home, you’ll get to see your friends and family again. You’ll get to visit places you know well that you haven’t been to in ages. You’re going to be able to enjoy foods you’ve missed. There is just so much to look forward to and I found myself in tears at times as I was so excited to experience it all. 

Easy trip planning: Preparing for travel when travelling back home

I like to control as much as possible when it comes to big overseas trips like this. I hate leaving things to the last minute, and feeling disorganised sends me into a spin. I know a lot of you feel similar, so I thought it would be helpful for me to share my tips on how to pack for a month-long trip and my to-do list.

I’ve also turned these into two handy downloadable checklists and popped them in my FREE online resource library so you can print them off to use before your next big trip (whether that is a trip back to your home country or just an international holiday – you’ll find these easy trip planning guides helpful for either). Sign up for access below. 

>>  Sign up to my FREE Resouce Library here: Get The Ultimate Packing List AND To-Do List: Things to Do Before International Travel << 

The Ultimate Packing list: How to pack for a month-long trip

If you’ve been wondering what to pack for a month-long trip, I’ve compiled a list of the things we packed for our big trip back to the UK. I’ve broken it down into hand luggage and hold luggage. Don’t forget, you’ll find The Ultimate Packing list as a download in my FREE Resource Library and you can sign up for that here.

Easy travel planning: Hand luggage for a big trip overseas 

Someone who has done some easy trip planning with a bag travelling at an airport

  • Wallet (only keep relevant cards in it that you need for travelling, leave the rest at home)
  • Mobile phone
  • Passports
  • Print outs of flight ticket
  • Print outs of any visas needed for stopovers
  • COVID vaccination certificate print outs (also have these downloaded on your phone)
  • Print outs of all travel attraction, hotel and Air BnB confirmations
  • Prescription medication
  • First aid essentials (including plasters, paracetamol, antihistamines, diarrhoea tablets, rehydration sachets)
  • Travel sickness tablets and travel wristbands (I have three travel sick kids!)
  • Extra sick bags (if any of you are prone to being travel sick) – while you are given one each on most flights, we quickly realised we needed to come prepared as some flights struggled to provide us with extras
  • Tissues
  • Notebook and pen
  • Laptop and charger (if needed)
  • Camera in carry case
  • Portable chargers with cables for topping up devices in transit (if taking more than one, separate them across luggage due to risks of them overheating)
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Facemasks
  • Empty zip-lock bags for rubbish
  • Book
    Portable WiFi device (we used this for communication in the UK to stay connected on Messenger and What’s App and for travel internet)
  • Phone chargers
  • Watch charger
  • Gaming devices
  • iPads
  • Jumper (planes are cold!)
  • Extra pair of socks to keep feet warm (see above!)
  • Neck pillow
  • Travel blanket (if you prefer not to use the airline blankets)
  • Hair bands for long hair
  • Headphones (plane headphones weren’t a great fit for any of us)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sweets or chewing gum for take-off and landing
  • Travel board games or card games
  • Any bills you’re going to need to pay while away (either paper copy, screenshot on your phone, or saved in email)
    (The following items count as liquids so you’ll need to follow the airline’s rules for them:)
  • Lip balm 
  • Roll on essential oils for relaxing
  • Small hand sanitiser

Hold luggage: What to pack

  • Clothes suitable for the season and destination (don’t overpack – if staying with family you’ll be able to wash regularly.)
  • Swimwear (even if travelling in winter, you might stay in a hotel with a pool)
  • Coats
  • Hairbrush and bands
  • Tooth brushes and paste
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo and conditioner (travel-sized bottles are great to keep you going til you get to the shops)
  • A towel for each of you (lightweight beach towels are handy as they don’t take up much space – two holiday parks that we stayed in didn’t provide towels so it was handy having our own!)
  • Chargers for all devices (if you can’t fit them all in your hand luggage)
  • Extra travel first aid essentials
  • Hats (sunhats if it’s going to be sunny/woolly hats and gloves if it’s winter!)
  • Shoes, boots or sandals (bring a couple of options depending on your plans and the weather)
  • Colouring or travel board games to entertain the kids
  • Sunscreen (yes, it’s still essential even in cooler climates! We got burnt on a beach walk in October in the UK!)
  • Pop-up laundry hamper (or a canvas bag that you can all use to store your clothes for washing
  • Travel adapters
  • Thongs/flip flops for if you go swimming/head to a spa/go to the beach
  • Lightweight dressing gown
  • Australian gifts for your family
  • Reusable shopping bags 
  • Packing cubes

I hope you find this long trip packing list helpful – remember you can save my easy trip planning downloads and use them again and again when you sign up to my resource library here!

Easy travel planning tips: Long trip packing tips

When I travel, I use a rucksack for my hand luggage (which keeps my hands free) and I also take a large shoulder bag as my handbag. Having two bags makes life a lot easier as it means I can keep all of the important items (like tickets and passports) in my handbag so they’re easy to access.

For the first time on this recent trip, I used packing cubes in my hand luggage to organise groups of items together. I used one for electrical devices and cables, another for books and entertainment needed on the plane, another to organise a spare set of clothes each (we each carried our own set) and another for medicines like travel sick tablets, paracetamol, inhalers etc. It was a game-changer and meant I could easily find what I needed. I knew packing cubes were handy for using in suitcases, but it definitely made my hand luggage easier to navigate.   

Hopefully now you have my easy trip planning packing checklist to work from it will make packing for your long trip back home easier. Packing your bags for travelling abroad is only part of the challenge when preparing for travel though. There are a lot of things to do before international travel and I know I found that side of things quite overwhelming. It’s more than just planning an overseas trip – it’s about what to do when leaving home for extended time. There is A LOT to think about as it’s much more complicated than going away for a week! 

To-Do List: Things to Do Before International Travel

If you’ve been wondering what things to do before travelling abroad and leaving your home for a period of time, this list takes you through the things to do before travel to get organised for your trip. There is a lot to organise when planning an overseas trip, but when you have a solid to-do list to work from it makes life so much easier and takes a lot of stress out of travelling back home.

>> This easy trip planning list is also available to download for free in my Resources Library here <<

Let your neighbours know you’re going away

Let your next-door neighbour know you’re going away. It’s a good idea if you can leave a house key with a trusted friend or neighbour too and let your surrounding neighbours know who to talk to if they spot any issues while you’re away. 

Pool maintenance

If you have a pool and you’re going away for a few weeks, you’re going to need to appoint somebody to keep an eye on the level of your pool. This could be the trusted person mentioned above (you’ll need to show them how to empty the water and leave them with instructions if you have heavy rain) or you could get a pool maintenance company to check in on it. 

Turn off water

To avoid any nasty surprises with unexpected leaks, it’s a good idea to turn off the water to your property while you’re away. 

Disconnect garage

To avoid any issues with your electric garage door opening while you’re away, it’s worth disconnecting it completely. (Our garage door can sometimes bounce up if something is detected around the door like ants making a nest). 

Empty your bins

Of course, you’ll want to empty your bins in your home. You might also like to put your bin out for collection and ask a neighbour to wheel it back in for you when it has been emptied (as you won’t want to leave it out as a sign that you’ve gone away). Alternatively, ask a neighbour if you can put your final bin bags in their wheelie bin before you leave. 

Arrange for someone to collect your mail

Ask a neighbour to collect your mail every few days and check around your front door to ensure there are no packages. 

Bolt and deadlock all doors, padlock gates, close blinds

Make your house as secure as possible when you leave. Padlock your gates. Lock up items from your backyard and secure your home. Close your blinds so people can’t see in. 

Consider installing a video doorbell and camera security system 

It really helps your peace of mind if you can log into a security system to take a look around your property while you’re away. 

Back up computers 

Back up any computers you’re leaving at home and ensure the back up is kept in a separate location to the computer. Cloud storage is a great option for things like photo backups. If you’re taking a laptop with you, make sure you back that up too in case you lose it/it breaks/gets stolen.

Let your bank and cards know

Inform your bank and credit card companies that you’ll be travelling so they know to allow transactions overseas.

It’s worth considering the cheapest way to spend money internationally – Wise is a really handy solution as you move money over to it and can spend on your debit card or draw out cash from it. Another option is to shop around to find a bank or credit card that offers cheaper international spending. Spend some time researching the best card for travelling overseas. 

Take out travel insurance / long trip insurance

Even though you’re heading back to your home country, you’ll still need travel insurance for your long trip. While there are reciprocal agreements in place for some countries, it’s still really important to be covered as you don’t know what might happen during your travels or in transit.

Some bank accounts or credit cards offer this for free as part of your account (check the max length of time covered for these and be aware of any rules such as such as you need to put X amount of your travel costs on the card in order for you to be covered). Cover-More is a great insurer to consider for overseas trips. Get a travel insurance quote from Cover-More here.

Organise your mobile and communication

You should let your mobile phone company know you’re about to travel and you might want to consider taking out their international roaming package. Some phone companies allow you to receive calls or texts without adding this package, others won’t unless you buy into this.

As someone who accidentally racked up a big phone bill in Fiji (when I was sure I’d turned off data), I’m now super paranoid about using my phone internationally.

For this trip, we decided to leave our phones in flight mode the whole trip and buy a portable WiFi device and only use What’s App and Messenger to communicate. Everyone we knew could contact us via one of those means, and we didn’t need to receive any other calls other than the odd one for authorising access to some online banking or other. (For this reason, I had to buy the international roaming pack for my mobile as well so I could still do online banking).

We ordered a sim for the WiFi device as soon as we landed in the UK and received it the next day. This meant we had iPads, laptops etc. all available to us no matter where we were travelling. It gave us a lot of freedom. 

I’ve heard lots of people use GiffGaff sim cards for their trips back to the UK and they order the cards to be sent to them in advance, so you can always get a local sim for your phone to use. 

Sort out your garden

Spend some time getting your garden ready before you leave – cut the grass, cut the hedge and tidy it up. If you have a garden that needs a lot of maintenance, you might like to organise for a gardener to come in while you’re away to keep things tidy. 

Organise pet sitters

If you’ve got a pet, you’re going to need to organise somebody to look after it. You’ve got the option of using house sitters (find out more about housesitters here) – the bonus is that they will do many of the jobs listed above like bring your mail in, keep an eye on your pool and garden, put your bins out etc.

If that doesn’t suit you, you could look for a private pet sitter who looks after animals in their own home or find a bigger pet motel or pet retreat. It’s a good idea to do a trial run ahead of the big trip – we tried one sitter who didn’t work out, and the second option we tried was great and we felt much happier knowing our dog was safe and happy. I find community groups (and pet breed-specific groups) really helpful to get recommendations. 

Have a plan for your finances and bills

This ties in closely with how you plan on spending your money. Consider where the money needs to be so you have time to move it to the right place for you to spend (i.e. if transferring money to an international bank account, or to a Wise account).

Think about how often you’re going to check your bank accounts. What bills are due while you’re away? Are they set up on direct debit or do you receive paper bills for them? How will you know how much to pay and when to pay it? Can you schedule everything to be paid in advance?

I recommend taking a list of scheduled payments with you and logging in to check they all come out when they’re supposed to (when we travelled, I’d pre-scheduled our dog registration fee to pay and when I logged in the week after I saw it hadn’t gone through due to an error – I wasn’t alerted to this so could easily have missed it and wouldn’t have known as I wouldn’t have received any paper reminders). 

Shop for gifts

It’s lovely being able to share a bit of Australia with the people you love. Fill a case with treats like Tim Tams, Cherry Ripes and Jumpys – and know that when you return you’ve got an empty case ready to fill with souvenirs and treats from back home. 

Arrange your car

If you’re heading back ‘home’ for an extended trip, there is a good chance that somebody you know might have offered to lend you a car while you’re visiting. Get them to check their insurance company to see if they can add somebody with an international license as soon as possible. While you might still have your old license from your home country, you’re no longer a resident so you need to drive on your Australian license. I’ve heard so many people say they’ve struggled to get insured on a friend or family’s car, so organise this early to give you time to work out your plans. 

Often, it might just cost a small fee to add you to their insurance for a few weeks. Worst case, you might need to look around to find a separate insurance company willing to cover you and it might end up costing a bit more. 

If you’re planning on hiring a car, do it EARLY. In the UK, there were so many train strikes while we were back and finding a hire car was almost impossible. Don’t risk leaving it and losing out. I recommend Drive Away for hire cars – you can check out their car hire rates here

Plan your schedule so you can fit everybody in

Easy trip planning involves having a detailed schedule (but allowing some room for spontaneity too!)  It’s a good idea to plan your calendar on paper (I printed out a monthly calendar page and plotted our plans on that) or on a spreadsheet. If you haven’t been back for a while, you will find yourself very busy when you go back. It can be a juggle trying to fit everything and everyone in. It really helps to lock things in so you don’t end up overbooked and over exhausted. When it’s all laid out in a calendar view, you can easily see where things can be slotted in and where they can’t!

Try not to overdo it and leave some white space so you can go with the flow too. My tip is to organise some big meet ups. Arrange to be in a pub/park/cafe etc. for one afternoon and get people to drop by to see you – this allows you to hit a lot of people in one block and it saves you travelling around everybody. 

Print off paper copies of all bookings before you travel

Yes, you will have most of your travel documents on your phone but it’s so much easier to have a paper copy to hand (also sometimes you might end up with a WiFi issues stopping you from grabbing your confirmation online, or your phone might die or something). It always pays to be organised. For me, easy trip planning involves being able to put my hands on any paperwork I need quickly and easily. 

Easy trip planning: How to have a nice trip back home

Now you have my overseas trip planning lists, you’ve got everything you need for preparing for international travel back home. I’m so glad that I’ve written it all down and collated it into two handy checklists because next time I go back to the UK, I won’t have to agonise about what should be on my packing list for a long trip or how to plan for a long trip as it’s all there on these easy trip planning tick lists for me to work through! 

I think it’s also worth saying that travel builds your confidence. This was our first long trip with the kids and we were quite apprehensive (it was also our first trip back since we moved to Australia eight years ago!).

I feel like we did really well – we were organised, we locked in a lot of our travel plans in advance (which was really handy as the Queen passed away on the day we landed and if we hadn’t pre-booked everything for our London visit, we wouldn’t have been able to go as it would have been too difficult to get hotels and book attractions) and our trip list packing was on point as we used most of the things we took with us. Next time, I’ll be a lot less nervous about the whole thing as we’ve got a travel system nailed down and have these lists to work from. 

Enjoy your easy trip planning! 

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A post shared by Karen │ Create a new life in Australia (@smartstepstoaus)

Going back to the UK for this recent trip reminded me that although it is a really long way away, the world is smaller than it has ever been. I’m excited that the world has opened up again and we can go back for visits more regularly (as well as do more international travel to other countries too). I’ve really missed travelling! 

I hope you can use these tools to get stuck into your own trip planning.

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