Whether you’re a traveling aficionado or a first-timer, everyone can use a few extra pointers before packing their bags and heading out.

If you have a major trip on the horizon, this practical pre-travel guide — which can be marked off over the course of several months — can help get you ready gradually. That way, you won’t be making a mad rush in the final days before your trip, and you won’t risk overlooking something important.

Three or More Months

Three months might seem like a long ways away, but there are several important tasks to tackle at this point.

For one, if you’re heading out of the country, you’ll need to procure a passport. All told, it can take anywhere from three to six weeks (you can reach the shorter end by paying for expedited service). And if you already have a passport, you might need to get it renewed depending on which country you’re visiting — some countries require your passport to have a certain number of months’ worth of validity remaining to travel there.

You’ll also want to start pricing airfares and scouring the Internet for deals on lodging and transportation. One good tip is to set up alerts to have the best prices emailed instantly to your inbox.

One Month

With roughly a month to go, you’ll want to figure out how you want to stay in touch with people while you’re away.

If you’re traveling internationally, using the hotel phone could put a real damper on your checking account. Instead, figure out whether your cell phone will be your trusty communicator. Talk with your mobile service provider about international plans for talk, text and even data; most providers allow you to purchase special packages for a month at a time, with varying prices depending on how much service you want and where you’re traveling.

If your phone isn’t compatible overseas, don’t panic! Vendors in other countries typically sell cheap prepaid phones that you can use to brag about your trip to family and friends back home.

Two Weeks

It might seem odd to pack so far ahead of your trip, and you’ll be down a few outfit options for work, but you’ll want to get your luggage sorted out ahead of time. Start by making a list of everything you need to bring. Then, pack things you won’t need for the couple weeks until your trip, and add more items from the list as your trip nears.

Not only will this keep packing from being a last-minute panic chore, but it will also give you time to think of anything you might have forgotten on your original list.

Check out this excellent blog post on how to pack a carry on to get some professional packing tips on traveling lighter.

One Week

You don’t want to come home to a crammed mailbox — or worse, an empty mailbox when someone gets wise that you’re gone. Instead, visit your post office or go to USPS.com and put a hold on your mail until you return. You also can call your local newspaper’s circulation office and put a hold on delivery.

Also, call your bank and credit card companies to let them know when and where you are traveling. Credit card companies often interpret unannounced purchases overseas as potentially fraudulent purchases, so if you don’t give someone the heads-up ahead of time, you could find yourself with a canceled credit card and facing a sudden tight spot in a foreign place.

Lastly, make a copy of your passport and credit cards and leave it with an emergency contact. That way, you’ve got help in a pinch should something go awry.

One Night

Now is the time to pack last-minute items that you’ve needed up until the trip, such as toiletries, cell phone chargers and your laptop. Also set out your wallet, passport and ticket so you don’t forget them.

Have an early flight but not a morning person? We understand! Go ahead and leave your next-day clothes already laid out so all you have to worry about is guzzling coffee.

Lastly, while you might be more excited than a kid at Christmastime, make sure you get some shuteye. Not only will it do wonders for your mood, but you’ll also be a lot less likely to make mistakes that could derail your plans.

Traveling abroad can be stressful and exciting at the same time, but this travel checklist should keep a lid on the former. Also, don’t forget to spend the run-up to your trip brushing up on a bit of the language before you go.

While you’re planning for you next trip, don’t forget to reserve your airport parking with AirportParkingReservations.com!