traveling soon? get organized!

In four days, one hour and forty-three minutes (not that I'm counting), I leave for the airport for my much-anticipated return trip to Norway. While a sense of anticipation is one of the most pleasurable things about international travel, it also pays to sweat the details. Here's my checklist.

(1) Find your passport and put it in your carryon. Make sure the expiration date is at least 6 months beyond your date of return, and ensure that you have empty pages. Find out if you need any visas for foreign destinations.

(2) Double-check your flights. Airlines often make modifications to their flight schedules, and though any changes should be emailed to you, emails sometimes go into your spam folder or remain otherwise unnoticed. Go to your airline's website with your reservation code and double-check the times. Especially look out for the following:

Is your departing flight earlier than originally scheduled? If so, you'll have to modify when you leave for the airport.

Is your departing flight later ... or your connecting flight earlier? Make sure you still have enough time to make your connections. If the airline's change has given you a too-tight connection, they'll likely agree to revise your itinerary for free.

(3) Plan your getaway. How (and when) are you going to get to the airport? If your drive is during rush hour, consider using public transportation. Here in the Bay Area, the Bay Bridge can experience enormous traffic jams, but BART can speed me from North Berkeley to SFO in one hour, no matter the surface traffic.

Scheduling a driver? I prefer Wingz to Uber and Lyft because (1) you can schedule your ride well in advance and (2) you can use a preferred driver. My Wingz driver is extremely knowledgeable and knows his way around potential traffic bottlenecks in the Oakland "maze." Use this link to sign up for a Wingz account and score yourself (and me) a $5 credit towards your first ride.

(4) How much time to give yourself? We all have different attitudes about time ... but unless you're POTUS and your plane takes off on your schedule, you'll have to abide by the normal rules of the universe. I always build in time for an unexpected traffic jam, a long line at check-in, and a long line at security (unless the flight qualifies for TSA Pre-Check). I never mind waiting in front of a long line, but being at the end of a long line when I'm running late is extremely stressful to me.

(5) Put it on your calendar to check in online. I consider it a MUST to check in for your flight at the earliest opportunity, usually 24 hours before departure. Why? Because if your flight is oversold, you're less likely to be bumped if you've already checked in and have a seat assignment.

And make sure "TSA Pre-Check" appears on your boarding pass, if you're traveling on a participating airline. If it doesn't, phone the airline and make sure your trusted traveler number is in your record. If not, the airline's agent can enter the number, and you can print a new boarding pass with that coveted and time-saving designation.

(6) Get your itinerary in shape. When planning a personal trip, I keep all of my confirmations in a manila folder. I also write my flight details on the front of the folder so that I can find them in a jiffy, without sorting through papers. Also notice — on the picture above — that when I arrive in Oslo on this trip, I have to take the FLYTOGET express train into Oslo. From the central station, I have a 5 minute walk to my hotel. I printed out a google map of that walk and taped it to the front of the folder.

When the details are all taken care of, I can sit back, relax, and enjoy my journey. Hope this helps you enjoy your next trip too!

copyright (c) 2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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