The Travel Checklist: How to take the stress out of preparing for a holiday

I used to travel anxiously, leaving home in a rush and suffering heart-stirring moments of dread all the way to the airport. Had I left the iron on? Did I pack my headphones, ear plugs and prescription tablets? Has anyone seen my husband?

Now, I am calm and serene. Smug, even. For now, I have a Travel Checklist on my computer that details everything I should sign off on, before I leave the house.  I print it out as a single page on the day of departure, and start ticking.

What's on it? Any-bloody-thing that I could possibly forget. I'm not talking about everyday items such as undies and toothbrushes which virtually pack themselves, but make-or-break stuff. The computer and its various umbilical cords. The small travel bag I call The Office, which keeps recharge cables, adaptors, sticky tape, mini-stapler, spare pens and USBs in one place. The Tempur pillow that can turn a bad bed into a good one.

Seasonal adjustment is taken into consideration, so ultralight vests, gloves and an umbrella are on the list for winter trips, and sunglasses, swimmers, hats and sunscreen for summer. Some entries are for interstate trips, such as a myki card for Melbourne, and others for overseas, such as passports and visas.

I've updated the list over time, with small things that add to my comfort when travelling: tea bags, sea salt, noise-cancelling headphones, a beautiful scarf that doubles as sarong and airline blanket, and cryptic crosswords in case of delays. Possibilities are allowed for. Do I need solid shoes for 20-kilometre hikes, or heels for three-star dining? Will business cards be a waste of space (in Bali) or a must (in Hong Kong)?

The final section lists things to do before walking out the door. Drop the blinds, water the plants, turn off any heating or airconditioning. Put the iron away, check the stove. Ask my mum to save my favourite newspaper magazines, and let the neighbours know how long we will be away.

Your list will, of course, be different: children, cats, dogs, gym memberships, prescription medicines, Kindles. The important thing is that you have a list, composed long before you run around at the last minute. Think of it not as a sign of obsession or paranoia, but the key to freedom. When everything is ticked, you just walk out the door, looking forward, and not looking back.