Considering holidays are meant to be the one time of year where you get to relax, kick back and chill out, preparing and packing for your holiday can be pretty stressful. Never fear – we’ve put together the ultimate guide to packing for your vacation and we’ve got all the bases covered…
Travel insurance is the single most important item on this list – that’s why it is at the top! This should be the first thing you purchase once your holiday is booked. A good travel insurance policy will cover you if the company you are travelling with goes bust before you’ve even boarded an aircraft, it will cover you against exorbitant foreign medical fees if you hurt yourself or become unwell on holiday, it will cover you if you lose your cash or your expensive digital camera is stolen and it will cover you if you’re stranded in a foreign land and can’t get home. I can’t stress this enough – If you don’t yet have travel insurance, click here to check prices.
I know buying insurance is not the most thrilling thing in the World, but please trust me when I say it is absolutely a travel essential. It only costs a few quid and could literally save you thousands of pounds if you need to make claim.
Right, now that’s out of the way let’s get into the rest of the list…
Passports and Documentation
Apart from forgetting their passport, another common mistake people make is not checking the expiry date on their passport. The general advice is to ensure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your estimated return flight date – this way you can’t go wrong. While we are on passports, although there are certain destinations you can travel to from the UK where you don’t actually need a passport and photographic ID such as a drivers license will suffice (examples include the Channel Islands and Northern Ireland) we would recommend taking your passport anyway and not taking any chances.
Each country generally has different Visa requirements to allow tourists entry so you need to check online to find out exactly what the requirements are of the country you are planning on visiting. The FCO website is a good starting point.
If you have been issued tickets by a travel agent then don’t forget to take them along. You may have picked tickets up from your travel agent or you may have received them in the mail. Often these days, tickets will take the form of a print out so ensure you have printed out everything you need well in advance of your departure date.
Online check-in and boarding cards
If you are travelling with a budget airline you are generally required to check in online. This needs to be done generally 4 weeks up until around 4 hours before departure time. Ensure you have checked in online a couple of days before your departure date and make sure you print out and take your outbound and inbound boarding cards. If you forget these you are likely to be stung with a fairly hefty charge once you get to the airport.
Travel insurance documents
Once you’ve bought your travel insurance it is important to take your documentation with you so should you need to make a claim in an emergency while you are on holiday you have all the relevant phone numbers and policy numbers available to hand.
The following items are not essential but are often desirable and can be easily overlooked when you’re planning a holiday. Turning up and paying the price on the day for these items can be much more expensive then booking in advance so don’t forget them and don’t forget to print off and take the accompanying documentation!
It obviously depends on how you are getting to the airport, but if you are driving then turning up and parking on site can cost you into the hundreds of pounds. Pre-booking with an airport parking provider and parking off-site is a much cheaper option and with regular shuttle services from car parks to the terminals it is convenient and relatively hassle free.
If you haven’t booked a package holiday and therefore don’t have transfers organised, touching down and paying for a taxi fare may be a quick and easy way to get top your hotel but it’s far from the cheapest. Pre-booking an airport transfer is a lower cost option but can often take you considerably longer to get from airport to accommodation as you have to drop off many other guests on the way. It’s a weigh up for you to make between price and time.
Renting a car on holiday is a great way to get out of resort and take a look around. If you’re planning on hiring a car in your destination, booking in advance is a near enough essential. You’ll save time and money and ensure that any optional extras you require such as child seats can be reserved.
It is advisable to take at least a small amount of foreign currency with you for small purchase items such as bus or train fares, drinks and food. If you are purchasing foreign currency never ever ever buy it at the airport. It is the most expensive way to buy travel money. Get organised and preferably order your travel money online and have it delivered, or alternatively use one a high street foreign currency exchange such as M&S or the Post Office. Shop around to find the best rate and maximise you spending money. Once you are abroad it is always advisable to take a back up option in the form of…
Debit cards / credit cards
These are really useful to have when you’re abroad either in case of emergency or as a primary way of accessing money. Currency withdrawals or purchases overseas incur a fee of around 3% so speak to your bank before you leave to ensure you know exactly what you are going to be paying when you use your card abroad. There are also various cards that are especially targeted at holiday makers and offer a special rate for overseas withdrawals so again, be sure to shop around before you go to be certain of the best deal.
As a side note I thought it was worth mentioning that travellers cheques have become somewhat redundant these days due to the expense. You can still pick them up but it is not really recommended.
Toiletries + Medical
Another highly important item. It is of course readily available throughout the World, but if you shop around before you leave you should be able to find a great value multi-buy offer in one of the supermarkets or high street pharmacies. Make sure you have got the right factor for yourself and your family. There’s nothing better to quickly get you out of the holiday spirit than a painful sunburn.
Paracetamol / Painkillers
While there is generally nothing finer in life than lounging next to a pool in the baking hot sun, sipping (or gulping) beer from the bottle, it’s also a great way to give yourself a headache (and in extreme cases sunstroke – be sure to drink plenty of water and get out of the sun every now and again to give your body a break). Take plenty of paracetamol or ibuprofen in your first aid bag/box. Also, save yourself some dosh and buy supermarket own brand tablets – they have the same ingredients as the branded items but are a fraction of the price.
Make sure you have waterproof plasters in your first aid kit – particularly if you have little ones as they are more prone to picking up a scratch or a cut as they leg it round the pool side.
One of my favourite things to do abroad is sample all the different local foods but a slightly unfortunate side effect of travelling is that our stomachs are not used to the different but essentially harmless bacterias, which can cause upset stomachs. Practice good food hygiene, wash your hands regularly, eat food that is likely to be locally sourced and fresh – and take diarrhoea tablets with you just in case.
We’re talking shampoo, conditioner and styling gels / creams. Remember, if you are taking any of these products you need to pack them in your suitcase as opposed to your hand luggage as modern airline regulations forbid you from taking liquids gels or creams above a certain (very small) quantity aboard a plane in hand luggage and they will be confiscated.
Soaps + Shower Gel
Pretty much every hotel in the World supplies free soap and shower gel miniatures, but if you have your own personal favourites that you want to take then don’t forget to pack these. As with hair products, stick these in your suitcase not in your hand luggage.
Another item for the suitcase as opposed to hand luggage
As with all the gels, creams and pastes mentioned earlier, razors are another item not allowed in the cabin of the aircraft. Make sure these are in your hold luggage rather than your hand luggage.
Too much information alert – I go by the rule of one pair per day I’m away + two or three extra pairs.
It depends where you are going of course, but for a typical hot summer holiday where I will most likely be in flip-flops for two weeks, I still usually pack four or five pairs of socks for excursions and posh dinners out.
Remember to pack it all – trainers, flip flops and more formal shoes/heels for nights out on the town. If you are planning on any heavy duty excursions don’t forget some good walking shoes/boots.
As well as swimming costumes/shorts remember any peripherals you want to take such as goggles, snorkels and nose plugs.
A good pair of sunglasses is essential. Make sure you look for full UV protection and don’t scrimp here as eyes can be easily damaged in bright sunshine and eye protection is of paramount importance.
Another important item, hats are great for keeping the sun out of your eyes and away from your face.
All other clothes
There are too many different permutations to mention but just as a guideline, think about t-shirts and tops, shirts and dresses, shorts and skirts and jeans. And I always take at least 1 jumper as I don’t want to be the numpty that gets back to the airport in England, shivering in shorts and a t-shirt in the British drizzle and temperatures barely creeping into the teens.
Gadgets + Electronics
Camera / Videocamera
Ensure you have your camera packed securely (I personally prefer to take mine in my hand luggage to be certain it doesn’t get damaged in transit) and also that you have any chargers and/or leads you will require.
There’s nothing worse than missing a great photo opportunity because your camera batteries have run out. Take plenty of spares for your camera and any other gadgets you may have with you.
Ensure you have the correct configuration for the country you are visiting. And don’t just buy them at the airport the day you fly out if you can help it as you can undoubtedly pick them up much cheaper at a local supermarket or pharmacy.
You don’t really want to be taking up valuable suitcase space with a hairdryer if you don’t need one so check with your hotel to see if the rooms have a hairdryer installed.
Electric Shavers / Electric Toothbrushes
I could have a whole separate section on great holiday reads… so I have! Check them out here
Have i missed anything from this list? Call me a fool and let me know in the comments. I want this to be the best holiday packing checklist on the internet so I really appreciate any help to add essential items to this list.
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