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Holiday packing and pre-travel checklist

So, you’ve booked your flights, accommodation and activities. What next?

Let’s make sure you’re not leaving anything out – from what to book and arrange upfront to the essential items to pack when you go.

Before you go

There are a few things you should do to get your house in order before you leave for your holidays.

Bills and utilities

  • Let your credit/debit card company know you may be using it abroad – it will help avoid problems later

  • Pay bills in advance that will be due while you’re away

  • Turn off electrical wall sockets (except the fridge and the freezer) if your home is going to be empty

  • Set timers for devices or appliances you still want to come on while you’re away, like lights (to put off would-be burglars) or your boiler

  • Contact your mobile operator to see if roaming charges apply where you’re going – if they do, discuss your options

Practical tips

  • Clear out the fridge of anything that’s going to go off while you’re away

  • Find a place for your pets – ask a friend, family member or neighbour to look after them or book with recommended local kennels or catteries

  • Let a neighbour know you’ll be away – give them spare keys and emergency contact details just in case

  • Book airport parking – paying in advance could help you save money, especially if you book reputable services a bit further away and catch a shuttle bus to the airport

Documents and travel insurance

Check your passport

How long is left on your passport? Check in good time for everyone who’s due to travel, in case any are about to expire. Some countries refuse entry to tourists whose passports are less than six months from expiry.

Applying for a new passport can take at least six weeks, while renewing a passport takes three weeks – so don’t leave it to the last minute. Passports can be renewed or replaced at any time. 

You should also check well in advance if you need a visa for your destination. The time it takes to apply and receive a visa can vary.

Get travel insurance

Good travel insurance for everyone in your family should be top of the holiday checklist. It can provide extra reassurance as it may cover you for cancellation before your trip, missed or delayed flights, or lost, stolen luggage and other belongings such as passports and cash. Most importantly, it may cover emergency medical costs if you need attention while away.

In EU countries, a Ghic or Ehic will give you free or low-cost emergency and state medical care, but they’re not a replacement for travel insurance. They won’t cover you being airlifted from a mountain or flown back to the UK, or extra accommodation or transport costs for a family member if you need a long stay in hospital. So, it’s best to have your travel insurance in place well before you go and take all documents with you.

Travel money

It’s important to have some cash wherever you are going, even if you are visiting a largely cashless place. You never know what you might need it for. So local currency comes high on any holiday essentials list.

Don't pay over the odds for travel money at the airport. Get it sorted as soon as possible, ideally when the pound is strong against the foreign currency you need. Use a currency converter to check the exchange rate.

Make sure you have at least two different debit or credit cards – memorising both PIN numbers. Keep one in a safe place as an emergency backup. Note that some banks charge for cash withdrawals overseas. You can also load travel money onto prepaid travel money cards.

Travel apps are also available that help you keep track of your holiday spending and convert local prices into pounds easily when you’re away.

Your travel itinerary

Find out your flight times, including departure time and when to check in by, and add in plenty of extra time to get to the airport and for unexpected delays.

Check in online the night before if you can and print off your boarding passes, as some airlines charge you to issue a boarding pass at the airport. Print off an extra set and keep them separate, just in case.

Double-check your accommodation check in times. If you get there early, you may need to wait for them to get your room or whatever you’re staying in ready.

Find out if they’ll hang onto your luggage in the meantime – then you can explore without carrying your bags around with you. Just remember to take any valuables with you or ask to leave them in the reception safe.

Packing list essentials

In the following checklists, we cover off the absolute essentials you’ll need wherever you’re going, and whatever type of holiday you’re going on. And we answer the question “what documents do I need for my holiday?”

We haven’t listed clothing – just take what’s appropriate for the climate in your destination and any activities you’ll be doing. And remember to pack a pen and paper – they’ll be useful in all kinds of situations, especially if your electrical gear fails you.

When you’re packing, make sure you know the airline’s weight limits for hand luggage and checked bags. Weigh your luggage on the bathroom scales before you go. If your hand luggage is too big, you’ll have to check it in – and that usually means an extra charge.

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