Your ultimate holiday checklist

Packing for your holidays doesn’t have to mean panic. We’ve done the hard work for you, so all you need to do is tick off our holiday essentials checklist before heading off on that well-deserved break.

Packing for your holidays doesn’t have to mean panic. We’ve done the hard work for you, so all you need to do is tick off our holiday essentials checklist before heading off on that well-deserved break.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: please check the latest government travel advice that sets out what you need to do, if anything, before you travel abroad and before you return home. You should also check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. Travel rules can change at short notice, so check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the latest information.

Kate Hughes
Insurance expert
7
minute read
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Posted 15 JANUARY 2021 Last Updated 28 JUNE 2022

Your ultimate holiday checklist

When it comes to packing for a holiday, there are some people who take everything but the kitchen sink and others who just chuck in the bare minimum. To make things easier, we’ve come up with a handy checklist for different types of holidays, to help you keep track of what you need for your break.

Before you start packing…

Make sure you’ve:

  • Arranged travel insurance
  • Got a valid passport(s)
  • Had any necessary vaccinations (ask your GP if you’re unsure at least eight weeks before you set off)
  • Planned transport to and from the airport, and at your destination
  • Booked airport parking, if necessary.

Now, let’s get packing…

Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, the price you pay for travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. However, there are still many providers out there and you should be able to find affordable cover. Whatever happens, don’t be tempted to lie to an insurance provider, because if you do and then need to make a claim, it could be rejected.

When you declare medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show quotes from insurance providers who will cover all declared medical conditions, with no exclusions. 

MoneyHelper has launched a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at MoneyHelper or by calling them on 0800 138 7777.

Printable holiday checklist

Everyone loves a freebie, so here’s ours. Simply download and print the holiday checklist to use as a guide for your next trip away.

Download

What documents do I need for my holiday?

  • Passport – email yourself a photo of it too, or keep a copy on your smartphone, just in case.
  • Visa documents if needed, plus a photocopy.
  • Driver’s licence (and car hire details, if necessary).
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Your EHIC/GHIC card if travelling in Europe.
  • Airline tickets, hotel bookings, train tickets.
  • Your ATOL certificate, if you have one.

What should I pack in my hand luggage?

The essentials:

  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Keys
  • Wallet/purse (with credit cards, local currency and/or a travel money card
  • Essential medication
  • Copy of your prescription(s)
  • Glasses/case/contact lenses
  • Hearing aid
  • Book or magazine.

For long-haul flights, add the following:

  • Electronic plug converter
  • Electronics (tablet, laptop) and charger
  • Earbuds or headphones
  • Camera, if you’re taking one, and camera charger
  • Wet wipes
  • Scarf, shawl or blanket
  • Tampons or sanitary towels
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • A lockable case for any valuables
  • Jewellery (if you’re taking items you’re not already wearing)
  • Pen to fill out landing cards, if needed
  • Snacks or treats
  • A bottle of water once you’ve passed through security.

What isn’t allowed in carry-on bags?

  • Liquids in any container over 100ml in size
  • Sharp objects including knives, razors and scissors
  • Weapons or ammunition
  • Flammable liquids and fuels
  • Some sports equipment – check with the airline for details
  • Tools.

Top tip

Make sure electronic devices like your smartphone, tablet or laptop are fully charged before going through security. If devices don’t switch on when asked, you won’t be allowed to take them on the aircraft.

If travelling with children:

  • something to keep them amused such as toys, games and books
  • nappies if necessary
  • change of clothes
  • dummy or comforter
  • favourite toy
  • baby food, if needed.

Practical items for checked bags…

…Or hand luggage if you prefer a travel size [under 100ml for liquids):

  • Hand sanitiser
  • Batteries (check whether your origin and destination countries allow loose batteries to be carried inbaggage, as not all do)
  • First-aid kit
  • Contraception
  • Sun cream
  • After sun
  • Mosquito repellent and bite cream
  • Hairdryer
  • Deodorant
  • Face and body moisturiser
  • Lip balm
  • Tissues
  • Hair brush
  • Hair clips and ties
  • Contact lens solution
  • Face wash
  • Soap and/or shower gel and shampoo
  • Razor and shaving gel
  • Extra plastic bags for dirty laundry.

What should I pack for a family holiday?

  • Backpack or day rucksack
  • Painkillers, including children’s liquid painkillers
  • First-aid kit, including children’s thermometer
  • Nappies and wipes
  • Sun hats (or warm hats)
  • Games and toys (don’t forget their favourite cuddly animal)
  • Books and magazines
  • Music players.

Top tip

Check your destination’s rules on bringing in medicines. Even some over-the-counter medicines aren’t allowed in some countries. If in doubt, you can check with the embassy of the country you’re travelling to.

What should I pack for a beach holiday?

  • Sun cream
  • Beach towels
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Swimwear, including rash tops/wetsuits, if needed
  • Swimming goggles
  • Armbands for young children, if normally used
  • Flip flops
  • Insect repellent spray
  • Fan
  • Books and magazines
  • Downloaded music, podcasts, audiobooks and TVshows/movies
  • Pool and beach toys
  • First-aid kit.

Top tip

If you’re holidaying with young children, don’t forget to pack them UV sun protection swimwear and rash-guard T-shirts – made with SPF50+ materials, they can offer additional protection for delicate skin against the harsh rays of the sun. Dermatologists recommend staying out of the sun in the hottest part of the day, between 11am and 3pm. It’s the perfect time for a siesta…

What should I pack for a city break?

  • Local guide book
  • Map or map app
  • Comfy shoes
  • Suitable clothes for different types of weather
  • Backpack
  • Camera
  • Portable battery charger.
  • First-aid kit.

What should I pack for a walking holiday?

  • Walking shoes or boots
  • Walking poles
  • Suitable, waterproof clothing – think about layering
  • Sun cream and hat if walking in the summer
  • Backpack
  • Camera
  • Maps or map apps
  • Local guide book
  • Water bottle or thermos
  • Portable battery charger
  • First-aid kit – including blister pads, pain relief cream or spray to soothe aching muscles.

What should I pack for a skiing holiday?

  • Ski boots, poles and skis/snowboard if you’re not hiring on arrival
  • Helmet, goggles and ski gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Extra socks
  • Suitable clothing for warmth and layers
  • Walking boots
  • Warm hat
  • Camera
  • Thermos
  • High factor sun cream
  • First-aid kit.

What should I pack for a camping holiday?

  • Tents
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping mats or inflatable mattresses
  • First-aid kit
  • Insect repellent
  • Food and drink supplies
  • Cooking equipment
  • Portable stove
  • Map or map apps
  • Backpack
  • Torch and batteries.

Our final tip

Don’t leave packing until the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time, so any clothes that need to be washed will have time to dry properly before you pack them in the suitcase.

That’s it. Don’t forget to compare travel insurance to find a great deal for your trip away. That way you can enjoy yourself knowing you’re protected as soon as your holiday’s booked.

That’s it. Print out one of these handy checklists for your holiday and stick it to your fridge. Don’t forget our useful travel insurance comparison service. And the last thing to remember? Enjoy yourself.

Frequently asked questions

Is a handbag classed as hand luggage?

Not necessarily. You may only be allowed to take one carry-on bag, in which case your handbag will need to fit inside that. This can vary among airlines, so check beforehand.

If you are allowed to take a handbag, it should fit beneath the seat in front of you. Your hand luggage must meet the airline’s size rules and be easily stored in the overhead storage compartments.

What size hand luggage can I take onboard?

It depends on the airline you fly with. Different airlines have different size rules (length x width x depth). For example, for British Airways it’s 56 x 45 x 25cm, while for Ryanair non-priority passengers it’s 40 x 20 x 25cm. Some airlines also have cabin luggage weight limits.

Check with your airline beforehand to make sure your hand luggage is allowed in the cabin. If it’s too large or heavy, you might be charged an extra fee and your bag or trolley could be placed in the aircraft hold.

Is it better to fold or roll clothes?

Different people will swear by each method, but your best bet is a combination of the two.

Folding is best for heavier clothes like trousers, jeans, shirts and jumpers. These are easy to fold along seams and are less likely to crease.

Rolling lighter and thinner clothes like t-shirts, socks and underwear is a great way to save space and fill up any gaps in your suitcase.

Or, if you don’t mind a bit of effort, you could use the ‘bundle’ method – this is when you create one large pile, by folding your clothes inside each other.

  1. Start with the largest and heaviest clothes, like a jacket.
  2. Build up by layering lighter clothes on top – shirts, trousers, then t-shirts, before finishing with underwear.
  3. Wrap the smaller items in the larger ones, finishing with the jacket, to create one tight and single bundle.
Top tip
If, on arrival, you find your clothes are impossibly creased
regardless of your careful packing and there isn’t an iron in
sight, simply hang your outfit in the bathroom when you
shower and the steam should help the creases drop out.

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