What to pack for an escorted tour holiday

Not sure what to pack for an escorted tour? These are the essential items you need for your suitcase and what you can leave at home…

By Saga team

Published 5 May 2024

Tourist photographing waterfall in Costa Rica

Packing suitcases appears to be something Britons are woefully bad at doing. According to a 2022 survey, the average British holidaymaker will spend just over a week of their life packing suitcases.

Meanwhile, 53% of us will pack more than is necessary, mostly due to nervousness over changeable weather (something we’re very used to on our home turf!).

The escorted tour brings its own packing predicaments, especially if it's your first touring holiday and you don't know what to expect.

These tips on the essential items you should take on an escorted tour – and what you should leave behind – should help you with all your packing dilemmas.

The things you absolutely must take with you…

  • Money and debit/credit cards

  • Passport (obviously)

  • Any visas

  • Your EHIC or UK GHIC, if travelling within the EU or to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. The UK GHIC replaced the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC); if you have an existing EHIC you can continue to use it until it expires, but after that you'll need to apply for a UK GHIC to replace it.

  • Insurance policy details, photocopies of passport page, printed confirmation of flights/booking/the tour itinerary. Keep these in a sealed plastic wallet or folder.

  • Local currency for extras. Keep these in another small plastic wallet.

The clothing you should pack for your escorted tour largely depends upon the climate of the destination you’ll be travelling to. For countries with a Mediterranean climate (southern Europe, California, most parts of coastal Australia and South Africa), temperatures may be warm during the day, but they can cool during the evening, so it’s worth taking a jacket or light jumper.

For more humid tropical destinations, it’s worth taking trousers plus long-sleeved shirts or dresses for evenings. Air-conditioning in some hotels can be fierce, while the garments will also cover up exposed areas when mosquitoes come out. To prevent clamminess, choose fabrics that ‘breathe’, such as quick-drying cotton or linen (rather than polyester).

If your trip involves adventurous activities such as hiking, you’ll probably need a pair of sturdy walking boots and wind-proof/waterproof garments. However, leave the plastic rain poncho at home – these are sometimes provided on escorted tours.

Does the tour involve lots of city tours? Comfortable shoes (such as trainers) are indispensable for pounding miles of pavement.

Hat (to keep the sun off your head) and sunglasses (useful in cold destinations too).

Swimwear and gym kit. It’s something holidaymakers routinely forget to pack, only to regret it once they see the hotel’s Olympic-sized swimming pool and/or gym facilities.

Pack smartly by rolling each item of clothing separately (rather than folding them), as it maximises space and prevents them from getting creased. Pack shoes at the bottom of your suitcase, surrounding them with clothing.

Check your travel documents before leaving to find out your allocated luggage allowance for all flights (this should be specified on your tour itinerary).

Underwear/socks.

  • Want to save space in your washbag? Rather than gargantuan bottles of shampoo or toothpaste, you could buy some of the travel-sized toiletries – though these aren’t the best value for money. You might be better off finding some small bottles and decanting your usual shampoo, conditioner and lotions – these can be found in lots of bargain shops or poundshops. If you intend to take any toiletries on board as hand luggage, they will need to be in containers under 100ml and sealed in a clear plastic bag. The miniature toiletries mentioned above will be fine.

  • A foldaway toothbrush and collapsible hairbrush should also help you lighten your load.

  • Sunscreen and insect repellent containing DEET (diethyltoluamide), depending on destination.

  • Any medication. Travel sickness remedies may be good for coach journeys if you are prone to the condition.

  • Antibacterial hand sanitiser

  • A small first-aid kit may be useful containing items such as plasters, paracetamol, antihistamines (for bites) and anti-diarrhoea tablets.

Travel adapter. A one-size-fits-all multi-socket adapter is the most practical solution here.

Chargers. Rather than lugging around myriad chargers for your laptop/phone/electric toothbrush, try investing in a one-size-fits-all multi-socket charger (with three-or-more USB ports) that will keep your devices juiced from the same adapter.

Consider downloading the following apps before travel: Google Translate (turns you into polyglot at touch of a button), XE Currency (converts every world currency) and a Lonely Planet app for your destination (guidebook doyens). You can also download maps of your destination in advance from Google Maps.

Entertainment: Books/Kindle/e-reader, magazines, iPad or tablet, iPod/MP3 player, laptop, digital camera.

Pack valuables such as cameras, mobile phones, hearing aids, glasses and sunglasses in your carry-on luggage.

Ear plugs can be useful if you’re a light sleeper.

Hairdryers. You’ll usually find one of these by rummaging in the drawers of your hotel room (hairdryers are not always obviously displayed).

Towels. Again, they’ll be available in your accommodation. Also, don’t be afraid to snaffle your hotel’s fluffy white linen to take to the beach.

Travel kettles. These should be provided in your hotel room. If there isn’t one available and you can’t live without your morning cuppa, most hotels are happy to send up a pot of hot water if you ask.

Shampoo/conditioner and shower gel – if you’re not too particular. These are often provided by the hotel in your bathroom, but the quality may not be what you’re used to.


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