The ultimate travel checklist

If you've ever had the niggling feeling that something has been left out of the suitcase as you head for the airport to jet off on holiday, this list should help put your mind at rest...

By Saga team

Published 5 May 2024

Happy couple walking by harbor

There's nothing more exciting than setting off on holiday, but before you can embark on your journey, there are several important tasks and essential items to tick off your holiday checklist.

To help you avoid unfortunate situations ranging from the exasperating (packing reading material in your main suitcase instead of carry-on) to the downright cataclysmic (forgetting your passport), we've thought of everything you need to remember to get your trip off to the best start possible.

Many destinations have stipulations such as ensuring there are six months left before your passport expires, or ensuring there are at least two blank pages.

Some countries are happy if the passport is simply good for the duration of your stay. Others are sticklers for the six-month validity – Thailand and Brazil, for example. However, if you’re travelling to one of the EU countries, your passport expiry date should be at least three months after the intended day of departure. Each country is different; don’t assume anything.

If you’re taking a long trip, then it’s better to be safe than sorry and have six months left on your passport after the date of your last port of call – depending on destination.

If in doubt, go to the Foreign Office web pages at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice, and search for the relevant country and, as a belt-and-braces precaution, check with the airline.

Avoid any phone advice lines unless you enjoy paying high-premium call rates.

Some destinations require visitors to purchase a visa. Check whether this is something you need to apply for in advance or can buy on arrival.

Book this as soon as possible to cover yourself against unexpected cancellations. Always read the small print, taking into account the excess you might need to pay, any pre-existing medical conditions and any activities you might choose to participate in abroad which might need additional cover, such as skiing.

The UK GHIC has replaced the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). If you are one of the dwindling number of people who still have a valid EHIC, you can continue to use it until it expires, but after that you'll need to apply for a UK GHIC.

The GHIC gives you the right to access state provided healthcare at a reduced cost or even free in EU countries and selected others, on the same basis as a resident of that country.

Be aware this is not a replacement for travel insurance.

Some destinations require vaccinations a few weeks in advance of travel. Additionally, if you need to bring personal medication, check with your GP and airline to find out if you need a note to bring it on board a flight.

Photocopy your passport and insurance policy details and seal these in a travel wallet, along with any printed confirmations of bookings for your journey. Alternatively, upload relevant documents to a site like MyOnlineSafe.com, a website that stores important documents for a small monthly subscription.

Change your money a week or so in advance, and let your bank know you will be abroad if you plan to use your debit or credit cards – don't forget to check any fees this may incur.

Cameras, mobile phones, hearing aids, Kindles, reading glasses and sunglasses should all travel along with you to minimise the risk of loss or damage. Anything with a lithium battery also needs to go in your hand luggage – this includes e-cigarettes. Don't forget your chargers and adaptors.

This should include simple painkillers and travel sickness remedies just in case you feel unwell on the journey, as well as a few days’ worth of any medication you need to take daily, in case your main suitcase goes awol for a while.

Books, magazines, an iPod or anything that can help to pass the time on a long journey should be within arm's reach.

You may feel more comfortable if you are able to freshen up during a long-haul flight, especially as the air in the plane can dry out your skin. Pack moisturiser, lip balms and any other liquids or gel in a sealed, clear plastic bag to successfully go through security.

A light jumper or pair of cosy socks can help keep you warm under chilly air-conditioning. A blanket scarf can also double up as a pillow!

Again, in case your main suitcase does go missing, pack some underwear and a change of clothes suitable for your destination. Odds are your suitcase will arrive when you do, but if it does head off to Canada when you're on your way to Jamaica, make sure you've got some shorts and sandals packed so you don't have to wear your travelling jeans in the heat - or vice versa.

Roll your clothes to take up less space. Don't forget to pack swimwear, waterproofs and sandals or walking shoes if necessary.

Pop these in a waterproof bag, or wrap securely to prevent leaks.

Items such as hairdryers and kettles are commonly provided by accommodation, but if these are essentials you cannot live without, be sure to check in advance.

It's never too early to start planning your packing checklist. Keep a running list on your phone, not only to add items as you think of them, but also confirming what you’ve packed and where it’s been put, to avoid last-minute rifling through bags to double check your passport’s whereabouts.

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