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Ultimate Holiday Packing Checklist

Vanessa Tsai
Written by  Vanessa Tsai
Alicia Hempsted
Reviewed by  Alicia Hempsted
5 min read
Updated: 21 Mar 2024

Putting off packing your bags ahead of your big trip? We’ve all been there.

Although a holiday is usually a welcome chance to unwind, packing for it can feel stressful. This can lead us to stall and leave packing until the last minute – where we inevitably end up forgetting something important.

Our handy checklist goes through everything you need to bring, so you’ll always be prepared well ahead of time.

What should I pack?

Whether you’re travelling to a sun-soaked beach or a cosy winter getaway, there are some essentials you need to bring no matter where you’re going.

  • Essential documents – This includes your passport, visa, vaccination details, travel insurance information, important contact numbers, and any necessary paperwork your travel destination may require

  • Digital copies of those essential documents – In case you misplace something, it’s always handy to have a digital version securely stored on your device or in your email inbox

  • Travel details – This includes flight information, hotel bookings, tickets, and anything else important to your itinerary

  • Money – Credit/debit cards (check your bank’s rules for using them abroad), prepaid cards, as well as any foreign currency

  • Personal items – This could be glasses/contact lenses or prescription medication (check you can bring them to your destination)

  • Phone and charger/travel adaptor – Pretty self-explanatory, as this is one device that’s a must. Remember to bring a charger and travel adaptor

  • Electronics – Any other gadgets you can’t live without, whether that’s noise-cancelling headphones or an e-reader (you may need extra gadget cover to insure these with your travel insurance)

  • Toiletries – Any personal care products you use, such as skincare or shaving products. A good SPF is important, too

packing suitcase

What should I pack for a beach holiday?

Escaping the greyness of the UK for sunnier skies? One good thing about jetting off to somewhere warmer (other than the weather) is the fact that you can pack quite lightly – which means more room for souvenirs.

  • Lightweight clothing – No bulky layers here, it’s all about t-shirts, shorts, swimwear, and light cover-ups

  • Sun-appropriate accessories – Make sure to pack sunglasses and sunhats that’ll protect you from the sun’s rays, as well as a waterproof bag for your belongings

  • Beach gear – Any extras, like towels, inflatables, or your snorkelling kit

  • Sun cream – A necessity in all situations, but even more so when you’re somewhere sunny. Factor 50 SPF is ideal

What should I pack for a family holiday?

There are a few more things to think about when packing for a family. As well as getting family travel insurance to cover everyone, you have to think about the individual needs of each family member.

  • Baby items – If you’re travelling with a baby, bring nappies, wet wipes, bottles, baby milk/formula and snacks

  • Travel gear – You may need to bring a car seat, pram, travel cot or highchair. Airlines may have rules on how to take it on a plane (for example, it needs to be foldable and compact), so be sure to check

  • Activities for the kids – Any toys, games or books to keep your children entertained on your journey

  • Sun protection – If you’re going on a summer holiday, make sure to protect your little ones with ample sunscreen (with high SPF), sunhats, and mosquito repellent

Infants usually get a luggage allowance, so you can spread the load across the family.

What should I pack for an activity-based holiday?

Outdoor lovers heading off for an adventure should prepare thoroughly, as it can be difficult and expensive to buy gear at your destination. Depending on the activity, what you need to bring will vary – so it’s good to research what you may need and adjust accordingly.

  • Outdoor gear – This depends on what you’ll be doing, but in general, you can’t go wrong with a good backpack, breathable clothes and waterproofs

  • Specialist equipment – This could be hiking sticks, wetsuits, a GoPro – whatever you need for your activity

  • Other everyday extras – Useful outdoor items include sun cream, insect repellent, a water bottle

  • Night gear – Torch or headtorch, as well as batteries

It’s important to make sure any activities you've planned are covered by your insurance. You can tailor your travel insurance cover to expand your list of covered activities, like choosing backpacker insurance or adding winter sports cover.

If there are any activities on your itinerary that aren't covered by your policy, you should contact your insurance provider. It may be possible for you to negotiate adding the cover to your policy or they may have additional options to provide you with the coverage you need.

What should I pack for a winter getaway?

Cold climates can be trickier to pack for than sunny places, as you need to bring bulkier items – all while sticking to your luggage weight limit. To save space in your suitcase, layer up where possible and wear your heavy winter coat on the plane.

  • Warm clothing – Depending on where you’re going and what you’re doing, this could be thermal layers, a ski jacket, salopettes, or specialty snow gear

  • Weather-appropriate accessories – Vital cold-weather items include hats, gloves, scarves and warm socks

  • Skincare – Lip balm and (surprisingly) a high SPF cream will protect your skin against the harsh elements

What should I pack for a city break?

Whether you’re whisking yourself away on a minibreak or extended stay, be sure to make room for these city break necessities.

  • Casual clothing – As well as everyday casual outfits, be sure to pack layering options, as well as a light waterproof jacket

  • Comfortable footwear – Trainers or walking shoes are a must, as you’ll be hitting those daily 10,000 steps in no time

  • Useful extras – Anything useful you want to bring on the go, such as a travel wallet, umbrella, water bottle, or portable charger

If you travel several times a year, you might want to consider getting annual multi-trip insurance – frequent flyers will find that this usually works out cheaper than taking out single trip insurance every time.

What should I pack in a travel first aid kit?

It’s better to be safe than sorry, as they say. To that end, it’s worth packing a small travel first aid kit wherever you go – it’ll likely come in clutch when you least expect it.

  • Basic supplies – Assorted plasters, gauze, painkillers

  • Treatment items – Antiseptic cream, insect bite relief, sunburn relief products

  • Other essentials – This could be tweezers, mini scissors, antihistamines, or travel sickness tablets

Things to check and do before you travel

As well as packing your bags, there are a few other things you should do before setting off. Here’s our list of pre-travel tips to tick off.

  • Check your passport – Make sure your passport is valid for your upcoming trip well ahead of time (and if it’s not, allow plenty of time to renew it). You should also check if there are any visa or entry requirements for the destination you’re travelling to

  • Get travel insurance – It’s important to get the appropriate level of cover for your trip. For extra protection, you might also want to consider extras, such as travel disruption cover

  • Take care of your finances – As well as taking out foreign currencies, you should check your bank’s rules for using your cards abroad. If necessary, let your bank know of your travel plans

  • Check your mobile data – Depending on where you’re travelling to and the mobile network you’re with, you may need to pay roaming charges when using your mobile abroad

  • Weigh your luggage – Check your airline’s allowances and weigh your bags to make sure you’re not caught out at the airport. Remember to leave some room if you’re planning on buying things to bring home

  • Secure your house – Switch off appliances, lock windows and doors, set timers for lights, and let trusted neighbours know you’ll be away

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