Less than a year since most Covid restrictions around the world – not the USA quite yet – have been lifted, and with Easter but days away, many people will be getting excited about packing for their first big trip in a while.
But what to pack? Can you even remember? Well, let me try to help – with my what to pack for going on holiday checklist.
Before we’re too decrepit my wife wants us to have visited 100 countries. It’s a tall order and frankly I don’t think it’s possible, not just because sometimes I already feel that decrepit, but also because we’ve been told by well-meaning, country-counting travel purists (there must be one word for this but it is unlikely suitable for publication) that a bunch of places we’ve been to don’t count.
Reunion Island, Mauritius’s strange, foreboding neighbour? Nope – it’s part of France! Just like the Isle of Wight is a weird, foreboding part of the UK. But while Cowes is a couple of miles from mainland Britain, Reunion’s capital Saint-Denis is 6,000 miles away from France. Come on!
In-flight map addict: Arriving in Barbados
Ignoring these rules, we hit 54 last month thanks to Avios flights to Barbados.
> Learn how to get the best out of your Avios here
Since we met, first Gulf War, we’ve been extremely lucky to be able to spend a big part of our spare money on travel. Driving cheap secondhand cars that run for more than a decade rather than shelling out £400 a month on car finance helps.
Of course, we also didn’t have to deal with unaffordable rents, outrageous energy bills, student loan debt and post-Brexit food prices. It’s tough if you’re starting out now in adult life and have the travel bug.
For us, an Interrail around Eastern Europe and the former Yugoslavian countries that vote for each other in Eurovision, plus a few cruises in our twilight years, could add another 40-odd countries and Bob’s your uncle, Jane McDonald’s* your favourite aunt and the target is still theoretically achievable.
I can’t help you decide where to go. That’s your choice.
But I can help with how to pack.
We’re quite good at packing really quickly thanks to the list.
I originally cobbled it together from various websites and adapted it over time with our experiences. It still works as a quick visual checklist.
We tend to pack an hour before we have to leave. Some things aren’t on there because you just know you won’t forget them – trousers, swimming stuff, Macaulay Culkin.
Ferry nice: So long as you don’t travel when it’s busy, getting to the Continent is pretty easy
Take note about keeping copies of your documents. My wife had her passport stolen in France on the way to the station and was still able to come home on the same Eurostar because of the photocopy she’d kept.
I appreciate there’s no children’s stuff on the list. We’re beyond that and made every mistake.
If I recall, once they’re past the loads-of-baby paraphernalia phase, they don’t need every toy they’ve ever played with, just a charged electronic device full of fun stuff for flights without an entertainment system and maybe a pillow – and the same for long car journeys, plus boxing gloves if they have a sibling.
* Jane McDonald, a former cruise ship singer, presented the brilliant Channel 5 show, Cruising with Jane McDonald. Watch it on My 5, it’s addictive.
FOUR VITAL TRAVEL TIPS
I worked at Heathrow Airport many years ago and it was jaw-dropping to see how many people showed up having forgotten their passports – or having out-of-date passports – and watching their dream holidays in tatters while they shouted at me because not only could they not get a window seat, they couldn’t go at all.
Tip one: make sure your passports are valid and make sure you check they’re with you when you leave home. This is basic stress avoidance numero uno.
Tip two: have a pre-packed tote bag (other bags are available but somehow we’ve ended up with more tote bags than there are countries) with your electrical essentials that you plonk into your suitcase or hand luggage every time you go away.
Apart from showing up at the airport or port without travel documents, there’s nothing more stressful at 4am trying to find those adaptor plugs, phone charger leads you know you have but where the four-am-ing hell are they?
Tip 3: Oh for heaven’s sake get travel insurance.
Tip 4: European breakdown insurance is vital if you drive an old vehicle. Being brought home from Paris with the car on a lorry is not brilliant but it’s free. Funny though, the least reliable family cars aren’t the cheap ones – £400 a month on finance, even. Yes Audi, you.
Checklist of what to pack when you’re off on holiday
> You can download the list here to save, edit and print
Please share your tips in the comments for anything missing.
Basic stuff not to forget – but not all necessary
Passport and copy + emailed to self
Visa doc and copy + emailed to self
Insurance docs and EHIC + emailed to self
Driving licence, car hire docs copied and emailed
Car insurance docs + V5 reg for Netherlands, check country driving requirements
France: Spare bulbs, hi-viz vests in glove box, warning triangle, Paris emissions sticker, UK sticker
Black tape or headlight deflector £4 from eBay
Phone – with downloaded movies and TV shows
Phone charger mains and portable
Adapters, 4 way plug – see ‘always ready bag below’
If you can navigate how to get to St Pancras station, London, Eurostar is the relaxing way to Europe
Laptop and charger
Money – cash
Credit and debit cards
Up-to-date Covid certificates – now only a precaution if rules change last minute
Meds, plus Imodium, paracetamol, antihistamine, malaria pills
Copy of prescription
First aid kit
Antibacterial hand gel
Toothbrush / toothpaste
Flying tuck: Fill your suitcase with snacks and basics, and if you’re off to Iceland or Norway, a wine box or two – unless you’ve remembered to take out a mortgage to afford their booze
Books, guide books, phrasebook
Pens and notebook
Sealable plastic bags for toiletries and stupid airport security
Large plastic bags for dirty washing
Sun cream, aftersun
Corkscrew, bottle opener
Shopping bag(s) for life
Bottle of water for flight – permitted from summer 2024, hopefully
For self-catering – if flying
Tea towel, washing up cloth, scourer
Salt n pepper
Boil in bag rice, Pasta, Smash
For self-catering – if driving
Fill car but no meat or dairy allowed in to the EU. You can bring back what you like
Clothes often forgotten
T-shirts and tops
Suit you: Until all airports copy Dubai and take the cases off the carousel for you, tie something on the handle to identify yours
Shoes – beach, sandals
The always packed and ready for travel chargers bag
4 way adapter UK plugs
2 or 3 three adapters for sockets abroad
2 USB plugs
2 iPhone leads
USB to USB lead
USB to mini USB
How to compare travel insurance
The quickest and easiest way to save money on travel insurance and compare the best policies is to use a comparison site.
While results will broadly be the same across most comparison sites, they may slightly differ, so it is worth checking a couple.
Compare deals from 35 leading providers
See how much you can save from a few days to an annual policy
Also check insurers such as Direct Line that does not appear on comparison sites and if you have previous serious medical issues consider a specialist insurer or broker.
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