Make sure your holiday goes as smoothly as possible by following our holiday checklist.
Passports, paperwork and planning
It may sound like common sense, but ensure your passport is up to date, and check if you’ll need a visa before you leave. Remember that some countries expect your passport to remain valid for a minimum period (usually 6 months) beyond the date you enter the country. Don’t leave passport renewal or visa applications to the last minute – there’s nothing worse than stressing out about whether you’ll get them back on time.
For visa applications that require sending your passport away, give yourself at least 1 week more than the stated timeframe to ensure its timely return. If your flight takes you overnight for a morning arrival, be sure you state the date of departure and not the arrival date when applying for an entry visa. Even though you will be landing on the correct date, you are technically leaving before the visa becomes valid and may not be allowed to depart.
Get whatever vaccinations you’ll need as soon as you've booked your trip. You may need a course of treatment that lasts several weeks, so try and organise your jabs and prescriptions at least 6 weeks in advance.
If you’re going to Europe, make sure you have the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). It replaces the old E111 form and allows EU nationals to get the same level of healthcare as local residents of member countries (though only in state-owned hospitals, not private hospitals or clinics).
Though the EHIC is an excellent benefit of EU membership, it's not an alternative to travel insurance and you should still consider taking out a travel insurance policy with substantial health cover for true medical emergencies (such as evacuations), or to allow you the option to be treated in a private hospital. For more details on the EHIC, visit your local post office or consult the NHS guide to EHIC
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office website features up-to-date health, safety and travel information about your destination. Even if you’re travelling to a country that’s generally considered safe, it’s a good idea to check the site before you leave. Read up on what your local embassy or consulate can do for you if something goes wrong, and keep its contact information somewhere safe.
Arrange airport parking and car hire early, especially if you’re travelling at a busy time. If you’ll be driving while overseas make sure your licence meets local requirements.
Get a good guidebook or relevant phrasebook and start brushing up on the local lingo as soon as you can – the locals will greatly appreciate your efforts! The most important thing to learn (besides how to order drinks) is how to pronounce your hotel’s name and address, which you’ll need if you ever catch a taxi. Not only will the driver be able to find it quicker, you’re less likely to be the target of a scam if you give the impression that you know your way around.
- Ensure your passport up-to-date and valid for the length of your trip
- Sort out any necessary visas well in advance
- Consult with your doctor about travel vaccinations
- Apply for your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
- Consult the Foreign Office website for destination safety information
- Arrange airport parking and car hire in advance
- Ensure your driving licence is valid for your destination
- Purchase guidebooks or phrasebooks
Money and insurance
Arrange travel insurance depending on your needs. If you are going to travel several times throughout the year, it may be better to take out multiple-trip insurance. Make sure you take your insurance certificate and policy with you, as you'll need them if you have to make a claim. Scan copies of these documents and send them to your email address for emergency access.
Ensure your travel insurance is adequate and covers any activities you’re planning, such as skiing or scuba diving. Always check your policy document so you know what’s covered and what’s not, and be sure to declare any pre-existing conditions.
Organise your travel money in advance – it's best to have a mixture with you, such as debit cards, credit cards and foreign currency, so you can handle large purchases but also withdraw cash. While you’re out and about, keep one card locked in your room safe for emergencies.
- Purchase a travel insurance policy with cover for medical care and extra activities
- Make copies of your insurance certificate and policy document for safekeeping
- Purchase any foreign currency you’ll need before you leave
Almost ready to go?
Make a list of emergency phone numbers for insurance claims, embassy assistance and lost or stolen credit or debit cards.
Keep a record of all relevant booking reference numbers to avoid disappointment, especially if you’ve booked them online. Make sure your travel company can provide evidence of security for refunds and repatriation if they go bust (there are various schemes that cover this, such as ATOL, ABTA, AITO, ABTOT or IATA).
Take photocopies of important documents, such as your passport, visa and insurance policy. If the originals are in your main bag, leave copies in your hotel or room safe. You should also leave copies with someone trustworthy at home.
Send electronic copies of lists, travel documents, insurance policies and any other essential information to your email address to access while travelling.
Be security conscious when writing luggage labels: turn address cards around in the luggage tags so strangers can’t see your information at a glance. Also put a copy of your home and destination address inside your case, in case the outer label gets separated from the bag. If your luggage isn’t distinctive add a bright coloured tag or ribbon so you can easily identify it on a baggage carousel.
Have some local currency handy on arrival for taxi or bus journeys from the airport.
Try not to make it obvious that you’re away from home. Cancel your newspapers and other frequent deliveries, and put some houselights on a timer to give the impression you're still at home. Leave a spare set of keys with a trusted neighbour or friend who can pop in to make sure everything’s in order.
- Make list of emergency phone numbers
- Record all booking reference numbers somewhere safe
- Make photocopies of travel documents and leave a set with someone at home
- Make sure your baggage has an up–to–date address label
- Ensure your house doesn’t look untenanted while you’re away
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