By Jon at Reduce My Excess,
22 September 2023
10 mins read
Getting ready for your trip away is an exciting time, but when you are preparing a holiday packing list it can be easy to miss out some essentials which you’ll kick yourself for once you get to your hotel or holiday home.
Check out our comprehensive list for holiday packing which will cover you for any type of trip, whether you are going on a short city break, weekend staycation, ski trip or relaxing beach holiday.
Travel Documents and Essentials
Passport, visa (if required), and photocopies
If you’re travelling abroad, ensure you have packed your passport to avoid a last-minute dash back home or a scramble to find it on the morning you depart!
You will hopefully have established which visa type you need for the country you’re travelling to, so don’t forget to have these arrangements in place well in advance.
It’s also a good idea to make copies of any relevant travel documents, such as your hotel reservation, in case you can’t pull them up on your phone or tablet once you arrive.
Travel insurance documents
Travel insurance is an essential part of any trip to a foreign country, as you want to ensure that you’re covered in case anything goes wrong.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll get into an accident, there is no point in tempting fate. Instead, shop around for a cheap provider and ensure you get a good deal for your individual circumstances.
Print off proof of your cover in case you need to provide it to medical professionals.
Driver's license and any necessary IDs
There will be certain identification required when you go to pick up your hire car , enter a bar or anywhere else that requires you to be a certain age to qualify.
Ensure that you have included your driver’s license in case you need to provide proof at the car hire centre. Also, bear in mind that some bars, pubs or clubs may require you to provide two forms of identification.
Boarding passes and transportation tickets
Your boarding pass will likely be emailed to you, but don’t rely on it appearing on your phone when you go to check in for your flight. Technology can catch us out from time to time, so it’s always worth having a printed version of your boarding pass in case you need to produce a larger copy, your phone has died or your digital version isn’t scanning at the boarding gates for some reason.
Don’t forget your other transportation tickets that may be relevant, such as any buses you need to take to the hotel, pre-booked boat trips and so on. Print off those confirmations too, just to be safe.
Emergency contact information
You never know when you might need an emergency contact or next of kin to be pulled up, whether you are hiking and suffer a bad fall or get into an accident while skiing.
Having this information at hand means that you will have your loved ones by your side immediately if something goes wrong.
Ensure you have printed out these details and consider keeping them in your bag when you go out somewhere, particularly if it’s a special excursion like kayaking or white-water rafting.
Car hire details
Ensure you have all of the details for your car hire as there is nothing more frustrating than being stuck at the rental desk and waiting for staff to slowly look up your details – or worse yet, inform you that you cannot be found on the system.
With the world of car hire being potentially quite expensive, especially if you cannot prove that you did not scratch or cause damage to the vehicle afterwards, products like car hire excess insurance can be incredibly useful and save you a lot of money in the long run.
The clothing you pack will depend on the type of holiday you are going on. For example, if you are going on a staycation within the UK then it would be wise to pack rainproof clothing, a raincoat and an umbrella as well as good walking shoes.
For a beach trip in a hotter country, most of your clothes will be lighter, but ensure you have some items to cover up. For example, an evening outfit for dinner in a posh restaurant and a coverup if you are wearing a bikini.
Underwear and socks
A surprising number of people will forget to pack enough underwear or socks. It’s easy to get so carried away with picking the perfect outfits for each day of your trip that you end up completely forgetting to pack any of the items that go on underneath.
If you can’t guarantee that there will be laundry facilities where you are staying, be sure to pack extra underwear in case of situations such as getting rained on.
Comfortable walking shoes
Having the right shoes is vital regardless of the climate you are heading to. Even if you expect to be lying poolside for the duration of your trip, only packing flip flops is a recipe for disaster as you may get taken to a special restaurant that won’t accept certain styles of dress.
What’s more, you may end up going on an extended walk or a visit to museums that wasn’t expected. Therefore, a pair of trainers is always recommended just in case. You can wear them on the plane to avoid taking up space in your luggage.
Swimwear generally doesn’t take up too much space in your luggage, so it’s always worth having a swimsuit, swimming shorts or bikini available. After all, you never know when you might end up in the water.
This rule doesn’t only apply to sunny beach holidays. For example, you may be on a staycation in a rainy part of the UK but decide to visit the local swimming pool or connect with a family who has a hot tub in their holiday home.
Pyjamas or sleepwear
Another commonly forgotten item, appropriate sleepwear can often escape peoples’ minds when they are stocking up on sunscreen and special outfits.
Instead of being forced to sleep in your underwear or naked when usually you would snuggle up in your favourite PJs, ensure you have one trusty pair in your luggage just in case it’s chilly and you want something to wrap up in.
Jacket or hoody
The weather in some tropical climates can be unpredictable. You may be expecting to lie in a warm breeze at night, but sometimes the temperature can drop in the small hours and you run the risk of waking up shivering.
Ensure you have a jacket or hoody on hand just in case you need to pull it on at night. Again, you can wear this on the flight or wrap it around your waist to save space in your luggage.
Again, these will vary depending on the holiday you are going on. If you are going to Iceland in the height of winter then sunglasses may not be necessary, while forgetting them in Spain in the middle of July may require a trip to the nearest souvenir shop to pick up the cheapest pair you can find.
Don’t forget to pack a hat in case of scalp burn in hot climates, a woolly hat to protect your head on chilly excursions – and to pack your sunglasses in a case to avoid scratching them.
Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
This item is arguably one of the most commonly forgotten on holiday, and while some people may simply decide not to brush their teeth for a few days, having poor hygiene is never a good idea!
You don’t want to be forced to find your way to the local pharmacy and gesticulate brushing your teeth to the person behind the desk, who may never understand what you’re looking for.
Make sure you pack this essential early in your packing journey. Don’t forget floss or interdental brushes and consider a mouthwash miniature so you can rinse off in between brushes.
Shampoo and Conditioner
Some holiday accommodation may provide you with complimentary shampoo, conditioner and body wash, but this isn’t guaranteed.
Regardless, if a family of four is sharing a hotel bathroom and there is only a tiny bottle of free shower gel then this will likely run out after the first night!
Pack some miniatures in your hand luggage or put a full-size shampoo and body wash in your suitcase. Be sure to Sellotape the lid or wrap it in a plastic bag so that it doesn’t leak over your clothes during the flight!
Deodorant is so small that it can easily be forgotten about, but nobody wants to spend their holiday with somebody who smells like they forgot to take a shower that morning.
No amount of body spray will cover up the fact that you’re in need of a good roll-on or spray deodorant, so just ensure you’ll be meeting your basic hygiene needs while you’re away.
Razor and shaving cream
Unless you’ve got a full beard or waxed your legs just before taking your trip, then chances are you’ll need to pack razors and shaving cream – especially if you’re going to be away for a week or more.
These may not be as necessary if you’re taking a walking holiday in the Scottish Highlands and expect to be wearing long trousers for the duration of your trip, but if you don’t want to brave a bikini without shaving first then this item is essential.
Many of us may give our hair a brush in the morning of our departure, then put the brush back down and forget to pack it in our luggage.
If you have more than one hairbrush, then consider packing a spare ahead of time to avoid such mishaps. You don’t want to be forced to walk around on holiday with your hair looking like a birds’ nest.
Makeup and cosmetics
If you are used to wearing a full face of makeup then don’t forget your makeup bag unless you don’t mind going au naturale for the week.
Depending on the amount you wear, you may like to scale down if you cannot pack much luggage for your trip.
Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF
It isn’t just the hot climates that require regularly applying sunscreen – there are rays of sunshine which penetrate the clouds in cooler climates, leaving us with surprise sunburn despite the grey skies all day.
It’s a good habit to apply a layer of sunscreen before heading out each morning – and don’t forget to pick up some lip balm with SPF for good measure.
Personal medications and prescriptions
If you regularly take medication then not packing it for your trip would be a disaster, so be sure to contact your GP and ensure you have enough to last throughout your holiday.
If you do need to provide proof of you needing the medication at security then you will be glad that you packed your prescription, so for good measure ensure this documentation is also in your luggage.
First aid kit
You never know when someone might hurt themselves on holiday, so having a first aid kit available will prove to be invaluable and could save on expensive purchases in the local pharmacy.
Having the basics, such as plasters, gauze, bandages and antiseptic cream will ensure that relatively small mishaps can be tackled with ease.
Mobile phone and charger
While many of us are unlikely to forget our mobile phones, as they will typically be in our pockets and in use most of the time, it can be easy to forget our charger – which simply spells disaster when the battery dies.
Plus, if you don’t have the right cables to plug in once you get to your hotel then your charger is effectively useless. That’s why having the right adapter is also going to be vital – so pick one up before you go, as the prices in airports will be sky-high.
Laptop/tablet and charger
We don’t encourage working while you’re on holiday, but there may be times when you need to take your laptop or tablet with you. In such a situation, ensure that you’ve also packed the charger and that you are packing everything in the right protective casing.
Take your electronic valuables in your hand luggage, as you don’t want to run the risk of having them damaged or even going missing.
When you’re on the go or preparing to head out and suddenly realise that your phone is about to die, nobody will have time to listen to your wails of despair or wait for your device to charge once it’s plugged into the wall.
If you have packed a power bank, then you will be able to immediately plug in wherever you are and continue on your way.
Nobody wants to get on a flight only to discover that there is a hen or stag party getting rowdy or a baby that won’t stop screaming for the next three hours.
In such a situation, you can protect your eardrums with headphones or earbuds to either block out this sound completely or cover it up with soothing music, your favourite tunes or a movie of your choice.
Just make sure that if your headphones are rechargeable, you pack the charger in order to prevent disaster on the flight home!
Travel pillow and eye mask (for long flights or road trips)
Sometimes when we are travelling far afield it may be necessary to sleep on planes, buses or trains. In such a situation you will want to ensure that you are well-equipped for as good a rest as possible.
Travel pillows can be worn around the neck so as not to take up too much space, or you can get an inflatable pillow that can be blown up once you are ready to use it.
An eye mask can help to block out light and ensure you get the shut eye you need, especially if you will be entering another time zone and need to adjust once you get off the plane.
Travel locks and luggage tags
Keeping your luggage safe is vital, especially if you are going abroad and leaving your suitcase to be loaded into the main cargo hold.
Purchasing a lock is a great way to ensure that nobody can get into your luggage, and they are also relatively cheap if you plan your purchase ahead of time.
A luggage tag will help you to locate your suitcase once you’re at baggage reclaim – ensuring that it is an eye-catching tag will mean that you can spot your bag the moment it appears on the conveyor belt.
Money and travel cards
It may sound obvious, but make sure you have enough money to last for the duration of your trip. Do some research beforehand to find out the average prices of key items such as drinks at your hotel, day trips, restaurant food and so on.
That way, you can prepare a budget and allocate enough money accordingly weeks or months in advance of jetting off.
Language translation app (if traveling to a foreign country)
If you’re able to speak the language of the country you’re going to then you’re all set, but chances are you’ll have just conversational or limited language skills.
Instead of wildly gesticulating at people who won’t have any idea what you’re trying to say, or spending ages rifling through a language translation dictionary to find the phrase you need, look into a translation app which can be easily searched for the phrase that will get you what you want.
About the author
Jon spent years travelling Europe and Asia before settling down in the UK when he met his wife.
He’s hired cars across the globe and is passionate about helping people save money with excess insurance.
Since co-founding Reduce My Excess, Jon has found that he can use the knowledge he picked up from his travels by sharing it in online guides and articles.
He hopes to save people from making the mistakes he learnt from over the years by giving them the travel information they need before they head off on their holidays.