Packing suitcases appears to be something Britons are woefully bad at doing. According to a 2013 survey, the average British holidaymaker spends an average of £26.50 during their holiday buying items they forgot to fling into their suitcase before leaving.
Meanwhile, two-thirds of us will pack more than is necessary, bringing back six unworn outfits and three pairs of shoes.
The escorted tour brings its own packing predicaments. Do I really need that extra suitcase for my voluminous sun-hat and 28 different outfits (two for each day, naturally)?
If I bring heavy volumes of Latin American poetry for those long coach journeys, will I end up using the tomes to swat mosquitoes?
And where shall I put my secret stash of Marmite/PG Tips/ Irn-Bru? Here Saga gives you tips on the essential items you should take on an escorted tour – and what you should leave behind…
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The things you absolutely must take with you…
- Passport. Obviously.
- Any visas
- Insurance policy details, European health insurance card (if travelling to another country in the European Economic Area), photocopies of passport page, printed confirmation of flights/booking/the tour itinerary. Keep these in a sealed plastic wallet/folder.
- Local currency for extras. Keep these in a small plastic wallet which your local bank and/or the bureaux de change at the airport should be able to provide you with.
Travelling within Europe? Find out what the EHIC actually covers?
- This largely depends upon the climate of the destination you’ll be travelling to. For countries with a Mediterranean climate (southern Europe, California, most parts of coastal Australia and South Africa), temperatures may be warm during the day, but they can cool during the evening, so it’s worth taking a jacket or light jumper.
- For more humid tropical destinations, it’s worth taking trousers plus long-sleeve shirts or dresses for evenings. Air-conditioning in some hotels can be fierce, while the garments will also cover up exposed areas when mosquitoes come out. To prevent clamminess, choose fabrics that ‘breathe’, such as quick-drying cotton or linen (rather than polyester).
- If your trip involves adventurous activities such as hiking, you’ll probably need a pair of sturdy walking boots and wind-proof/waterproof garments. However, leave the plastic rain poncho at home – these are sometimes provided on escorted tours.
- Does the tour involve lots of city tours? Comfortable shoes (such as trainers) are indispensable for pounding miles of pavement.
- Hat (to keep the sun off your head) and sunglasses (useful in cold destinations too).
- A small foldaway umbrella may also be useful.
- Swimwear and gym kit. It’s something holidaymakers routinely forget to pack, only to regret it once they see the hotel’s Olympic-sized swimming pool and/or gym facilities.
- Pack smartly by rolling each item of clothing separately (rather than folding them), as it maximises space and prevents them from getting creased. Pack shoes at the bottom of your suitcase, surrounding them with clothing.
- Check your travel documents before leaving to find out your allocated luggage allowance for all flights (this should be specified on your Saga tour itinerary).
- Underwear/socks. Saga hasn’t introduced the escorted nudist tour just yet.
- Want to save space in your washbag? Rather than gargantuan bottles of shampoo or toothpaste, buy some of the travel-sized toiletries sold by your local pharmacy. Similarly, a foldaway toothbrush and collapsible hair-brush should also help you lighten your load.
- Sunscreen and insect repellent containing DEET (diethyltoluamide), depending on destination.
- Any medication. Travel sickness remedies may be good for coach journeys if you are prone to the condition.
- If you intend to take any toiletries on board as hand luggage, they will need to be in containers under 100ml and sealed in a clear plastic bag. The miniature toiletries mentioned above will be fine. To find out more, check here: gov.uk/hand-luggage-restrictions/overview
- Antibacterial hand sanitiser may be useful for some regions.
- A small first-aid kit may be useful containing items such as plasters, paracetamol, antihistamines (for bites) and anti-diarrhoea tablets.
- Travel adapter. A one-size-fits-all multi-socket adapter is the most practical solution here.
- Chargers. Rather than lugging around myriad chargers for your laptop/phone/electric toothbrush, try investing in a one-size-fits-all multi-socket charger (with three-or-more USB ports) that will keep your devices juiced from the same adapter.
- Consider downloading the following apps before travel: Google Translate (turns you into polyglot at touch of a button), XE Currency (converts every world currency) and a Lonely Planet app for your destination (guidebook doyens).
- Entertainment: Books/Kindle/e-reader, magazines, iPad or tablet, iPod/MP3 player, laptop, digital camera.
- Pack valuables such as cameras, mobile phones, hearing aids, glasses and sunglasses in your carry-on luggage.
- Ear plugs can be useful if you’re a light sleeper.
Our guide to the essential gadgets to take with you on holiday
What to leave at home
- Hair-dryers. You’ll usually find one of these by rummaging in the drawers of your hotel room (hair-dryers are not always obviously displayed).
- Towels. Again, they’ll be available in your accommodation. Also, don’t be afraid to snaffle your hotel’s fluffy white linen to take them to the beach.
- Travel kettles. These should be provided in your hotel room. If there isn’t one available and you can’t live without your morning cuppa, most hotels are happy to send up a pot of hot-water if you ask.
- Shampoo/conditioner and shower gel. Unless you’re wedded to a particular brand or use a specialist product for health reasons, these should all be available in freebie miniature format in your bathroom.
- Unnecessary clothing. Be ruthless when packing. If you’re travelling somewhere sizzling hot, you’ll be traipsing around most of the time in shorts/short skirts/dresses.
- Home comforts. Yes, it might be hard to get a decent cup of Earl Grey or daintily-cut Marmite sandwiches in deepest Uzbekistan, but part of the thrill of going abroad is to fling yourself into unfamiliar cultures. Yak’s milk tea, anyone?
- Jewellery. Leave any clunky pendants at home, whatever their sentimental value.
- Useless contraptions and paraphernalia. We’re talking neck pillows (that in-flight cushion should work fine), laundry detergent (you’re on holiday – do you really want to be up-to-your-arms in soapy suds at the hotel sink?) and money belts (like a walking advertisement for thieves).
- Fireworks, your pet tarantula, toy guns, raw offal, chainsaws, your lucky ‘feng shui’ yucca plant, your collection of 17th-century sabres, £20,000 spending money, anything with batteries and wires protruding from it. Most of Saga’s escorted tours are less than a fortnight. These are all things you can probably live without for two weeks.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.
The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.