There is nothing more exciting than booking that longed-for holiday, but before you can truly embrace the freedom and embark on your journey, there are a number of important tasks and essential items to tick off your check-list.
To help you avoid unfortunate events ranging from the exasperating (packing your reading material in your main suitcase) to the downright cataclysmic (forgetting your passport), we've put together a nifty holiday check-list to help get your trip off to the best start possible.
Passport: British passports permit travel to any EU country up to and including the passport expiry date. However, some destinations may have stipulations such as ensuring there are six months left before your passport expires.
Q Some airlines and tour operators won’t accept a UK passport if it has six months or fewer left on it. Should I renew mine even with nine months before it expires, just to be on the safe side?
There have been stories of airlines refusing to accept passports of less than six-months’ duration even on flights within the EU where there should be no problem, as long as you are a fellow EU citizen. In this situation, even though right is on your side, you’d be hard-pressed to win over ground staff – the plane will be taking off without you while you’re arguing the point!
Some countries are happy if the passport is simply good for the duration of your stay. Others are sticklers for the six-month validity – Thailand and Brazil, for example. The USA’s somewhat unforgiving and unbending immigration service, as in so many things, seems to make its mind up as it goes along – so do check, as immigration policy seems to change with the wind. And you’ll also need to complete the online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
If you’re taking a long cruise, then it’s better to be safe than sorry and have six months left on your passport after the date of your last port of call – depending on destination.
If in doubt, go to the Foreign Office web pages at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice, and search for the relevant country and, as a belt-and-braces precaution, check with the airline. Avoid any phone advice lines unless you enjoy paying high-premium call rates.
Visas: Some destinations require visitors to purchase a visa. Check whether this is something you need to apply for in advance or can buy on arrival.
Insurance: Book this as soon as possible to cover yourself against unexpected cancellations. Always read the small print, taking into account the excess you might need to pay, any pre-existing medical conditions and any activities you might choose to participate in abroad which might need additional cover such as skiing.
European Health Insurance Card: If you are travelling to another European Economic Area, the EHIC gives you the right to access state provided healthcare at a reduced cost or even free. Be aware this is not a replacement for travel insurance.
Vaccinations/medication: Some destinations require vaccinations a few weeks in advance of travel. Additionally, if you need to bring personal medication, check with your GP and airline to find out if you need a note to bring it on board a flight.
File your documents: Photocopy your passport and insurance policy details and seal these in a travel wallet, along with any printed confirmations of bookings for your journey. Alternatively, upload relevant documents to a site like MyOnlineSafe.com.
Change your money: Additionally, let your bank know you will be abroad if you plan to use your debit or credit cards and check the fees.
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Valuables and breakables: Cameras, mobile phones, hearing aids, kindles, reading glasses and sunglasses should all travel along with you to minimise the risk of loss or damage. Don't forget your chargers and adaptors
Medication: This should include simple painkillers and travel sickness remedies just in case you feel unwell on the journey, as well as a few days worth of any medication you need to take daily, in case your main suitcase goes awol for a while.
Entertainment: Books, magazines, an iPod or anything that can help to pass the time on a long journey should be within arm's reach
Toiletries under 100ml: Liquids and gels must be sealed in a clear plastic bag for security, but you may be in need of some freshening up during a long-haul flight.
Additional layers: A light jumper, blanket scarf or pair of cosy socks can help keep you warm under chilly air-conditioning.
Emergency outfit: Again, in case your main suitcase does go missing, pack some underwear and a change of clothes that's suitable for your destination. Odds are your suitcase will arrive when you do , but if it does head off to Canada when you're on your way to Jamaica, make sure you've got some shorts and sandals packed so you don't have to wear your travelling jeans in the heat - or vice versa.
Tips on handling a long haul flight
Clothes: Roll your clothes to take up less space. Don't forget to pack swimwear, waterproofs and sandals or walking shoes if necessary.
Larger toiletries: Wrap securely to prevent leaks.
Items such as hair-dryers, towels and travel kettles are commonly provided by accommodation, but if these are essentials you cannot live without, be sure to check in advance.
Read our guide on how to pack a suitcase
Remember, it's never too early to start planning your packing check-list. This way, you can quickly get back to more exciting considerations, such as having the time of your life.
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