If you’ve wept through the trauma of a lost passport, paid the price of not buying travel insurance, or returned home to find your house has been burgled, you’ll need this indispensable checklist with the 20 ‘must-dos’ before you embark on your summer holiday.
1. Check your passport hasn’t expired (and take a photocopy of it with you)
One in five Brits has no idea when their passport expires, so it’s essential to check that your IDs are up-to-date. Updating your passport at short notice incurs a hefty £80 fee. Last year 9,000 Brits were issued with an emergency passport while abroad, so be sure to take a photocopy of your details with you.
2. Don’t forget travel insurance
None of us like to think of the worst, but with one in three travellers experiencing accidents abroad it is vital to secure insurance before you travel. Spending a few pounds before you go will save you a lot of tears later.
3. Don’t forget your driving licence
If you plan on discovering the joys of the open road while you’re abroad, you’re going to need your licence. Be sure to check whether you need to apply for an International Driving Permit by contacting the tourism board of your intended destination before you depart. Application forms are available in any post office.
4. Get a neighbour to keep a watch on your house
Nosey neighbours are usually more of a hindrance than a help, but it’s a fact that four out of five burglaries occur while the occupant is on holiday, so Onlinetravel.com recommends you make-up with ‘them next door’ and ask them to check your house while you’re away.
5. Check what vaccinations you need with your GP at least six weeks before you travel
The last thing you want to bring back to the UK from your holiday is a deadly disease, so be sure to check on vaccinations with your GP or a travel clinic at least six weeks before you head off. Even perceived ‘safe’ destinations like America have their problems – recent outbreaks of West Nile Virus caused havoc in parts of the country.
6. Change your money before you go, and take a mixture of cash and travellers’ cheques
Changing money is a gamble – but the best bet is to complete all transactions in the UK. Shop around to get the best rates and lowest charges. And don’t forget to take some faithful old travellers cheques, as you’ll be insured against their loss.
7. Pack plenty of sunscreen
Too often people whack on the cream when it’s too late. With experts recommending everyone wears factor 15 plus, it is vital you take enough to cover-up to last your holiday. It’s hotter than you think, and us pale-skinned Brits can’t handle the heat – take it slowly.
8. If you need to take any prescription medication, carry a letter from your doctor and check that your medication is legal in the country that you are visiting
If you are on a prescription, make sure you take plenty of your medicine with you. Certain medicines are either hard to come by or prohibitively expensive in foreign destinations. In some cases, they can be illegal too, so check you can bring yours into your chosen country.
It’s also proven that Brits are a nation of party people, with a recent survey finding that 79% of us boogied the night away at least once on holiday – so don’t forget painkillers for sore heads – and litres of water for re-hydration.
9. To avoid anything being planted in your luggage, pack all your bags yourself and keep them with you at all times
You’ve all heard the stories of naïve backpackers charged with drug possession after agreeing to hold a ‘friend’s’ luggage for them. Airlines prohibit anyone from checking luggage that hasn’t been packed by them – and for good reason. Better still, purchase a secure lock to put on your bags. You can’t be too careful!
10. Buy a guidebook and read up about your destination before you travel
Guidebooks will help you plan an itinerary that suits your budget and time constraints and will give you a flavour of what to expect. You’ll also be able to prepare for any culture shocks!
11. If you’re travelling with children, check the availability of childminding services in your hotel/resort before you leave
A pleasant holiday can turn into a nightmare if you haven’t factored in the kids! If you’re travelling with the young ones, check out childminding and kids club services at your destination. Find out what the staff are like and whether they possess relevant accreditation and first-aid training. Also, make sure you’re happy with the play areas.
12. Check if your mobile phone will work at your destination
What would we do without texting? If you want to make sure you’re never more than a button push away from your mates, check your mobile has international roaming and will work when you’re abroad. Also speak to your phone provider about the best rate in your chosen country, or your call charges could spiral.
13. Find out the time difference in your destination and let all your friends and family back home know!
And on the subject of staying connected, if you’d rather your mates didn’t call you to say have a good day at 3am in the morning – check the time difference in your arrival destination and let all your friends and family know in advance.
14. If you’re travelling as a couple, rather than sharing one bag, pack two and put equal amounts of your clothes in each. This way, if you lose one you’ll have a change of clothes
With the introduction of the new Montreal Convention, compensation for lost luggage has increased dramatically. But you still don’t want to turn up without your clothes! Be sure to separate out your possessions in order to avoid those carousel horrors.
15. Defrost the fridge to avoid any unwanted surprises when you arrive home!
Perishable goods will welcome you home with a smelly smile. Avoid. Before you head off, chuck out all those items that could potentially rot while you’re away.
16. Cancel newspapers and milk
A stack of newspapers and milk bottles on your doorstep is an invitation to burglars to ‘come on in’. Avoid potential problems by cancelling your order before you set off.
17. If you wear glasses pack an extra pair
Seeing is believing. And you won’t believe your bad luck if you get to your dream destination to find your glasses are broken. Bring a spare pair to ensure you can gaze long and hard at that tropical sunset.
18. Weigh your luggage before you go to make sure you won’t pay an excess
Excess baggage charges can feel more weighty than a mortgage payment! If you’re travelling with that surfboard, or plan on buying a job-lot of snow shakers while you’re away, check your airline’s luggage restrictions. Sometimes, upgrading to a higher class, with its increased luggage allowances, may outweigh the financial burden of groaning suitcases.
19. Make sure you know about local culture, especially in relation to dress codes
That candy coloured halter-top you’ve been dying to wear may work on the streets of Manchester, but the citizens of Cairo may take an altogether different attitude. If a country with a different religion or off-the-beaten-track cultural exploration is on your itinerary, be sure to check what local customs encourage to avoid causing offence.
20. Arrange for a food delivery to arrive when you get back home
Arriving home can often be a tad depressing, especially if your cupboards are bare. To make it that bit easier, why not arrange a food delivery from your local supermarket to arrive when you get back home? Bingo, that steaming cup of fresh English tea you’ve craved throughout your entire holiday.