Holiday preparation, travel essentials and packing tips – my ultimate holiday checklist will get your holiday off to a flying start!
Your holiday is booked, the excitement is building and you are officially on the countdown. But you have a niggling feeling that you have forgotten something… I’m hoping by now that you have checked that your passport is in date, but have you booked airport parking, travel insurance or tickets to the top attractions? Do you know your airlines rules on cabin baggage and have you bought an eSim if travelling outside the EU? I can hear you now – if only there was a holiday checklist for travelling overseas?
That’s where I come in, I’ve done all the hard work for you, my holiday checklist will ensure you have all you need to kick off your holiday in style!
1. Check passport, country requirements, visas and vaccinations
It goes without staying that you need to check your passport is in date, but beware that some countries such as Turkey require your passport to be valid for six months after your departure date. It is also important to check any visa requirements. An ESTA visa is still required for travel to the USA.
Thankfully proof of vaccination or pre-departure testing is no longer required for most countries, but there are a few exceptions, and if travelling long haul, you may need inoculations. Always check the DFA website for the latest travel information before you travel.
2. Suss out baggage charges and allowances in advance
Don’t pay unnecessary checked baggage fees, invest in a lightweight cabin bag instead. As well as saving money, you also don’t need to worry about your luggage going missing!
I invested in a Samsonite Lite-shock case and find it invaluable. Although I knew it was ultra light, it was only when I took out my other 10kg / cabin bags for our family holiday recently, that I realised how much lighter the lite-shock case really was.
The lite-shock case is one of the best on the market, and the price reflects that, however, there are light weight cabin-size suitcases available in Primark from €26, so you have no excuse!
If travelling with kids, most airlines allow you to bring a buggy / stroller as well as one piece of equipment, i.e car seat, booster seat or travel cot, separate to your baggage allowance. Aer Lingus insist that infants cabin baggage must be included in your own allowance, while Ryanair allow an additional 5kg, free of charge if travelling on an adult’s lap.
Airlines baggage policy, child’s meals and seat requests all vary, so when travelling with kids, it is important to check the policy of the airline you are flying with.
3. Buy an Apple AirTag
If you are checking in a bag, or just want to know where your luggage is at all times, then it makes sense to use a tracking device. The Apple AirTag looks like a large coin and can be placed in your suitcase or backpack when you travel.
The AirTag sends out a secure Bluetooth signal that can be detected by nearby Apple devices which send the location of the AirTag to your iCloud account so you can see exactly where you case is. The notifications are anonymous so your privacy is protected, and your luggage will be traceable via the Apple app.
Priced at just €35 for one coin, and €119 for a pack of four, these are a good investment if you are concerned about lost luggage. Samsung have a similar device called a Smart Tag, and Tile is another alternative that works with any mobile device, but does not have the same precision finding as the AirTag.
4. Take out travel insurance
Travel insurance is one of the cheapest costs of your holiday, but it is also one of the most important. It should be at the top of your holiday preparation checklist – so don’t travel without it!
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will cover you if you need to go to a public hospital, but it won’t cover for private clinics, air ambulance, or the expense of staying abroad if you can’t fly home.
You also should consider lost or stolen items, delayed baggage, and what happens if you have to cancel your holiday. Most travel insurance policies include some sort of Covid cover now, however, most policies have a moratorium in place, so you need to make sure you book travel insurance at least 14 days before departure.
I always use Multitrip.com and they currently have Covid cover included (check Ts & Cs), but always check with individual policies for more details.
5. Take out car hire excess insurance if hiring a car
Don’t get ripped off at the car hire desk! Car rental companies will try to sell you a premium insurance policy to cover the excess charges if you have an accident. I have found that is is typically about €15 – €30 per day, but you can take out a policy with CarHireExcess.ie before you travel, for a mere €2.99 per day in Europe. This is one of my top car rental tips, see more here:
6. Book top attractions and excursions in advance
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I’m a firm believer in trying new experiences when I travel – I like to do at least one thing I wouldn’t do at home! It is always best to have something booked in advance, because once you get relaxed on that sun lounger, it can be hard to motivate yourself to move, unless you have something pre-booked. Tour companies such as Viator and Get Your Guide offer superb excursions and most have a free cancellation policy, so you have nothing to loose by booking in advance.
I also recommend booking top attractions in advance. Not only will it save valuable queueing time, but top attractions can get booked out in advance and are often cheaper online.
7. Be smart with foreign currency
Budgeting for holidays is key! Try to plan out how much money you think you will need in advance. If travelling outside the EU, keep an eye on foreign currency charges and buy at a good rate.
I use the An Post Currency Card when travelling outside the EU. You can now set up Rate alerts on the An Post Money app, where you set a target exchange rate for your currency of choice, and receive a push notification when this target is reached. You can then exchange money via the An Post Money App, or pop into your local post office and exchange foreign currency without any fees.
8. Contact your hotel
Try to avoid bringing things you don’t need, especially if you are travelling with kids. Many hotels have baby equipment available that are not always advertised in brochures, such as buggies, sterilisers or bottle warmers. Call or email the hotel before you go and ask them what equipment they have, and pre book it if possible.
If you are not travelling with kids, it is always worth contacting the hotel to ask for an early check-in or late check-out, a ground floor room or room with a view, whatever your preference may be. You might also need to pre book restaurants, especially if meals are included as part of your stay.
9. Book airport car park
Some airports reduced or sold car parking spaces during the pandemic. I was unable to secure parking recently and I can only assume spaces will be limited during the peak summer season. I recommend booking the car park in advance to guarantee space, and to secure the best price.
In most cases you can cancel free of charge within days of your trip, so you have nothing to loose by booking in advance.
10. Book airport lounges
There is a misconception that airport lounges are only for business class passengers. If flying business class you usually get complimentary lounge access, but if flying economy class you can pay to enter many lounges. When you consider the price of a pre-flight meal and drinks in an airport restaurant, versus complimentary snacks, drinks and newspapers in an airport lounge, it may make sense to pay for the privilege.
There are some exclusive lounges that you can not pay to enter, but most large airports will have at least one that is available for all guests. In Dublin Airport for instance, the basic lounge in Terminal 1 costs €30 for two hours, while the East Lounge and 51st & Green cost €41 for a two-hour stay if booked online.
11. Use Duty Free Click & Collect Service
If you have taken my advice and are not checking in a bag, you may not have room for Duty Free items, or may not be able to purchase alcohol or cosmetics over 100ml on your outbound journey (because you can’t travel home with them in your cabin bag). It makes sense to use the Click & Collect service so you can collect your Duty Free purchases when you return home.
There are many offers that are exclusive to online purchases so it can also be a cost effective way to shop for Duty Free items. You can use the Click and Collect service service from 3 months – 12 hours from your flight. This is a free service available in Dublin and Cork airport to all passengers travelling within the EU – note it isn’t available to passengers travelling to non-EU destinations.
For passengers flying from Shannon and Knock airport, you can use the Shop and Collect services available there. Simply advise the store assistant that you want to pick up your purchases on your return journey.
12. Photocopy or scan important documents to the cloud
It is not something we like to think about, but is it possible that you could be a victim of a crime on holidays, or you could simply loose your passport or other documents. I suggest photocopying or uploading images of your passport, tickets and insurance policy to the cloud before you travel.
This is an important part of your holiday checklist, and once you have uploaded images of your passport once, they will be there for your next trip!
13. Prebook airport transfers and download UBER
Taxi Scams can happen anywhere, but are a common occurrence for tourists. I suggest downloading UBER so you know you are not only getting a fair price, but you will also have a record of the journey and taxi driver, should the need arise.
We experienced a few taxi scams in the centre of Rome recently, but the most common one for holidaymakers is being overcharged on the journey from the airport.
I have used GetTransfers on many occasions and find them the best value – drivers bid for your journey so prices can be a lot less than regular transfer companies. Alternatively find out the approximate taxi cost for the journey from the airport to your accommodation in advance – remember Google is your friend. Taxi scams are one of the top things to watch out for on holidays.
14. Check data roaming charges
If travelling within the EU, thankfully you don’t need to worry about roaming charges. However, if travelling outside the EU, check the roaming charges with your phone provider before you travel – make this a priority on your holiday checklist.
Make sure your phone is on airplane mode when you are flying or at sea. Pre purchase WiFi bundles when you cruise, regardless of destination, or alternatively only use roaming when in ports. It is also possible to pre purchase local sim cards or eSims before you travel.
15. Get techy
Get tech ready for your holidays. Make sure you have plenty of storage in your phone or camera – delete or transfer old photos from your phone to the cloud.
If you were thinking of upgrading your phone or buying a new camera or Gopro, now might be the right time. A waterproof phone case is also a good idea if you are planning on visiting waterparks or taking boat trips, and a good powerbank is essential if you are planning on taking lots of photos.
Always check the voltage too, to make sure you have the correct travel adaptor. There is no need to buy multiple adaptors, bring an extension lead with you instead and charge multiple devices at the one time!
Although Netflix is a household name, many of us forget we can download movies to watch on the plane or in our holiday apartment. This is a game changer for air travel and a fun part of a checklist for a holiday.
Read: My top 20 travel gadgets
16. Check the top photo spots before you go!
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Following on from my last point, if are someone who wants to likes nice photos, and want’s to visit the most scenic locations, a quick google search on the top instagram locations should do the trick. We found Pink Street in Lisbon by doing just that, and you may also find tips on good photo locations for top attractions too.
17. Check in online
If you can check-in online, do it. It is not compulsory with most airlines, although Ryanair will charge you to print a boarding pass at the airport if you don’t! It will also save valuable queuing time and you can select your seats and pre book meals if you haven’t already done so.
Most digital boarding passes have a small box on them saying ‘Save to Wallet’. When you click on this it should store in the wallet on your phone – the same place that your bank cards are stored when using your phone to pay for goods. This is a fast and handy way to access your boarding pass.
18. Download maps to use offline
Google has had the ability to use maps offline for many years, but it is surprising how many people are still not aware of this great facility. Using maps offline means you don’t need WiFi, or need to be in an area with good network coverage, you don’t even need to use your precious data.
Simply download the maps of the area you are travelling to before you leave, and use them offline when you get there. This is one of the most popular Google Maps tips and will work at home or abroad.
19. Join frequent flyer clubs and hotel rewards programs
Most airlines, car rental companies and hotel chains have rewards programs now, and you may be surprised how much you can gain from just one trip. Airmiles and rewards points can help with upgrades, discounts or preferential treatments.
You will also find if you decide to rebook another trip with the same airline or hotel chain that it can make a big difference to cost, and it is quite common to get a free upgrades for preferred customers.
20. Shop for supplies
In the weeks leading up to your holiday, take out your holiday checklist and check that you have everything covered. When it is time to shop for holiday essentials make sure you purchase toiletries that are less than 100ml if you are not checking in a bag.
Boots have a great range of travel essentials under 100ml that are usually on offer – if you buy 3 you only pay for 2. Remember to bring medication, insect repellent and sunscreen if required, and write your own holiday packing list to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
When in doubt, the three most important things on your holiday checklist are: passport, money and tickets!
I hope my holiday checklist will help you get your holiday off to the right start. Please note these tips are guidelines only travel restrictions and requirements can change at any time. Some of the links in this post contain affiliate links, where I receive a commission if a purchase is made, but at no additional cost to you.